Written by Gordon Roberts, NCB Radio, UK
The sexual and gender ambiguity and representations of androgyny and theatrics of Glam Rock initially pushed the acceptance envelope in the Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio of early seventies but the great, thumping music and showmanship won audiences over. The Civil Rights Bill had been passed only seven years earlier and although it changed the voting laws it hadn’t changed the prejudices of ‘main stream’ America.
This was very evidently apparent when Bevis Griffin and his band Franklin’s Mast played ‘small-town’ Texas. Not only did his androgynous appearance stir and incite the homophobic prejudices of the audience but this was hyper-exacerbated by the uncanny fact that this was a black man as well! Confronted by sometimes physically threatening audience members, his upbringing in South Central LA had instilled in Bevis the courage and fortitude to stand up for his human rights, and now he also had to stand up and fight for his right to artistic self-expression. Forces, which were not to be denied, seemed to have chosen Bevis Griffin to be an agent of musical and sociological change.
The 1967 lyrics written by Jimi Hendrix for “If Six Was Nine” became a mantra for Bevis: “White-collar conservatives flashing down the street…Pointing their plastic fingers at me. They’re hoping soon ‘my kind’ will drop and die…But I’m gonna’ wave my freak flag high!” By ‘waving his freak flag high”, Bevis was subsequently arrested on numerous occasions for charges ranging from lewd and lascivious behavior to reckless endangerment, and his personal favorite, incitement of a public disturbance! Fellow drummer, Iggy Pop could have easily been describing Bevis during this period, when he wrote the song, “Search And Destroy” in 1973, with the volatile and somewhat explosive lyrics: “I’m a street walkin’ Cheetah with a heart full of napalm…I’m the runaway son of the nuclear A-Bomb..!”
Just as Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone before him, somebody had to stand up for the rights of African Americans to be whoever they were, and more importantly, to become whoever they wanted and decided to be…and in Texas, that person was Bevis Griffin. His indomitable rock n’ roll spirit and daring musical courage, ultimately contributed to breaking the long-standing stereotypes traditionally attached to all artisans of color, and in doing so, he dramatically and unwittingly made a remarkable contribution in helping pave the way for untold scores of future black performers such as Prince, Living Colour, Lenny Kravitz…unknowingly influencing not only the famous but the infamous and the undeservedly obscure.
Bevis Griffin, was a true musical gladiator of the early Texas Hard Rock/Heavy Metal Scene…daringly pioneering new frontiers…Exciting, Innovative, Creative, Bold as life while aggressively challenging cultural frontiers…frontiers from which others have richly benefitted and from which new generations will continue to do so for years to come.
“He’s outrageous, he screams and he bawls…Jean Genie let yourself go”!…and Bevis Griffin personified those Bowie lyrics to the fullest….both as a musician and as a social activist…A Star…an original…a trendsetter…A Black Rock & Roll Maverick of Texas…A Rock & Roll Martyr…whatever label history decides to bestow on him, Bevis Griffin is undeniably a truly gifted, intelligent musician and a man who would always “wave his freak flag high”.