“That’s right, The Mascara Snake!” The Radar Station was saddened to hear that Victor Hayden (aka The Mascara Snake) had died on 7th December 2018. His death was announced by Pamela Des Barres on her Facebook page. She had known Victor since high school and called him her ‘soulmate’. In recent years she had acted as agent for his artwork. However, she gave no details about the cause of his death but Steve Brewster contacted us to tell us the tragic news that Victor had been hit by a van ten days ago and never recovered. Victor was Don Van Vliet’s cousin. During the lateRead More →

Around July 2017 John French was invited to take part in the Austin Corn Lovers Fiesta in October to celebrate the music of Captain Beefheart with a collection of local musicians. This was an exciting opportunity for John to not only perform in the US but also to present some of Don’s songs with an extended band, horns, back-up singers and even a concert level theremin player! The Radar Station was unable to attend the show but we know someone who did and he has sent us this review of the event. Review by Patrick Grant Threadgill’s is a bar/restaurant/music venue in Austin, Texas havingRead More →

Back in 1964 when Alex Snouffer was looking to start up the band that would ultimately become Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band the first person he contacted and asked to join him was Jerry Handley. They had already had some experience of playing together, enjoyed the same blues-based music and got on well together. Jerry was to become the bass player. He played on all the early singles plus the “Safe As Milk”, “Strictly Personal” and “Mirror Man” albums. By all accounts he was an easy going and modest kind of guy (still is, in fact!) Incredibly Jerry has never been interviewed before … unlessRead More →

A number of musicians have played on various Beefheart albums but have not necessarily been members of the Magic Band. They have been session players brought in to provide a particular instrument or sound. Here’s a brief list of who they were, what Beefheart albums they contributed to and other albums they may have released. The Blackberries backing vocals on Clear Spot A trio of female backing vocalists for hire who seem to have been busy doing session work during the 1970s, often 2 or 3 sesions a day. The mainstay of the group was former Ikette Venetta Fields. A number of other girls wereRead More →

Robert was still in high school when he first met Don and became his roadie for a week in Boston during the Tragic Band days. At one particular club they played Dr John was auditioning drummers and Robert put on a display of what he could do. Although he didn’t get the gig with Dr John he seems to have impressed Don. When Robert moved out to California he managed to get Don’s phone number and spoke to him for hours on end. One day Ed Mann, Zappa’s percussionist called him to let him know Don was auditioning drummers. And as Robert told us: WhenRead More →

Denny Walley was born in Pennsylvania and lived for a time in New York before his family moved him to Lancaster when he was about 12 (around 1955) – his father was transferred with his job in an aircraft company. At this time Denny was playing the accordion for which he’d found a natural affinity and which his parents had allowed him to take lessons. In high school Denny hooked up with Frank Zappa through Frank’s brother Bobby often driving them to music rehearsals despite being only 14 or 15. Although he knew of Don Vliet he wasn’t acquainted with him at this time. DennyRead More →

Arthur Dyer Tripp III grew up in Pittsburgh, he was a drum major at Mt Lebanon High School and in 1962 became percussionist for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. After moving to New York he met up with Frank Zappa and joined the Mothers of Invention. When John French left the Magic Band in 1969 Art was asked to join as drummer. (Unintentionally he had played on Trout Mask Replica when Zappa used a Mothers track as backing to ‘The Blimp’). Drumbo returned to help out on the Lick My Decals Off Baby album which enabled Beefheart to make use of Art’s skills on the marimbaRead More →

Michael took on the daunting task of drumming for the Magic Band reunion tours when Robert Williams was unable to carry on playing with them. This allowed John French to take on vocal duties. Michael’s introduction to the band came from Mark Boston. The two of them had played together for many years in a band called Duck which toured US military bases around the world. He’s also played with country singer Leon Everette (as did Mark) and Denny King (another famous Lancaster musician). Michael had auditioned for the drum slot in the Magic Band in 1976 after having met Don but wasn’t able toRead More →

[alert_box type=”info”]Michael Traylor is the new drummer for the reformed Magic Band. He provided a brief biography and agreed to answer some questions about himself and his work. By Derek Laskie[/alert_box] As a Florida teenager from the swamps Michael Traylor played in the rock group “Purple Passion” which released two “regionally popular” singles on Atlanta’s Vevour label in 1969 and recorded an unreleased album in Nashville in 1971. He studied classical composition and theory at Chipola College and Florida State where he became interested in different types of 20th century composers. It was at this time that he first became aware of Captain Beefheart. During hisRead More →

Fuzzy Fuscaldo – guitar Ty Grimes – drums Dean Smith – guitar Michael ‘Bucky’ Smotherman – keyboards; vocals Del Simmons – saxophone; flute Paul Uhrig – bass When the Magic Band decided they’d had enough and left Don high and dry in March 1974 (or, according to another version of the story, were fired by Don) just weeks away from a US and European tour I doubt they realised who would take their place (not that they particularly cared!). Brothers, Andy and Augie DiMartino, were managing Don and pushing him (albeit willingly) into a more commercial style of music. But, give them their due, atRead More →

