Written by Bevis M. Griffin
“Listen to them, the children of the night. What music they make!” ― Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’
By 1979, nearly nine years had elapsed, and I was still no closer to the proverbial “brass ring”. The promising trajectory of The Skyscrapers had gradually eroded due to lack of serious management. Our respective ambitions became increasingly divergent, due to the prodigious stream of new music being produced by C.K. Bailey and myself, which ultimately culminated into an unforeseen “polemic predicament” in the precocious mind of our ostentatious front-man, Jimmy Saurage.
After months of strong live club performances and super-intense rehearsals, bolstered by the intermittent touring opportunities, The Skyscrapers gradually became known as the band with three “rotating” lead vocalists, with the general consensus being, the strongest of them all was the drummer, Bevis Griffin! I had also long-established myself as a world-class sartorial stylist.
In the fall of 1979, we were booked to play an auspicious music-festival in Albuquerque. Our original bassist, Bucky Davies had unexpectedly announced his sudden departure to L.A. in hot pursuit of a label-signed opportunity, which led me to contact one of my very dearest friends to salvage our personnel dilemma- the sensational former Jo Jo Gunne bassist Jimmie Randall.
I had gradually become acquainted with the formidable Mr. Randall via our mutual friendship with two of Krackerjack‘s most outstanding guitarists, John Staehely, and later, Gary Myrick of Dallas, with whom Jimmy had ostensibly formed the hard-rock outré power trio, Smiley. With his 6’3″ frame and lumberjack build, Jimmie toured across the world with Jo Jo Gunne, from 1972-1975. With his signature Rickenbacker-bass adding a crisp, melodic, element to his massive arena-shuddering bass sound, Jimmie was ultimately our perfect visual compliment.
During the 11-hour trek home, it became apparent to Saurage, that CKB and I had bonded and that a seismic-shift had taken place in the course of The Skyscrapers’ musical oeuvre.
I had long studied the ephemeral fine-points of what constituted the coveted role of front-man. Strangely enough, the vocal ability, or lack thereof, vacillated wildly in the scope of rock & roll. Arguably, apart from an elite echelon of classically trained operatic practitioners, the greatest American vocalists were rooted in the time-worn, venerable tradition of southern gospel music.
Truly legendary performers such as Rev. Gary Davis, Thomas Dorsey, Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Rev. James Cleveland, Shirley Cesar, Sam Cook, and Aretha Franklin set the bar sky-high for incredible soul singers such as Little Richard, Ray Charles, Solomon Burke, Jackie Wilson, Johnny Taylor, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding and Godfather of Funk, James Brown. The British-Invasion of 1964 unleashed a virtual flood-gate of fresh-faced, mod-quaffed black music acolytes, deeply immersed and surprisingly well versed in the lexicon of blues, soul, and jazz.
The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and The Animals, among others, all featured respectable, and often surprisingly faithful renditions of seminal blues and classic rock and roll “deep-cuts”. My dad even gave props to The Stones’ debut album for their stellar performances of songs by Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley, Slim Harpo, and the great Chuck Berry. Ironically, this gave me my formative entree into the realm of singing while playing drums live!
As a formally trained woodwind musician, I possessed a strong proclivity for “perfect pitch”. My mother told me, I was humming before I could speak, and that music always intrigued me. I’ve been singing for as long as I can remember and my parents both had lovely voices too. Music was a constant fixture of my childhood upbringing, along with church and school choirs. I was also an energetic dancer despite my childhood asthmatic condition, exacerbated by the noxious “L.A. smog”. The air pollution I suffered daily while growing up adjacent to The Goodyear Blimp hangar at the gargantuan rubber manufacturing plant was located less than four blocks away from my family’s rose-laden hacienda-style abode. Those were halcyon days.
With 1980 looming on the horizon and yet another band project failing to land a record deal, I huddled with C.K. Bailey and declared that our next project would establish us as co-writers.
We initially recruited kick-ass drummer, Billy Blackmon, from local punk phenoms, The Skunks. We next recruited a handsome, baby-faced bassist, just-in from Trinidad, named Courtney Audain. I’d recently devoured Anne Rice‘s 1976 bestselling novel, Interview with The Vampire, and was influenced by the 1979 horror film Nightwing about a malevolent swarm of ravenous vampire bats. A recent trip to the Natural Bridge Caverns located south of San Antonio sealed the deal by educating me on the nocturnal habits of Texas free-tails, a full decade before the perennial tourist attraction of the Congress Bridge, and with a flick of the wrist, I impulsively drew up a slew of logo-prototypes for our band, The BATS!