Corsicana Daily Sun, Corsicana, Texas

Opinion

July 2, 2014

Duck calls and ‘The Swan’

They’re famous  for duck calls in Monroe, Louisiana, and a few blocks away lives a Christian entertainer, Dr. Dennis Swanberg. Known as “The Swan,” he has long been known for impersonations that sound every bit as “real” to listeners as the calls do to ducks.

What are the odds that such well-known personalities would live a few blocks apart? About the same, I guess, as Yazoo, Mississippi — birthplace of two other favorite communicators, motivator Zig Ziglar and fertilizer salesman turned comedian, Jerry Clower, both deceased.

Yazoo City is a half-dozen times smaller than Monroe, 120 miles away — “as The Swan flies.”

Police direct traffic for throngs of Duck Dynasty visitors eager to see the set for the A&E reality TV show. The Robertsons — from a “way back” era — are a big family, with most male members bearded. They end each episode with a dinner table prayer.

Swanberg, however, can move about freely — with or without beard. And, he’s a “moving target,” spending most of his time traveling to his next engagement — by plane, train and automobile.

A credentialed and experienced minister to the core, he’s known as the “minister of encouragement.” Audiences agree, chomping down on biblical truths interspersed with hilarity. He offers keen recollections of growing up days in Austin, college at Baylor and doctoral study at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. A masterful storyteller committed to the Christian faith, he’s armed with an array of impersonations amazingly close to the “real thing.” His “down pat” impersonations include Bill Clinton, Don Knotts, Howard Cosell, Forrest Gump, John Wayne, Ross Perot and several Sesame Street figures.

He speaks in person 150 or so times annually for churches, conventions and conferences, in addition to frequent TV appearances. Swanberg is unswerving from his commitment to being a minister who humors (encourages is a better word) instead of a humorist who ministers.

Swanberg was pastor of churches in Rogers and Saginaw, then in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and finally FBC, West Monroe, Louisiana, where he and Lauree consider home base since he left pastoral ministry in 1995.

They’re longtime friends of the “Duck Dynasty” folks, and sons Chad and Dusty attended the same school as the Robertson kids. Chad coached Willie’s son John Luke and Jase’s son Reed. Howard Publishing (Willie’s in-laws) published Swanberg’s first two books. Dennis, claiming Jesus to be his “favorite Nazarene,” says the Robertsons are devout members of the Church of Christ. “I think they’re making inroads about use of instruments during worship,” Swanberg said. “Their church has okayed the pitch pipe and is considering duck calls.”

He kids himself just as much, poking fun about much that has happened during his first 60 years. He says his late dad “kept him humble,” and Lauree, his wife of 35 years, keeps the pressure on to remember “who he is.”

He’s grateful to Dr. James Dobson for airing a cassette tape on one of his national broadcasts within hours of Dennis’ transition from pastoral ministry. It provided a springboard for Swanberg’s splash on the national scene.  

Over the years, he has been a feature of Dobson conferences and TV shows, as well as his own popular TV series, “Swan’s Place.” The latter alternated with the Gaither Family in the #1 and #2 positions on Family Net’s Saturday night programming for several years.

Retirement thoughts? None for Dennis, thank you. He thrives on what he does, pointing out that the late Art Linkletter, with whom he has worked, was still on stage at age 96. He replicates voices that “come easy.” He’s never tried ventriloquism and doesn’t break into song, unless you count Elvis’ Blue Christmas.

In his ministry, both the expected and unexpected have occurred. One Easter Sunday in Saginaw, a layman tried to repair the sanctuary’s a/c unit which was overflowing in the attic. Falling through the ceiling at “mid-sermon,” he dangled on a rafter above the baptistery. A rancher, rarely in attendance, said, “I figured if I showed up today, the roof would cave in, and it did.”

Life has many deals, only some of which are “real deals.”  Dr. Dennis Swanberg is in the rare group — a national treasure

      —————

Dr. Don Newbury is a speaker in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex. He may be reached by email at newbury@speakerdoc.com. His website is www.speakerdoc.com. Follow him on Twitter: @donnewbury.

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