His friends and fellow bikers simply call him “Rev.” And when you see David Whitehead astride his gleaming 1976 Harley Davidson Shovelhead and talking about how Jesus saved him from drugs, crime and uncontrollable anger, then the nickname seems wholly appropriate for both ministry and motorcycles.
“I used to take the bumpy roads,” said the 45-year-old chaplain of the local Eighth Day Riders, a mainstream fundraising group for various causes such as Wounded Heroes Foundation. “Now, I take the smooth ones.”
His 6-inch beard that until recently hung more than a foot long looks like something straight out of “Duck Dynasty.” But he swears he felt way more than a duck call when God drew him close to change his life.
A friend who regularly encouraged Whitehead to attend a Bible study 12 years ago laid a hand on him to pray for him one day — a day when he wanted to die. Immediately, Whitehead felt something. He sensed it was the Holy Spirit.
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“I’ve tried a lot of drugs in my time,” he said. “But I have never felt a high like that in my entire life.”
He immediately lost the desire for drugs and waywardness.
By day, he works as a union journeyman painter for the local Dunlap Construction. By night, he is a rapper/singer with the hard-rock band Rev and the Knuckleheads, writing and performing songs about “two-wheel therapy” and one way to unconditional love.
He took such a detour when he discovered that most of the music at motorcycle gatherings consisted of old-style metal bands with no new material. He gives away his CDs at biker rallies, the band’s live gigs and anywhere else he can. Mostly to non-Christians.
“Especially non-believers,” he said with a grin.
He broke into laughter that a man once on a highway to hell is now traveling boldly in the opposite direction. Much of his songwriting reflects that theme, with plenty of it featuring screaming guitars and even thundering bikes.
Clearly, as far as he can tell, he was born to be wild — for Jesus.
In the loud, metal-driven tune, “Unchained,” Whitehead recounts a long road to salvation especially in one short rhyme.
Cooked dope in a spoon,
Howled at the moon.
I have done it all
From here to Cancun.
He calls his music Wildbilly Hick-Hop, and features the videos that seem to prove it, with him rapping next to corn silos and such. Whitehead cleverly gets the humor and the shtick.
For him, the kind of “Green Acres is the place to be” spot is on County Road 700N halfway between Taylorsville and Edinburgh, where he has hosted fundraising rides and dinners for some 100-plus benefit-minded bikers.
Occasionally, some of Whitehead’s musical language and snippets of a video or two teeters just over the edge of squeaky-clean propriety. He steers it in that direction for specific reason, given that he sees the biker crowd as straightforward as a whiskey shot.
“Some of my music is raw and real,” Whitehead said. “And that’s to attract bikers in order to plant mustard seeds of religion.”
His wife Susan understands.
“I know where his heart is,” she said.
David Whitehead has noted that non-Christian cohorts will watch a music video — even one with a blatant Biblical message — with a few beautiful, swimsuit-clad women in it. If that’s what it takes to plant a seed, that’s occasionally what he’ll do, as confusing as that may seem to some.
“But boom! Some people, they judge me about that,” Whitehead said.
Then he considers Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 about those judging self-righteously. Then he crafts an answer to his naysayers.
“I tell them, ‘Hey, don’t judge me over the toothpick in my eye when you’ve got a plank in yours.’”
Make no mistake, Whitehead is no Hell’s Angel. But he’s no Heaven’s Angel, either.
“Oh, no,” he said. “I sin. We all sin.”
Whitehead has invested nearly $40,000 in three compact disc recordings and accompanying videos over the past three years. He hardly considers that a lot of money, considering that he once wasted plenty on drugs and other wayward ways. He feels strongly that his music and videos and social media posts “are supposed to help other people today come to God and his light.”
Yes, Whitehead understands his is a complex path of writing and rapping about the wrong he once did and the right he now embraces.
“I love all this for him,” said longtime friend David Vincent, who considers Whitehead as a brother. “Through the years, he has calmed down a lot.”
But Whitehead has become more excited about his faith, and how it might spare others the pain he experienced. That is why he wanted to share his favorite Scripture from Isaiah 42:16 on a recent afternoon. It explains a lot of the story of the man they call “Rev.”
“I will bring the blind by the way they did not know; I will lead them in paths they have not known. I will make darkness light before them and crooked places straight. These things I will do for them and not forsake them.”
Name: David Whitehead.
Born: In Columbus, and now lives between Taylorsville and Edinburgh in rural Bartholomew County.
Family: Wife Susan and 8-year-old daughter Chandra.
Roles: Chaplain for the Eighth Day Riders, a group raising money for a variety of charities, nonprofits and causes. Writer and rapper for the music group Rev and the Knuckleheads. Founder of Twin Cam Records, and seeking other artists.
Church: Revealing Light Baptist Church in Edinburgh.