When you talk about the band Petra—the foremost pioneers of Christian rock music—you talk about "firsts" and "onlys." They are the:
- First rock group to win a Dove Award for Group of the Year.
- Only band to simultaneously have four records on Soundscan’s Top 100 Christian albums chart.
- First to win 10 consecutive CCM Readers Awards.
- First Christian group enshrined in the Hard Rock Cafe.
- Only Christian group to perform at 1992’s FARM AID concert.
That’s just a sampling. When you factor in three Grammy Awards (all for Rock Gospel Album of the Year) and a couple more Dove trophies, it’s easy to see why Petra holds a rock-solid place in Christian music history—a fitting honor for a band which named itself after Jesus Christ, the bedrock (petra) of the believer’s life.
"God has blessed the efforts of Petra," says founder Bob Hartman, "because we are constantly checking and re-checking ourselves, our motives, where we’re going, what we’re doing, asking, ‘Is it right?’"
They seem to have done everything right since they first formed in Indiana in 1972. Their goal was to share the gospel with young people through hard-driving rock music, a mission which naturally gave birth to one of their early classics, "God Gave Rock and Roll to You." Scorching guitar leads, rapid-fire drum lines, resounding bass riffs, and straight-to-the-heart lyrics defined their sound. It was a style some in the Christian community considered radical at first. Churches and religious radio stations didn’t know what to make of Petra and their intense form of music ministry. But the band pressed on, for they knew what their mission was all along. They played anywhere they could, from coffeehouses to high schools to city parks. And their persistence paid off.
A string of award-winning albums would follow. Records like Petra Praise, Beyond Belief, Wake-Up Call, and No Doubt took the Christian music world by storm, but more importantly, they touched the hearts of teens looking for answers to life’s big questions.
"We are excited about where Petra is today and how the group as a whole can serve God and young people who are spiritually seeking," says Hartman, who stopped touring in 1995 to focus more on writing and handling the band’s affairs. Lead singer John Schlitt is of like mind with Hartman: "Music’s nothing but a tool for ministry, as far as we’re concerned." Lead guitarist Pete Orta, bassist Lonnie Chapin, keyboardist Kevin Brando, and drummer Louie Weaver couldn’t agree more.
The band’s latest album is God Fixation, and it’s proof positive that after 25 years and counting, Petra still means rock!