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:

When I called him regarding that, instead of saying hello he said, Hi Robert and that was before caller ID. He had me go to Tepper and Feldman’s house to get the keys to the rehearsal studio and to borrow their Beefheart LPs. I spent every waking hour preparing for the audition over the following week. I was halfway through the first song of the audition when Don started waving his arms around to stop. He said, I’ve heard enough. You’ve got the job let’s go get some iced tea.

So Robert was hired and began performing live with the band from 31 October 1977 (Buffalo State University was his first show), and appeared on two of Don’s final albums.

The way it ended was, I had a record deal with A&M Records in 1981 and when Gary Lucas (manager at the time) told me rehearsals for the new record were coming up I told him I was already committed contractually to start my follow up record to my EP Buy My Record. The studio, my band, and engineer were all set to start which conflicted with Captain Beefheart’s schedule.

Since that time he’s been fairly active as a sideman as well as releasing a few solo projects. He had a famous falling out with John Lydon and agreed to take part in the Judge Judy TV court show to air those grievances. Robert felt he was stitched up by this programme and lost his case.

Robert played drums on the two 2003 UK shows by the Reunion Magic Band, allowing John French to take on the vocals duty.

In 2007 he toured as part of Hugh Cornwell’s band and is currently (2011) working on another solo project.

There is an old interview with Robert on the Homepagereplica site.

Magic Band Albums


  • 1981 US 12″ Buy My Record on A&M SP-012401. Four song vinyl ep that includes Eric Drew Feldman on 3 cuts (mini-moog bass; mellotron; yamaha organ). Bruce Fowler plays trombone on 3 cuts. Denny Walley slide guitar on one cut and Jeff Tepper lead guitar on 1 cut.
  • 1982 Euro (Dutch) Vinyl original of Late One Night on A&M AMLH 64889. Includes Bruce Fowler on two tracks and Denny Walley on background vocals(!) for one track.
  • 1982 US Vinyl of Late One Night on A&M AMSP 6-4889
  • 1998 US CD Date With The Devil’s Daughter on Tone Casualties XOCD9828 includes Jeff Moris Tepper on track ‘Frank and Don and Me’, and Bruce Fowler on the title track. First 30 or so copies were sent out with a free t-shirt

Eazy Teeth

  • 1980 US 7″ Car Noise/Her Blade on Dental Records DR 001 – with picture sleeve featuring a Van Vliet 1980 original EAZY TEETH drawing (black felt tip on white). The band is Paul Young (ex-Beefheart roadie named ‘Easy Teeth’ by DVV because he was usually smiling), Robert Williams on drums and Tito Larriva on vocals

Keith Levene’s Violent Opposition

  • 1989 CD Keith Levene’s Violent Opposition on Rykodisc 10049. Ex-PIL guitarist Levene with Flea from Red Hot Chili Peppers and Robert Williams
  • 1989 12″ I’m looking for something on Taang! Records TAANG! 19 includes 4 songs from the album – I’m looking for something / Cops too / Taang! thing / If sixz was nine

Hugh Cornwell

  • 19?? French CD single Story Of He And She – two tracks: Story Of He And She / Rattlesnake. Band line up of Robert Williams, Alex Gifford, Ted Mason, Chris Goulstone.
  • 1979 vinyl Nosferatu on United Artists UAG 30251 United Artists UAG 30251
  • 1979 vinyl Nosferatu on United Artists UAG 30251 United Artists UAG 30251 – promo LP issued with pack of stickers, moths, inserts, photos
  • 19?? vinyl Nosferatu on Liberty UAG 30251 – reissue LP
  • 1992 CD Nosferatu on EMI CDP 7 99104 2 CD reissue adds: Losers In A Lost Land (instrumental)
  • 1998 CD Nosferatu reissue on Eastworld EWO 001CD
  • 1979 UK 7″ White Room / Losers In A Lost Land (instrumental) on United Artists BP 320 with picture sleeve
  • 1979 UK 7″ (Don’t Bring) Harry by The Stranglers / Wired by Hugh Cornwell & Robert Williams // Crabs (live) by J.J. Burnel / In The Shadows (live) by The Stranglers on United Artists STR 1 with picture sleeve
  • 1980 US 7″ Do The European by J.J. Burnel / Choosey Susie by The Stranglers // White Room by Hugh Cornwell & Robert Williams / Straighten Out by The Stranglers I.R.S. SP 70952 – bonus 7″ EP with Stranglers IV LP issued in the USA

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