This Week in Texas Music History – A Wichita Falls glam rocker champions Black voices at the punk mothership.
By Jason Mellard / Center for Texas Music History at Texas State
On February 12, 1987, Texas band Banzai Kik played the Black Rock Nation Time Festival at New York’s CBGB’s to promote the Black Rock Coalition. Bevis M. Griffin, Banzai Kik’s front man, grew up in the divergent environments of South Central Los Angeles and Wichita Falls before landing in Austin in 1972 as a young rock drummer. Inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Griffin’s earlier group Franklin’s Mast joined the state’s glam scene alongside bands like Krackerjack, Jellyroll, and the Werewolves. After moving to New York in the early 1980s, one day Griffin sought out music critic Greg Tate in the Village Voice offices. Guitarist Vernon Reid also happened to be there and invited Griffin to meet with the new Black Rock Coalition reclaiming the Black presence in rock music. Griffin recalls showing up at that first coalition meeting of young, earnest artists, looking like a member of Mötley Crüe and proudly sharing Banzai Kik’s demo of the song “Noisy Music.”
Griffin joined the coalition on the spot and furthered their efforts to book live showcases for Black rock bands, leading to that 1987 gig at the legendary punk venue CBGB’s, with Griffin’s Banzai Kik and Reid’s Living Colour at the top of the bill. The show was electric, with key music journalists and members of Bad Brains and Parliament/Funkadelic in attendance. Both Banzai Kik and Living Colour inked deals in the show’s wake, with Living Colour’s hit album Vivid coming out the next year. Banzai Kik were poised to follow them but industry shenanigans tied up their completed album, unreleased to this day. Griffin returned to the Austin music scene. His paths continued to cross with Living Colour and Greg Tate, and the Black Rock Coalition remained vital, refreshed as other movements like Afropunk sustained its mission of spotlighting the Black artistry at the heart of rock ‘n’ roll.
Jason Crouch. “Get to Heaven, Some Sort of Way: The Career of Black Rock Maverick Bevis M. Griffin,” The Journal of Texas Music History, vol. 23, 2023, pp. 8-27.