Even if you have attended hundreds of concerts in dozens of venues, the odds are good that you’ve never heard anyone quite like Ben Waites.
Born paralyzed with a disease called arthrogryposis, the wheelchair-bound musician was also originally considered tone deaf. And he sees sounds as colors.
“When I was about 4 or 5 years old, I started experiencing music in a different way,” Waites said. “I later learned it’s called chromesthesia. It is a phenomenon that automatically, involuntarily and intermittently evokes an experience of color.”
The Rev. Wess Adams is the pastor of Galveston’s Wild Wild West Cowboy Church, where Waites will perform at 10 a.m. Sunday. The church is at 7402 Stewart Road. The two have a long acquaintance and are both professional musicians.
“Knowing Ben, I am forced to understand truly nothing exists in this world which could remove all hope,” Adams said. “There are no barriers, no circumstances, no cultural hurdles — nothing that can’t be overcome.”
Susan Adams, Wess’ wife, is also a longtime friend, fan and supporter of Waites. She said that the singer’s strength in the face of his physical challenges streams from both his God and his grandmother.
“The untold story is Leona Waites, his grandmother, who is almost 70,” Adams said. “She works a full-time job, takes impeccable care of Ben, including all his booking.”
Waites isn’t into self-pity. And his advice for anyone with any kind of disability is upbeat and heartfelt.
“I would say dig in the word of God,” he said. “The Bible’s full of broken and limited people doing the most powerful things. It’s God’s grace. He shares grace like a child shares finger paints. It gets everywhere. God doesn’t give you a calling based on your own abilities. He gives your calling based on the abilities that he’s given you.”
Waites said he always enjoys singing in an area where he isn’t well known since it gives him a unique opportunity to communicate his message.
“People will pass right by me not knowing I’m the one who will be giving the concert,” he said. “I always laugh when I start singing and telling jokes at how shocked some people are by my mental capacity. You see God uses my disability as something people can relate to with their own form of life limiters. There’s an ‘aha’ moment when they realize that they are only limited by how they limit themselves.”
A member of the North Louisiana Gospel Music Hall of Fame, with his recordings available on iTunes, Amazon and Spotify, Waites is spreading his Gospel message of hope as widely as he can.
“As you get to know him that wheelchair disappears and you see the man he is,” Susan Adams said. “Someone not handicapped at all, just someone who has more opportunities. He’s the real deal.”