The New Jersey-based group evangelising in American Prisons TONY LOEFFER & The Blue Angels
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In the '60s while a whipper snapper Wayne was getting noticed at school because of his musical abilities. "Even in school I would take my first electric guitar in (which was bigger than I was!) for show-and-tell. I played a Monkees song, or something I had written. The black girls would tell me, 'Hey, you're mean, you're mean!' I didn't understand at first, I thought, 'What did I do?' But then I realised they liked me 'cause I played guitar, and could sing. In grade school the black girls were tougher than the guys! If the girls liked you, you were safe! Whatever social junk was happening, even in our young world, it would be mirrored somewhat in the school. But the music was a key to everybody's well being. It drew us together. I decided to go for it as a profession."
By high school in the early 70s Wayne was working his groups at dances playing local concerts, black parties, Mall openings. Anything in a 30-mile area. After becoming a Christian everything changed for the singer/guitarist. "Jesus turned my whole life upside down. It didn't disorientate me; rather it gave me a sense of stability, a direction, a purpose and something to shoot for. I decided soon after to play music which reflected the things I was learning as a Christian. I still am trying to give voice to the excellent things I am still learning! Far from arriving, becoming a Christian is rather the opening of a door, to what God sees when he looks at life. The definitions are different, the reasons are different. The questions are even ridiculous that we ask! But, he never chides, but rather encourages, teaches us slowly, methodically, like the patient Father he is. He's interested in us! Not for his own benefit, but for us.
"The Lord has opened doors for me to play guitar, and to do so professionally, as I've been willing - all these years later. What I mean to say is that he has enabled me to, since those early days, make my entire living through music. I've been stupid and greedy, and made bad choices which landed me dishwashing jobs, landscaping jobs, factory work, everything! I said no to excellent opportunities, in order to say yes to foolish ones. But this is my error, not his, and as I've grown to understand his principles I've learned to discern his ways.
"The Lord opened up doors for me to play with many well known Christian bands (Glad, Carman and David Meece for example) and tour throughout the United States and Canada many times. I've toured down in Australia (three times) with David Meece, and had many excellent times before tens of thousands of people, sharing the Lord through music. I didn't know how to get into those circles, but as I like to say, God does know your home phone number! He can work it out. Even when we do not know how. I am working on my fourth album presently, and have so much material! I could literally work years recording what I've already written! I write constantly. The more Scripture I memorise the more water I have in my well, so to speak. There is much to tell! (Read John 7 for some great references to what I am speaking about here.)
"Currently I host the North Jersey Musicians's Network, am busy with solo and band concerts throughout the area with Force For Good. A great plus in my book is working with Tony Loeffler and the Blue Angels since 1991, when I moved from Nashville to New Jersey. Tony and I have shared the Lord in prisons around the country and in England, too. We set up a big sound system, sometimes on the roof of the prisons, and play blues, country, rock, folk, you name it, for hours. We do up to 50 concerts a year and there have never been more decisions for Christ than we have seen currently. We offer the Lord to the prisoners and the guards. We share what little we know. It is like cool water to weary souls."
At last year's Cross Rhythms few will forget Bob's wickedly rhythmic drumming. The gig-hardened veteran was seemingly seldom off the stage, sitting in with Wayne Scott Farley, Dave Ornellas and Stephen Bennett as well as the Blue Angels. So it's not surprising that back in New Jersey Bob has gigged with numerous acts including Force For Good (Wayne's band), John Rieger and Dave Lowrey. He says all his 200 or so gigs have been memorable, "though the Texas female unit was very special. At the conclusion they were weeping out to the Lord. Repentance and deliverance were the order of the day."
Bob feels there needs to be a reformation of Christian involvement in the arts. He quoted from The Powerful Gift Of Art by Andrew Sievright and the need for a "restoration of an era where Christians of the Renaissance like writer Dante, sculptor Giotto, painter Cimabuz broke from tradition and set new approaches of expression. During the Reformation, people like Bach, Handel, Rembrandt, Milton, Vermer, led and the secular world followed."
'Today it is the reverse," adds Bob. "During our stay in England, I had the chance to read an old issue of Cross Rhythms which featured an article on Mahalia Jackson by Tony Cummings. Early on as things began to break for Mahalia, she was interviewed by a musicologist. He asked, 'Your music, stylistically speaking, seems influenced by blues and jazz.' She replied (paraphrased), 'Honey, I'm just taking back from the Devil what belonged to God in the first place.' I would like to see support from the body of Christ toward the Christian artists so that the ministry would not be hindered by corporate acquiescence of so called Christian labels to the standards of worldly secular protocol. In short, I think we should set the standards in the arts, have freedom to address the issues of the day and minister to the poor, lost and the forgotten."The opinions expressed in this article are not necessarily those held by Cross Rhythms. Any expressed views were accurate at the time of publishing but may or may not reflect the views of the individuals concerned at a later date.
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