Written by Bevis M. Griffin
February is Black History Month. Shortest month of the year for the greatest overachievers on the planet? “Day late, dollar short”, a phrase I personally loathe, has often been directed at ME! But rather than wallow in the lachrymose quicksand of resentments for titanic social grievances too preposterous and voluminous to vehemently address in this trip down memory lane, let’s take a moment to reflect upon the halcyon days of my misspent youth devoted to rock & roll.
I’m a self-made man! Biggest lie on the planet, next to white supremacy, that is. I was LOVED! As the first-born child of Melvin & Navoline Griffin, I was immensely and irrevocably cherished. Raised in the warm California sun of South-Central L.A., I was nurtured in the styles of the 50s. Fortunately for me, my parents, both having migrated from the Jim Crow south, were careful to protect me from the toxic paranoia of inner-city racism and imbued me with an unflappable wit and joyful optimism towards all people of different ethnicities and economic circumstances.
American Bandstand and The Al Jarvis Show were daily staples of my young jitterbugging life. The sights and sounds of the first wave of new rock & roll permeated our house like airflow. My dad & I shared a paternal bond around blues, boogie-woogie, jump blues, and rock. He and mom were both young, hip, and vivacious aspirants to the legendary American Dream. Our household was a favorite party destination for the expansive tribe of the 11 Griffin siblings. My mother was a stunning beauty, often mistaken for the incredibly lovely actress, Lena Horne.
Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Sarah Vaughan, all shared the same setlist with Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, and my all-time faves, The Everly Brothers. At my first live music event, I danced to the great Lionel Hampton‘s Orchestra. Mr. Hampton saw me and set me on stage to join another little girl and the audience went NUTS!
And that’s where I first got bitten by the bug to perform.