Christian rock group
In its twenty-plus years as a group, Resurrection Band has had one of the most unusual careers in Contemporary Christian music. Originating in the Christian outreach group Jesus People (JPUSA) in 1973, Resurrection Band played at revival meetings across the United States, bringing listeners a Christian message through rock music. Although the group issued a couple of independent-label recordings in the mid-1970s, it found a broader audience with its releases on various Christian labels, beginning with 1978’s Awaiting Your Reply.
With 17 albums and two collected works issued over the next 18 years, Resurrection Band was nothing short of prolific. Its members also helped create an independent record label, Grrr Records, in conjunction with JPUSA, in 1988. As its mission statement made clear, the aim of such an endeavor was to spread a Christian message: “We firmly believe that our work is an offering to God…. It is our prayer that these offerings will be pleasing to the Lord and that He will use them for His glory!”
The leader of Resurrection Band, Glenn Kaiser, grew up poor in rural Wisconsin before he found a measure of stability with JPUSA. “In the winter, I often times went to bed with all my clothes on, two pair of socks, long underwear, and jeans, and two or even three quilts,” he remembered in an interview with Jon Trott of the Cstone Music website. “We’d buy quilts at St. Vincent de Paul, or my mom would put more stuffing in the ones we had.” As a teenager, Kaiser joined a number of bands, usually blues-oriented outfits in which he could indulge his love of R&B, rock, and even folk music. Around the age of 18, Kaiser experienced a religious awakening, an event that not only changed the direction of his music but his entire life as well. “Life didn’t make a lot of sense until I met Jesus,” he told Trott. “It really didn’t. When [Jimi] Hendrix said, ‘There ain’t no life nowhere,’ I mean, those were the truest words I heard until I heard Jesus’ words about things.”
Kaiser became a Christian at 18, and soon joined JPUSA, a small group that had coalesced from a larger Wisconsin evangelical organization around 1971. Although the group seemed to be a far cry from traditional religious groups—its members were typically young and dressed in jeans—its top priority was spreading a Christian message. Riding in a dilapidated red school bus with the word “Jesus” painted on one side, the group toured the country until the bus eventually broke down in Chicago in early 1973. Over the next several years, JPUSA became well known throughout the city for the various outreach programs it ran for the elderly, homeless, and those seeking help for alcohol- and drug-related problems.
The group’s most successful program, however, was the formation of Resurrection Band around 1973. Before long, the group was playing at venues that ranged from coffeehouses to senior citizens homes. It also helped to make the annual summertime Cornerstone Festival organized by JPUSA in western Illinois into a major evangelical event. As a Chicago Tribune profile would later recount, the band “soon was being tapped for a national recording deal and drawing thousands of teenagers to concerts that often ended with the lead singer announcing, ‘God is calling two among you to join us.’”
Although Christian music was still dominated by gospel and traditional worship tunes at the time, Kaiser and his colleagues in Resurrection Band created a sound that was more akin to hard rocking heavy metal music. Kaiser also developed lyrics heavily influenced by his love of the blues. As he later commented in a Cstone interview, “The Scriptures give serious credence to the integrity factor of struggle and suffering and the pain in life. To me, there’s a connection between the writing in the Book of Psalms and a lot of secular blues, in the sense that ‘this is the way things are.’ The stories that blues tunes tell are honest stories. People admit their urge and their desire and their pain and their struggle; they talk about injustice.”
By now living in JPUSA’s communal compound in Chicago, the members of Resurrection Band recorded two independent releases—All Your Life and Music to Raise the Dead—in 1974 before securing a distribution deal with Star Song Records for 1978’s Awaiting Your Reply. As Kaiser described the breakthrough in an article for Cross Rhythms Magazine, the album was “done for about $8,000, in two weeks, all night
Members include Stu Heiss (born on April 21, 1948), guitars, keyboards; Johnny Herrin , drums; Glenn Kaiser (born on January 21, 1953), guitar, harmonica, dulcimer, lead vocals; Wendi Kaiser (born on April \ 8, 1953), vocals; Roy Montroy (born on September 6, 1952), bass, vocals.
Group formed as offshoot of Jesus People USA (JPUSA), 1973; toured to promote work of JPUSA; began recording career, late 1978; released 17 albums through the 1990s.
Addresses: Record company—Grrr Records, 939 West Wilson, Chicago, IL 60640, website: http://www.grrrrecords.com.
sessions. Every label in the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. turned it down, except Star Song. ‘He loves you—what is your response?’ is the message and it’s the same message L/we/He gives today.” In 1988 JPUSA created its own independent label, Grrr Records, to produce and release Resurrection Band albums through other distributors. Eventually, the label added a number of other Christian bands to its roster.
