Current Rage Guitarist Chris Bewley, 1962-2018
Charles Christopher “Chris” Bewley, guitarist and occasional vocalist for the early ’80s Georgia rock band Current Rage, died on Dec. 15 in Charlotte, North Carolina. He was 56 years old.
Prior to forming bands, as teenagers Chris Bewley, his brother Randy (who went on to play guitar for Pylon), Atlanta musician Brian Lilje (currently in Bad Friend, formerly of The Ellen James Society and numerous other bands), and future Current Rage guitarist John Moore all skated for the Progressive Skateboards team in the mid-to-late ’70s, competing in contests throughout the Southeast. Exposed as a teen to the musical and visual aesthetic of the emerging Athens scene (and post-punk/new wave music in general) while working at record stores and certainly through older brother Randy (who may’ve showed him a thing or two about cheap guitars and atypical tunings), Chris formed Current Rage in 1980 or thereabouts with John, vocalist Norman Hansen and drummer Pat Kirkland.
As Current Rage gelled, Hansen left, Kirkland moved to percussion and vocals, and they used a few different drummers, most notably Paul Lenz (ex-Vietnam/Space Heaters, later to join The Nightporters and Drivin’ n’ Cryin’). The group had a jumpy, jittery new wave sound with plenty of pogo appeal, as can be heard on their 1982 12” vinyl EP Seven Songs. (The photo, courtesy John Moore, shows Bewley onstage with Current Rage at 688 in 1981.) After Current Rage, Chris and Pylon drummer Curtis Crowe had another band called Final Frontier for a short time, though they never recorded. He also, at various times, managed the Strand Theater in Marietta and the Uptown Lounge in Athens. A gifted graphic designer, Bewley also worked in that field for a number of years. He married onetime RCA Records rep Robin Hall, who he’d known since his record store days, and they had a son, Aaron, in the late 1990s.
After that, things grew darker. Accounts are that he struggled with serious substance abuse/addiction issues, and at some point basically went off the grid, often living on the street or hopping trains. Neither his family nor his friends knew if he was even alive. “For maybe fifteen years, he just seemed to drop off the earth,” recalls Moore, now a philosophy professor at Lander University in Greenwood, South Carolina. “You couldn’t find information online, nothing.” Chris didn’t even show up at Randy’s funeral in 2009.
Then about two years ago, Paul Lenz heard from a friend in North Carolina that Chris was in or near Charlotte, after a long period of homelessness. “I lucked into a number that turned out to be that of a ‘mentor’ from some program,” says Lenz. “He gave me Chris’ [apartment] landline, and we spoke four, maybe five times over a six-month period. Mostly just small talk, though we did skirt a few tough subjects. As far as I could see, Chris [had] no intention or desire to live by any standard you and I might see as logical or reasonable.” Lenz did add that Bewley “seemed happy.”
Most recently, Bewley was receiving federal disability assistance and residing at an assisted living facility in Charlotte, and Hall posted on Facebook that she was told he had been clean/sober for a year and a half. Sadly, he suffered a massive heart attack (same as his brother) and died on Dec. 15th. We extend our deepest condolences to his family and friends.