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The Purple Gang rocks on

Not many rock 'n' roll bands dedicate songs to police vice squads.

But not many rock 'n' roll bands have lineups like the Purple Gang.

On bass guitar is Tampa police officer Scott Guffey, a department spokesman. On drums is Cpl. Charlie Wolf, who teaches crime prevention programs. And on guitar and lead vocals is patrol officer Wayne Millican.

Together, they have nearly 40 years' experience on the police force.

"We just don't go home and clean guns and spit-shine our shoes and dream about our next bust," said Wolf, 42.

"Police officers are as normal as anyone else," said Guffey, 28. "They have car payments. They have house payments. They have hobbies."

Recently, at a party in Brandon for Guffey's wife, Mary, the band churned out a wide variety of songs, ranging from Bad to the Bone to The One I Love. Cocaine went out to the vice squad.

But the Purple Gang, a self-described blues-oriented rock band, has to walk the line.

"It's a two-way street," Wolf said. "It gives us a chance to just be our natural selves, get away from the pressures of the job.

"But then again, because we are police officers, we have to be careful about lyrics for songs. We don't want to do pro-drug songs. You're still a cop, you know. We can't get drunk and outrageous."

The band came together in 1989, although its original incarnation included both cops and civilians. By the end of 1991, only Wolf and Millican remained. They played a party and a wedding, but the electronic drum system was a drag.

"It wasn't rock 'n' roll," said Wolf, who was playing bass guitar at the time.

So the duo split up. Earlier this year, Guffey and Millican, 36, got together and decided to jump-start the band. They contacted Wolf, and the Purple Gang was back.

Wolf, who is married and has an 8-year-old daughter, is no stranger to the music scene. He started playing in bands in 1963, and used music to pay his way through college.

Guffey began with piano lessons. "When I was little," he said, "I used to curse my mother because she made me take piano lessons. I despised it."

When he got older, his attitude changed.

"When I started playing again in high school, it was nice to look at sheet music and be able to read and write my own music," Guffey said. "It ended up not being the curse I thought it was."

Millican, the quiet member of the group, finds the band therapeutic.

"Just playing music is a great release from the pressures of the job," said the father of two. "The first thing I do when I get home is run a couple of miles, take a shower, then take out my guitar."

The band practices at least four times a month in Guffey's dining room. Later this month, they plan to do a fund-raiser for the police football team.

But they look forward to bigger gigs.

"My dream," said Guffey, "is to open for the Rolling Stones at the Suncoast Dome."

And one more thing.

The band gets its name from Jailhouse Rock _ the part that goes "the whole rhythm section was a purple gang."

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