With 17 albums and two collected works released over the next 18 years, Resurrection Band explored a number of musical styles from acoustic to full-out rock ‘n’ roll. The band’s progress also reflected the musical trends of the 1980s and 1990s, with forays into New Wave, pop, blues, and dance-oriented productions. In 1995 the band released Lament, which Kaiser told Cross Rhythms Magazine was the band’s “milestone.” Based on the Book of Psalms, Kaiser found the text ideal for bringing a different vision of Christianity to his band’s fans. “God doesn’t always say ‘yes’ to your prayers,” he told Jon Trott. “He doesn’t always do things according to your timetable. He doesn’t always jump through your hoops. You don’t just leverage God and throw a bunch of verses up in His face and demand He does what you want Him to do. God is God is God.” He added, “In the blues, there is an honesty and integrity that needs to show up in our hymns and choruses. Often that reality is lacking. Where are the new worship choruses that talk about the struggle and pain of life? Most modern choruses don’t.”
Having helped usher in a wave of harder-rocking Christian and Christian-oriented bands like Creed, Resurrection’s mid-1990s output such as Lament marked an artistic and popular peak for the group. The same period, however, marked the beginning of several years of controversy for JPUSA. In 1994 Ron Enroth’s book Recovering from Churches That Abuse detailed the controversial—and long since disavowed—practices of JPUSA, including corporal punishment for adults, ritual exorcisms, and the removal of members’ children from parents who were deemed unfit to raise them. Furious at the accusations, JPUSA organized a widespread letter-writing counter-publicity effort against Enroth and Zondervan, his publisher. Because of the intensity of its response, JPUSA’s reaction soon became the primary focus of the story, which shook the Christian media world.
In 2001 further allegations about the “iron grip” of JPUSA resurfaced in a series of articles published by the Chicago Tribune. While the articles detailed many of the valuable outreach programs run by the group in its Chicago neighborhood, it also questioned the organization’s demand that its members forgo a paycheck and workman’s compensation while working for its various enterprises. Again, the group launched a public relations counterattack in the wake of the reports that threatened to overshadow the initial story.
After its final releases in 1996, Resurrection Band stopped recording as a group; one original member, bassist Jim Denton, had already grown dissatisfied with JPUSA and left the organization to begin his own ministry in Virginia. Still living with JPUSA in its communal arrangement, Kaiser continued to praise the organization’s work as he carried on with a solo career. He also issued a statement on his website that raised the possibility of a reunited Resurrection Band. “I think we probably will [record again], but in God’s timing. We all pray about such things, and when we are so inspired to write enough rock tunes that fit the sound of the band, I expect we’ll record.”
Awaiting Your Reply, Star Song, 1978.
Rainbow’s End, Star Song, 1979.
Colours, Light, 1980.
Mommy Don’t Love Daddy Anymore, Light, 1981.
D.M.Z. Light, 1982.
Best of the Rez, Light, 1984.
Hostage, Sparrow, 1984.
Between Heaven ‘n’ Hell, Sparrow, 1985.
Compact Favorites, Sparrow, 1988.
Silence Screams, Word, 1988.
Innocent Blood, Word, 1989.
Civil Rites, Word, 1991.
XX Years Live, Word, 1992.
Reach of Love, Ocean, 1993.
Lament, Light, 1995.
The Light Years, Light, 1996.
Best of the Resurrection Band, Light, 1996.
Rez Band Live, Sparrow, 1996.
Ampendectomy, Grrr, 1997.
Chicago Tribune, May 16, 2001.
Christianity Today, January 8, 2001.
Cross Rhythms Magazine, October/November 2000.
Christian Music Reviews Headquarters, http://www.christianmusic.org/cmp/cmrh/index.cgi?comand=Display_Review&review_id=205 (December 23, 2001).
Christianity Today, http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2001/114/25.0.html (December 23, 2001).
Cstone Music, http://www.cstonemusic.com/article.cfm?ContentlD=36 (December 23, 2001).
Glenn Kaiser Official Website, http://www.glennkaiser.com/music_content.cfm?Music_ContentlD=16 (December 23, 2001).
Grrr Records, http://www.grrrrecords.com/grrr/aboutus.html(December 16, 2001).
JPUSA, http://www.jpusa.org/jpusa/documents/tribune_response.htm (December 23, 2001).
Phantom Tollbooth, http://www.tollbooth.org/2000/reviews/wmtersun.html (December 23, 2001).
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