multi-media artist and lecturer began his professional career in
1973. From 1973 through 1983 he performed intermittently as a musician,
including a self terminated one year stint as a recording artist
on the A&M record label. During that ten year period the most
meaningful of those years of Mississippi were spent performing as
a duo with another songwriter/performer, Chic Streetman. They also
worked as an opening act for such artists as Taj Majal, Richie Havens,
Hoyt Axton; Sonny Terry and Brownie Mcghee, Doc Watson, B.B. King,
Third World, Albert King, Gil Scott Heron, etc.
appearance on stage as an actor was with the East Cleveland Community
Theatre in Cleveland OH, in 1986. Very soon there after he was concurrently
working at KARAMU--also located in Cleveland, and a venue well know
in the theatre community as the training round for some of America's
finest black actors. While at Karamu, Mississippi performed major
roles in several productions including August Wilson's PIANO LESSON
(Doaker) and Sam-Art William's HOME (Cephus Miles). His professional
theatre debut was with the Denver Center Theatre Company in 1994,
where he co-wrote and performed in DCTC's world premiere of "It
Ain't Nothin' But the Blues".
Although the majority
of his work over the last few years has been in theatre, doing mostly
dramatic roles, Mississippi is equally comfortable working as a
writer, visual artist, actor or singer-composer. His theatre credits
include I AM A MAN (Bluesman) Meadow Brook Theatre, Rochester MI;
HOME (Musical Director) Rhynsburger Theatre, Columbia, MO; SPUNK
(Guitar Man) Smokebrush Theatre, Colorado Springs, CO; LET ME LIVE
(Musical Director) Goodman Theatre, Chicago, IL; IT AIN'T NOTHIN'
BUT THE BLUES began at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing
Arts in June of this year.)
is recording a CD of original music that is to be released in December
*IT AIN'T NOTHIN'
BUT THE BLUES was nominated for four Tony Awards during the 1999
season on Broadway. Mississippi himself was nominated for 'best
book' in a musical.
by Mississippi Charles Bevel
I was born the fourteenth
of seventeen children, to cotton-plantation parents in the Delta
For a time covering
some thirty years after my birth, in periods of one month to less
than two years, I had spent time in Mississippi counties like Sunflower,
Leflore, Tunica and Choctaw; on cotton plantations like Joe Perry's
and Joseph Pugh's; in small towns like Wier, Itta Bena, Swifttown
and Greenwood. Then it was out of Mississippi and on to big cities
like Memphis, St. Louis and Cleveland. And then, on to military
bases in Illinois, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Hawaii, Japan, Kwajuluen
Island, Midway, Alaska and California.
Working, always working;
as a cotton picker, a shoeshine, stock clerk, dishwasher, grocery
clerk, aviation electronics technician, naval in-flight radio operator,
electrician, steel mill laborer, television engineer and ICBM missile
test technician. To all of that--the places and the jobs--there
are those who can bear witness.
In May of 1968, I
returned from Africa, where I had lived for three and one-half years.
That three and one-half years in Monrovia, Liberia was the longest
that I had ever lived in any one place in all those thirty years.
During those many
years there was no one, other than myself, who could have borne
witness to the artists gestating inside of me; artists barely kept
alive, but who could sing, write, act, and create visual art. At
thirty-one the musician was born; at forty, the writer; at forty-eight,
twins, the actor and the visual artist. Giving birth to those mysterious
personalities, my bumbling attempts at nursing those babies, was
not only an unnerving disruption to my own life, but extremely confusing
and disturbing to family and friends as well.
At sixty, there is
some disquiet in my life, but hardly about death. Life has showered
me with too much sweetness to leave me fretting over when death
will appear to gather my bones. Any uneasiness is about the illusion
of time; not enough time left to divulge my revelations; my mysteries.
Not those places mentioned above or the people met along the way--the
world is well acquainted with those places and faces. Sure, I've
been to forty seven states and ten foreign countries. But do you
really want to read another personal travelogue? How about some
real biography; the feelings, the thoughts, the uncommon visions
and singular experiences that we all have had but which few of us
can find the courage to share. There is the powerful hope that someday
through my "other children"-- those half nourished artists
that I have given birth to--you will get to taste, see, hear, touch,
smell, and even balance against your own, my mysteries--the real
biography of Mississippi Charles Bevel.
An alone life, yes.
But hardly a lonely one!