SYRACUSE, Kansas

- Pop star of the '60s and '70s Frankie Valens has a new gig - as a preacher at a small church in western Kansas.

The Garden City Telegram reports that the singer, who had hits with "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" and "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," became the pastor of First Christian Church in Syracuse about a month ago. Valens' father pastored at the same church in 1978 and 1979.

After his recording career ended, Valens and his wife, Phyllis, began touring the country performing gospel songs and skits. A congregation member who'd known Valens' father approached the singer after a concert about coming back to the church.

Valens, 70, born Frank Piper, said his years of testifying about his faith have prepared him for the pulpit. "I mean, we've been on the road and ministered in concert and I've told my testimony and stuff like that, but never in the pulpit. People come to hear me sing, so I'm thinking, 'Maybe I could sing my sermon.' All of a sudden, this shows up, and at age 70, I'm starting a new career."