Life is a blues. This unsolicited journey is an aching puzzle of disappointment and disillusion occasionally interrupted by glimpses of joy and searing spasms of pain. The vibrant intensity of love always shares the room with the phlegmy anguish of loss. And this journey is inevitably terminated against its strongest instincts. In the illuminated East, holy men have cultivated powerful techniques of breath and posture through which the best among them claim to have burned away their body cage with all its limits and deficiencies and to have realized a blissful saffronorange liberation (moksha). Here in the Slaveship West, we have no such holy men. But some among us have in fact learned how to pour their red blood into these deep blues long enough and in just the right proportions to transform the hue of this melancholic entrapment into brilliant shades of purple. Jimi did it before he folded shop at the tender age of 27. Sun Ra danced beneath his glittery heliotrope standard, until he flew it off the planet after a mere 79 revolutions around our star. Neither one of these purple men is alive to tell us what they did and how they did it. Here then is a story told in purple by the one who lived it. This story begins in the City of Angels:
I would say I grew up comfortably, by 1960 standards, middle class. Both of my parents were working parents. My dad [Melvin] owned his own barbershop business enterprise. My mother [Navoline], once I got old enough to attend school, she took employment as store managers. We were almost considered as latchkey kids, except they made sure that there was a responsible adult in the household when we got home. I never had any outstanding financial stress or concerns as a child. Obviously, looking back we were still a relatively poor working class blue collar family, but there were two cars in the garage. We were changing clothes with the seasons. I always had spending change. The furniture was always crisp. I like to tell younger people that I grew up racially unfiltered. South Central Los Angeles was racially diverse; it was heavily integrated in the late 50s. A lot of people wouldn't accept that at face value. There were a lot of European families, people from Romania, the Baltic regions interspersed with the Hispanics and blacks. I grew up having white baby sitters. One of my principle babysitters was a white Ukrainian lady that lived right next door to me. When I was going through my elementary to junior high transitions, I had Asian girlfriends, and Mexican girlfriends.
My first experience ever on a live stage was accidental. My mother had taken me to see the Lionel Hampton Orchestra perform at a neighborhood movie theater. This is in Los Angeles and I basically was so fascinated with the sound and the glitz of that live band/orchestra that I went right down to the orchestra pit at five years old and I was just on this automatic boogie mode. And I was just dancing in these aisles. Being a cute little kid in short pants, they thought that that was cute and they paired me up with another little girl that also had her little groove on and put us both on the stage above the orchestra pit to dance together. And that was the first time I ever experienced live applause. In 1968, marital problems force Bevis’ parents apart. His mother takes the children to Wichita Falls, Texas to live with her mother.
"Laughs Last" / The Bevis Griffin Story (slight return)
Friday, March 20 at 3:30PM
Austin Convention Center
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