Jimmy Carl Black remembered

Jimmy Carl Black died this weekend. He was seventy years old.

Art Tripp, one of the few other musicians to have played with both Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa, sent the following message:

I hardly know what to say about the demise of the great Jimmy Carl Black. I Emailed Roy Estrada that the world just won’t seem the same without The Indian. He was one of those rare guys who lit up the whole room when he walked in. When you met Jim you liked him; and he was your friend for life. Jim was basically a good ole Texas boy with a little flower power mixed in. He was an open book to a fault, and was quick with his praise of others. I had some of the best times of my life around Jimmy Carl Black, all the while learning a little bit about rock n roll drumming. When we spoke on the phone a couple of weeks ago, I had a feeling that would be the last time. I’m very grateful that I had that opportunity.

Art Tripp

The benefit concert planned for Sunday 9th November in London will go ahead, as will another benefit celebration in California on 7th December.

There is a brief biography of Jimmy at his website and two recent interviews with Jimmy appear at The Idiot Bastard’s website, here and here. At the time of writing the only mainstream obituary to have been published appears at the website of Norwegian broadcasters NRK, although tributes are pouring in at Zappateers, The MuffinMen and Zappa.com

Please feel free to add your memories of Jimmy to the comments section below.


  1. I very sad day for fans of great music around the world. I met Jimmy last year when he was in town touring with Eugene Chadbourne. It was “special Captian Beefheart tribute night” and the whole concert set was all Beefheart songs. Jimmy himself let us all into the concert and I talked with him for about 10 minutes before the show, had him sign an album, and bought a cd off of him. He was a great guy, and the concert blew me away, it was by far one of the best I’ve ever been to. It’s terrible to hear he passed away, best wishes to his family.

  2. Yeah, very sad news – albeit somewhat expected :-(

    Last time I saw Jimmy was in Manchester when he played with Eugene – a fantastic night – you need a gig like that once in a while.

    Love the quote from the 2000 interview; “in 1975, I did a tour with Captain Beefheart.The difference between his music and Frank’s was like night and day. Frank was avant garde, but Beefheart was the real thing, totally left-field. We rehearsed seven days a week, and maybe we’d play our instruments one hour in twelve. The rest of the time, we’d listen to him bullshit.”



  3. I met Jimmy at a Mothers Of Invention show at Queens College
    (NYC)in 1969. He was everything this 13 year old expected from “The Indian of the group”. Thanks for making me believe the world was as magical as those albums.

  4. Bless You, Mr. Black. Condolences to his family and friends.

  5. The Mothers appeared at The New Penelope coffee house in Montreal in early 1967. I hadn’t heard their first album, Freak Out, yet. So I was utterly blown away by that band, as were all of my musician friends. Jimmy was, of course, the drummer at that time, and it wasn’t just that he was an amazing drummer in a phenomenal band, he radiated joy and enthusiasm and projected his unique character and personality. I never got to meet him, but in a way, everyone in the audience “met him” just by being there.

  6. I saw Jimmy with Grandmothers in like 2001, Fresno, packed house. Nice gent, really, and not as freaky or burnt out as some might imagine (and a bit more pleasant than Doc Van Vliet). Authentic rock n roll, mutha-f-ers, and while not quite Vinnie Culalita or whatever, he kept it real. RIP

  7. I met Jimmy when he was playing in Belfast, Northern Ireland about 7 years ago. He was very friendly with me even though i was so nervous! His voice that night was wonderful singing Plastic Factory by Captain Beefheart. His passing is tragic but he won’t be forgotten any time soon.

  8. Jimmy was a unique drummer with a very recognizable sound. I’ll never forget the first time I heard him play on ‘We’re only in it for the money’. In this present day of automated and rigid electronic backbeats his legacy and humanity will shines like a beacon!

    Chick Lyall

  9. hi I’m Bill Keenom and I’m NOT the
    Indian of the group, but I’ll sure miss him

  10. I met Jimmy at a small beer garden in Innsbruck, Austria in 1994. That night the Grandmothers with Sandro Oliva, Bunk Gardner and Don Preston played in front of no more than 100 fans. Afterwards I bought Jimmy a couple of beers and talked his ear off, and he mine. We talked about education: I am an international school teacher and he was really interested to hear about my teaching and travels around the world. His wife was a special-ed teacher in European Dodds schools. After about an hour I asked the local owner for one of the posters to get some autographs. He said no. Jimmy told me he would distract the owner and I should go take one off the wall. I did and he and the band graciously signed it for me. The highlight of the evening was Jimmy’s version of “Lonesome Cowboy Burt.”

    RIP Jimmy. We will miss you!!

  11. He was a great guy and friend,I miss communicating with him very much.

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