The History of ......


This wonderful journey we call “The Big Book Comes Alive” began in the early 1970’s by Joe McQuany and Charlie Parmley. Two old drunks who met together many years ago, found they had a mutual interest in the Big Book, studied it together for quite some time and to quote Charlie, “hopefully, we’ve learned a few things about it, and those few things we’ve learned about it we just love to be able to share them with other people.”

Joe McQ. & Charlie P. met in 1973 when Joe introduced Charlie as the AA speaker at an Al-Anon Convention. Joe had wondered if Charlie might be the country-western singer Charlie Pride. He wasn’t even the right color, Joe laments. They instantly discovered their mutual fascination with AA’s basic text The Big Book. What interested them most was that The Big Book was written in a particular sequence to convey certain ideas. That interest began a close friendship which lasted throughout their lives. They would frequently meet to discuss the book, often driving 225 miles to meet in each other’s homes.

Soon they were planning meetings in hotel rooms at AA conventions in Oklahoma and Arkansas, and within a few years, the meetings grew in popularity. In 1977, some members met in a Tulsa, OK hotel room for a discussion of the Big Book. One asked Joe & Charlie to come to his home group to present a program on the book. An AA taper made a four tape set of their presentation and called it The Big Book Study. The tapes were gradually circulated throughout the fellowship and invitations were received for Joe & Charlie to present the study at AA conventions, roundups and special events. By 1980, there had been about eight studies offered.

At the 1980 International AA Convention in New Orleans, Westley P. an impassioned Big Booker from Pompano Beach, Florida, organized a lunch for 1,500 AAs from all over the world and gave away 100 Joe & Charlie tape sets as door prizes. Invitations exploded and within a couple of years, Joe & Charlie were presenting about 36 studies a year worldwide. Obviously, the seminars struck a deep chord within AA members ... for the reaffirmation of this message as written in April 1939 with the publication of the first edition of Alcoholics Anonymous. Studies have been given in 48 states and most Canadian provinces. Additionally, Australia, New Zealand, England, Scotland, Ireland, Germany, Switzerland, Sweden and the Netherlands have all hosted the Big Book Study seminars with Joe & Charlie.

The original Joe McQ. had to curtail his travels in the late 1990’s. Oddly enough, another Joe — Joe McC., active in the study group since the beginning –was able to pick up the slack. Where God guides, God provides, as some members say. All this growth did not come without a measure of turbulence. What spiritual journey does not encounter obstacles? Some fellow AAs have termed the duo, self-appointed gurus. Others have accused them of making money on these weekends. Actually, only travel expenses, meals and lodging were paid for by the independent AA host committee sponsoring the study. This is in accordance with the AA Guidelines for Conferences and Conventions (MG4), published by the General Service Office. Since 1977, an estimated 200,000 AA Members have experienced the spiritual benefits of these collective studies.

As was always Joe and Charlie’s hope, other members in different areas have picked up where Joe and Charlie left off. The So-Cal version of The Big Book Comes Alive began in 1990 by Bill M. and Ken H. joined the seminar in 1996. You can read about our BBCA journey on our HOME page. As of 2017, Ken H. and other co-facilitators are providing this exciting and in-depth workshop at over 24 treatment facilities and AA events throughout the United States a year. Bill Morgan died July 6th, 2015 after 30 years of sobriety.


Joe McQuany died October 25, 2007. Charlie Parmley died April 21, 2011. Joe McCoy Died on November 24, 2014.

Won’t you be the next to pass it on? “We recovery by the Steps we take, not the meetings we make!” (Joe McQ.)