Magic Band reunion – interview with Michael Traylor

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

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 his education he continued to work with bands and began to make his own recordings. Michael spent a year recovering from a serious automobile accident and then, in 1976, on the strength of the recordings, he was hired by Artist of America Records in Los Angeles as a stock musician.

“…so I moved out there…I was playing a hotel showroom in Lancaster. After the gig I went for a late night snack at a coffee shop called the Antelope Valley Inn and noticed this guy with a large sketch pad who looked familiar. I realised it was the Captain…I spoke to him and asked if he was Captain Beefheart…he replied my friends call me Don. He came to see me play several times and we became friends…this was a time when he had no band to speak of. He had recorded the first Bat Chain Puller which he gave me a copy of with the Bongo Fury tape…he also gave me a copy of Trout Mask.”

Don asked Michael if he would like to work with him and took Michael to meet Eric Drew Feldman, Jeff Moris Tepper and Denny Walley.

“I did a few rehearsals with them. My studio work had become very demanding and I had been asked to be band leader for Fabian for some serious bucks. Don had no record deal, no tours and I could not do all that was being asked of me – as much as I wanted to play with Don I could not justify staying and losing my livelihood. We remained friends and I saw him often. We would talk sometimes all night and I enjoyed his perspective on many things.”

After working as Fabian’s band leader in 1977 Michael did a far east tour with Denny King in the B O Boogie Band. He met Mark Boston who introduced him to Mallard.

“I really liked their music and we decided to try to reform the group. We tried to get Bill (Harkleroad) and then his brother to no avail so we decided to start over and call the band Duck. We played all over the west coast doing music like Little Feat, Steely Dan and Doobie Bros…Don even came to hear us a couple of times. We did some recordings which have been lost over the years and toured the far east playing for the troops over there…we went to Japan, Korea, Okinawa, PI and Guam…”

Duck consisted of Michael Traylor on drums, Mark Boston on bass, Billy Bowen on guitar and John Dengate on keys. They toured in 1979 – 80.

After a period of working with show bands on the west coast and in Hawaii, Michael relocated to Nashville in 1984. There he has worked with artists such as Warren Haynes, Gus Hardin, Forester Sisters, John Conlee and Connie Smith. He toured intermittently over five or six years with Tommy Tutone, best known for the song “Jenny 867-5309”. He has played The Grand Ole Opry many times and Wembley Stadium twice.

In the early 1990s Michael was working with Leon Everette and invited Mark Boston to join as bass player. Mark now lives in Everette’s hometown.

Michael Traylor now runs his own production studio, Swamp Monk Music Works, in Tallahassee.

“I’m working with a 16 year old blues guitar player named Rick Lollar, right now I feel he will go far.”

It was Mark Boston who suggested that Michael join the reformed Magic Band. Michael, who is rehearsing his drum parts by using charts and taking direction from John French, told me:

“It was important that whoever it was could play the music and have a connection to the Beefheart history .. after Robert (Williams) or Art (Tripp) I became the next in line. I just hope I can do homage to a great artist and make the fans happy with what I contribute to the Magic Band.”

© Derek Laskie 2003

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