“Bong? Oh, Fury!” by Dennis Allen

Dennis recalls the time when Don would regularly pop by to visit.

In 1981, a friend and I were shopping for spirits at a “liquor supermarket” in Lancaster, California by the name of “Liquor Barn” (My friends name is Matt Livingston, and as far as I know, he lives in Palmdale, CA currently.) We were searching for the cheapest bottle of vodka we could find, when suddenly I heard a VERY LOW VOICE ask: “Is there really a difference between expensive and inexpensive vodkas?” Of course, he was talking to himself. My friend Matt spotted him instantly, and whispered “That’s Captain Beefheart….”

We struck up a conversation, and he told us that his wife Jan was gone for two weeks and he was fending for himself. We invited him to our house, and to our delight, he accepted. At that time, my friends and I were into smoking a lot of pot. We were also not above offering one of the greatest composers of all time a “bong hit”. He immediately took us up on our offer, took the bong into his two hands, and asked me “how to play a “C” on it”, as if it was a musical instrument.

About six months later, our room mate “Bunny” (Stephanie Bratcher), was flying to New York from Los Angeles when she heard a low, familiar voice. She turned to find Don sitting behind her, and after “catching up”, made plans with him to come back and visit our home the next time he was alone and felt like getting out. After that, Don was a regular and very welcome visitor for a group of bored twenty-somethings living 100 miles away from Los Angeles in the high desert. He would pop by on a regular basis to share in our lives and be our friend. At that time, only Matt knew much about his music, but we all loved the man.

Two years later, I moved to a flat about two miles away, and made sure Don knew my whereabouts. True to form, he showed up at my door one day with a gift: a stack of records that his wife Jan would no longer tolerate cluttering their home. Among those records was a copy of Jimi Hendrix’s “Are You Experienced” signed “To Don….Love Jimi”. After he left, I discovered the record and was speechless with tears in my eyes. That record, along with the others, were stolen tragically from my home while I was on vacation. I wish I had more to tell you, but I moved to Hawaii and lost touch.

Captain Beefheart gave me the ability to explore Music. Thanks, Don.

Hi Matt, Julie, Bunny, Bob, Ron K., Carol, Rich B., Dave B., Bryan B., Bob W., Jeff C., and anybody I missed…….. I hope everything is good!

-Dennis Allen


  1. Wow, that is one helluva story! A Hendrix signed LP given to Don?! Priceless, would love to know where that ended up.

  2. Van Vliet lived on Carolside, which was close to our house on 2nd Street East. I don’t remember meeting him, but I did hear their band practicing while I was walking home from school (Joshua). They sounded terrible, but then most bands just starting out need time to tighten up.

  3. From 1977-81 I was in the Air Force stationed at George AFB, Victorville, Ca. As I was a Beefheart fan, I went looking for him one weekend in Palmdale. Sadly, I never found him but I wish I had known you guys because (a) you sound cool and (b) I really wanted to meet Beefheart, having accepted Trout Mask Replica as the virgin birth spawn of Ornette Coleman, John Coltrane, Sun Ra, and Eric Dolphy.

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