Moris met Don sometime in 1974 when he was still an art student. He was asked to join the Magic Band on guitar in 1976 and went straight into recording ‘Bat Chain Puller’ (which has yet to be legitimately released). He then stayed in the band until 1982 (working with four different second guitarist) which makes him one of the longest serving (without a break) Magic Band members. Since the demise of the Magic Band Moris Tepper has divided his time between music and painting. Apart from working in the studio and on stage with Tom Waits and Frank Black he has found time toRead More →

Turned onto Don’s music by his friend and long time bandmate, Ace Farren Ford, Rick became a devoted fan and doggedly learned to play these intricate songs. In the band Ace & Duce he was able to incorporate versions of some Beefheart songs into the free jazz workouts that made up their repertoire. In the late ’70s he played in a power-pop band called The Shake Shakes but quit them when he successfully auditioned as guitarist in the Magic Band on the ‘Doc At The Radar Station’ tour. John French had played guitar on that album but wasn’t interested in touring as a guitarist. ForRead More →

Alex was a fine slide, lead and rhythm guitarist. He could also play drums and trumpet. In the mid to late 1950s he hung out with Frank Zappa and played in an R&B group called The Omens. In 1964 he pulled together the musicians that would become Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. To all intents and purposes Alex was the original ‘Captain’! It was his determination, organisation and leadership that made this an exciting blues band. But as time went on Don took control of the band and grew into the persona of Captain Beefheart marginalising Alex’s influence. Alex quit the band in 1968Read More →

It was with great sadness that I heard Alex had died from a massive heart attack. He was 64. One of the original Magic Band guitarists, Alex can justifiably be known as the original ‘Captain Beefheart’, being the prime mover to get the band together and the musical director and organiser in the early days. In an interview in 1973 Don was asked how it all started and he had this to say:- Alex St. Claire called me – you know, the fellow who was on ‘Safe As Milk’. He had a great influence on Jimi Hendrix when he was in England. Anyway, he callsRead More →

Rising Sons were a band that included Ry Cooder, Gary Marker, Taj Mahal, Kevin Kelley and Jesse Lee Kincaid. Their various 1964-66 recordings for CBS were never released. As a live band they drew the attention of Don Vliet who berated Doug Moon saying he should play slide like Ry Cooder. The 20 year old Cooder played slide and bass on the Safe As Milk album as well as arranging several songs most notably ‘Grown So Ugly’. Taj Mahal played percussion on ‘Yellow Brick Road’. Gary ‘Magic’ Marker was involved in the early production work on Safe As Milk, as well as playing occasional bassRead More →

Richard Redus, known as Rick, was friends with Eric Drew Feldman and Jeff Moris Tepper in Portola Junior High in Tarzana, CA and Taft High School in Woodland Hills, CA). So, it was somehow inevitable that when the Magic Band needed a new guitarist it was him that the other members of the band thought of. He joined the Magic Band in 1978 replacing Denny Walley on guitar. He also played accordion (as Denny had also done). He was from a ‘hippy’ background, his parents ran The Third Eye head shop on Ventura Boulevard, Encino. According to a former high school friend Rick was aRead More →

MU was a band formed by Jeff Cotton (aka Antennae Jimmy Semens) after he left the Magic Band in 1969. Cotton hooked up with friends Merrell Fankhauser, Larry Willey and Randy Wimer from his old band The Exiles. The band developed a subtle and mellow sound which was lifted above the average by Cotton’s fine slide work and some interesting rhythms. Their first single and debut album were released on very small labels and were not given the distribution and advertising they deserved. The band moved to Hawaii in 1973, Willey replaced by Jeff Parker on bass but the band fell apart the following yearRead More →

Denny King was yet another Lancaster based musician. This album of blues and boogie (which is well worth searching out) includes ex Magic Band members Alex St Claire (guitar, trumpet and production), and Doug Moon (harmonica), plus former Exiles drummer Greg Hampton. Alex St Claire also gets a co-writing credit on one song – “Desert Sand”. One of the tracks is the “Sure Nuff n Yes I Do”/”New Minglewood Blues” riff all over again. And some of the vocals have an occasional nod towards a Beefheartian growl. The song ‘Bessie Mae’ is an exact copy of the ”Tarotplane’ riff. Barry ‘Dr Demento’ Hansen wrote theRead More →

This was Jeff Cotton’s first band which he put together when he was only 14 with Merrell Fankhauser, who’d had several surf hits with The Impacts, and fellow high school friends Greg Hampton and Jim Ferguson. They recorded a number of songs, influenced by Buddy Holly and the British Invasion groups, that became hits locally during 1964 and 1965 but much of their output has not been released until the last few years. Although Cotton definitely played on many of earlier The Exiles tracks the band developed into an ever-changing collection of musicians centred around Fankhauser during 1966 and 1967 by which time Cotton hadRead More →

Often mis-spelt as Jerry, his first name is Gerald, so Gerry would the correct form. Only in the band for a matter of months Gerry McGee did have a significant impact on the future playing of the Magic Band. Coming from a country music background he played with a strong finger picking style using picks on fingers and thumb. He’d been doing session work (appearing on The Monkees first album) and playing in clubs around Hollywood. Gerry can’t recall how he came to be in the Magic Band, although it’s likely that he was called in by Bob Krasnow who knew him from session playing.Read More →