Written by Bevis M. Griffin
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts” ~ Aristotle
Throughout the balance of 1981, The Bats developed a strong local following of rabid fans. Armed with our newly minted, incendiary demo-tape, our principal lineup now expanded into a fiery five-piece aggregation featuring new members Richard Cooper on synths and keys, Brooklyn transplant Steve Dotolo on Bass and my virtual doppelganger, Johnny Medina on drums, whom people often thought we were brothers due to our photogenic resemblance. Johnny was actually a godsend, in that he not only was a die-hard San Antonio metal-head but also a gifted photographer and a tech-savvy audio engineer equipped with an awesome sound-system in his basement apartment which he converted into The Bats’ rehearsal space.
The internal dynamics of any organization depend solely upon the quality of its participants. In this case, The Bats were extremely fortunate due to the high-caliber integrity of the band. To a man, each member brought a significant level of expertise and confidence sans conceit. As a seasoned journeyman drummer, I’d become instinctively attenuated to band chemistry. Within this talented pride of ambitious musical lions, we naturally evolved into a brotherhood. Like a human jigsaw puzzle, The Bats fit together and became tighter than marine plywood. Our rehearsals were always conducted with an intense focus on precision and consistency. Though common-place in the drug-fueled 80s, we all generally practiced with lucid alacrity.
The primary objective was to rehearse ourselves into a pseudo-hypnotic state of proficiency. As front-man-in-chief it was incumbent upon me to drill the music into our collective psyche to the point of involuntary reflex-memory. As a non-instrumental performer, I became The Bats’ de facto audience, carefully scrutinizing every musical nuance, and directing the group ever-closer towards empirical perfection. It became an obsession to the point of distraction, but in retrospect, I can honestly attest to the fierce determination we all exhibited towards becoming one of the most original new rock bands on the planet. The Bats were ostensibly designed to become a “world-class” entity. We never related to ourselves based upon the ATX scene, nor in the broader scope of New York, L.A., or London, or even Japan for that matter!
Excuse me, while I kiss the sky and give you, my beloved reader, a bit of rock & roll insight. The “art” of rock & roll is, has, and shall always be a STAR performer’s medium. Roll credits! Frank Sinatra was The Big Bang, followed by Louis Jordan, Muddy Waters,(BB2) Fats Domino, Little Richard, Chuck Berry (BB3), Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley, ELVIS (BB4), and The Beatles!
The amalgam of God-given talent, dedication to craft, and charismatic physical attributes, all played a role in making the aforementioned iconic STARS! As in sports, or academic sciences, natural ability factors hugely in the development of a world-class celebrity. And consequently, they are deemed STARS, because NO TWO CAN EVER BE ALIKE! This is fact, not my opinion.
My decision to form The Bats, and to present myself as the front-man, automatically placed me into a rarified class of drummers morphing into lead-performers such as James Brown, Iggy Pop, and Steven Tyler of Aerosmith to name but a few. The rigors and applied discipline of drumming account for the fluid transition from one role to the other, from stem to stern.
All drummers are not naturally ambidextrous, but acquire that ability with diligent practice. Drumming looks fun to the passive observer, true; but it’s a physically demanding occupation. The care and seemingly perpetual maintenance of the instrument are financially challenging. The constant replacement of drum-heads, sticks, and cymbals amounts to a small fortune. My aspirations of apex proficiency were constantly thwarted by the discovery of superior jazz aficionados such as the incomparable Billy Cobham, Lenny White, Tony Williams, and others.
On the other hand, I could definitely hold-my-own in the arena of great rock & roll singers! I’d grown-up singing to the songs of James Brown, Wilson Pickett, Jackie Wilson, Sam & Dave, The Four Tops, The Temptations, and Otis Redding; plus, great female singers such as Mavis Staples, Aretha Franklin, and Gladys Knight were part of my daily karaoke repertoire. For the nine-long years of double-duty, playing drums while simultaneously singing in-key, I was more than qualified to move into the featured vocalist position, and I did so with verve!
When we hit the stage, The Bats exploded with the force of my boundless physical energy. Off-stage I trained like an Olympic athlete, sometimes twice per day, running five miles daily to fortify my stamina for singing, while performing in perpetual motion. I became an avid fitness enthusiast, formulating, customizing, and religiously practicing bodybuilding routines.
I even trained with professional bodybuilders, who taught me how to maximize my flexibility. In 1981 physical training was not the routine public activity that we’ve become accustomed to. A muscular black man wearing colorful dance garments, while sporting theatrical make-up, while singing in dog-whistle octaves, all while slinging his mic-stand up into the ceiling with a round-house kick was definitely worth the cover charge, and left the crowd hungry for more!
P.S. My ascension to the role of lead-vocalist incidentally makes me the first Black hard-rock front-man in the history of Texas music. Another dubious distinction for the “historians”.