by Don R. Aldridge, November 2011 It was a Tuesday night, or more accurately very early Wednesday morning in 1966. I had just gotten off my shift at Lockheed Aircraft in Burbank, California and had made it back to Lancaster in just over an hour. Good time for the Thanksgiving Day traffic, which had already begun its bleed on the Los Angeles freeway system, out of the city. I had driven straight through, pulling up in front of the house on Carolside Avenue at just after 1 a.m. I was coming for Thanksgiving dinner with Captain Beefheart. It’s a little remarkable to me that so few people,Read More →

Author Recounts Friendship with Avant-garde Icon By Don R. Aldridge, December 2010 American pop music has lost an artist of enormous influence. Captain Beefheart, composer, singer, bandleader, and avant-garde musician who was perhaps one of rock’s greatest unheralded geniuses, died in a Northern California hospital, Friday. His death was attributed to complications due to multiple sclerosis. He was 69 years old. Born Don Glen Vliet, January 15, 1941, he became known to his worldwide fan base simply as Captain Beefheart. Of Dutch ancestry, the artist, who turned to painting after retiring from the stage in the 1980s, changed his surname to Van Vliet in the 1960s. I knew Don wellRead More →

by Don R. Aldridge, December 2010 Before I go into the details of my visit to Captain Beefheart’s home in Woodland Hills, early in 1969, I want to spend some time laying the background for the circumstances that brought about the visit in the first place. I hadn’t seen Don Van Vliet in a few months but I knew he was working on a project and that the moment probably wasn’t ripe for a visit. My instincts proved to be on target; in all of the years of our friendship, my visit to the Trout Mask Replica house on Ensenada Drive was the only time that I did notRead More →

by Don R. Aldridge, October 2010 In 1965, I walked into the world of Don Van Vliet, the man who would become renowned internationally as the avant-garde rock artist Captain Beefheart. What I did not realize at the time was that I would be a witness to the complete evolutionary process of both the man and the artist. My birth name is Don Aldridge and knew Don Van Vliet for twenty years. I still consider him my friend although we have not spoken in many years years. And I miss Don Van Vliet. I miss the esoteric banter and friendly discussions we had in the earliest days of CaptainRead More →

The Man Formerly Known as Captain Beefheart by Don R. Aldridge, September 2010 Stepping into the world of Captain Beefheart in 1965, was like walking through a portal into the Twilight Zone – everything was normal, to the extent anything is ever normal, and everything was strangely disjointed. Television sets had a way of finding themselves twisted into Technicolor snow, conversations could turn from blasé exchanges on politics or music, to Dadaistic rants or wordplays, and the most mundane objects became puppets for Don Van Vliet’s life production. My birth name is Don Aldridge, and I met Don Van Vliet, who would become better known asRead More →

The Transcendency of the Magic Band by Don R. Aldridge, August 2010 In the early, what I will call formative years, of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band, Don Van Vliet would bounce ideas off me. I don’t believe for one moment, and didn’t even then, that he was seeking my advice, but I’m still not sure why he chose to share some of these revelatory thoughts with me. The best I can say, by way of analogy, is that my relationship with Don Van Vliet was something like Jim Morrison’s friendship with Danny Sugarman: for some reason I am still at a loss to explain, the guy tookRead More →

Frownland Gets a Face Lift by Don R. Aldridge, August 2010 Much has been written over the years about Don Van Vliet’s, relationship with his parents, and I remain uncertain as to whether any of us who actually witnessed it understood what we were witnessing. I’m tempted to title this article, Captain Beefheart: Live at the Delivery Room: Bake One. Because much of what I saw was classic Only Child Syndrome, if I may coin a phrase. (JAMA will pick this up and put it on Oprah, I’m sure). Interviews I’ve read with people who have witnessed an incident or two between Don and his mother, Sue,Read More →

by Don R. Aldridge, August 2010 Don Van Vliet, the man who was known for more than two decades as Captain Beefheart, always jealously guarded his privacy. Much has been made over the years about Don’s reclusiveness, but I’m not sure that would – at least during the Magic Band era – be an apt description. I don’t know of any time when I was not welcome at Don’s house or wherever he happened to be. I can’t recall being invited to any sessions, but he always made it clear to others that I was welcome. I was in all of the sessions at Sunset Sound, whenRead More →

What the Fans May Not Know by Don R. Aldridge, August 2010 In 1965, Don Vliet followed his boyhood chum Frank Zappa into the world of avant-garde rock ‘n’ roll with his group Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band. My birth name is Donald Aldridge, and I grew up in Lancaster, California, where Don and I became close friends in the mid sixties. He later changed his surname to Van Vliet. Don’s songs have appeared in several Hollywood movies and TV shows over the years, including The Big Lebowski, Things We Lost in the Fire, and Entourage. Some of the experiences revolving around my relationship with Captain Beefheart can be found in Mike BarnesRead More →

Looking Back at Captain Beefheart by Don R. Aldridge, July 2010 According to the half-dozen or so dedicated-to-the-point-of-delirium fan websites one surfs on the internet today, the bizarre 1960’s avant-garde rock icon Captain Beefheart is: a paranormal savant with a four-octave vocal range; a primitive artisan who didn’t attend a day of school after the age of five; a musical genius who slapped music on vinyl the way Jackson Pollock did paint to canvas. Captain Beefheart was born Don Glen Vliet on January 15, 1941, to Glen Alonzo and Willie Sue Vliet in Glendale, California. He attended public schools in Glendale and Mojave, California and Antelope ValleyRead More →

Anton Corbijn portrait of Don Van Vliet

We were very sorry to learn that Don Van Vliet passed away on Friday 17 December 2010 due to complications arising from multiple sclerosis. Tributes from friends, Magic Band members and fans have come thick and fast. Here are a few of them on beefheart.com and beyond: Steve’s initial beefheart.com post: Don Van Vliet 1941-2010 including many of your tributes My beefheart.com post: Don Van Vliet 1941-2010 including many of your tributes Art Tripp’s tribute to Don Bill Harkleroad’s tribute to Don John French’s tribute to Don – an absolutely lovely read, not to be missed Gary Lucas’s tribute to Don from The Wall StreetRead More →

In 2010 some interesting articles began appearing on the Yahoo Associated Content website under the byline of Grant O’Neill. As they seem to have gone missing, or just hard to find, the author has agreed for copies to be posted here at the Radar Station. Grant is a pseudonym for Don Aldridge a guy from Lancaster who knew Don and many of the Magic Band back in the sixties. I spoke to him many years ago and part of that interview was printed in the ‘Steal Softly Thru Snow’ fanzine. Don Aldridge is an American ASCAP songwriter, author and publisher who has worked with a numberRead More →