The Roots of Captain Beefheart

18 Mississippi Delta blues, free jazz and brooding swamp boogie songs which inspired the legendary artist


Song list:

1. Howlin’ Wolf – Smokestack Lightning
2. Muddy Waters – She’s Alright
3. Bo Diddley – Diddy Wah Diddy
4. John Coltrane – Bakai
5. Thelonius Monk – Monk’s Dream
6. The Nutmegs – Story Untold
7. The Turbans – When You Dance
8. Mississippi Fred McDowell – 61 Highway
9. Blind Willie Johnson – John The Revelator
10. Big Joe Williams – Providence Help The Poor
11. Howlin’ Wolf – Moanin’ At Midnight
12. Cecil Taylor – Song
13. Ornette Coleman – Invisible
14. Muddy Waters – Don’t Go No Farther
15. Howlin’ Wolf – I Asked For Water
16. Sunnyland Slim – Layin In My Cell
17. Blind Willie McTell – Drive Away Blues
18. Tommy Johnson – Bye-Bye Blues

Released in 2009 by Complete Roots/Snapper Music SBLUECD076

Further information

Snapper Music have released a number of albums under this ‘Complete Roots’ banner covering various bands new and old – The White Stripes and The Doors to name a couple.

From Snapper’s publicity:

“A respected artist, an experimental musician,
a former collaborator with Frank Zappa, a man inspired by free jazz
and the blues and a huge influence on the punk and various new wave
scenes that followed, Captain Beefheart is legendary for his ability
to mix and match sounds and musical styles and make them into something
wholly unique. This collection gathers a cross section of music
that inspired the man to reach yet further out during the late ’60s.”

Radar Station overview by Steve Froy

This ‘roots of’ idea seems to have created a mini-industry producing an ever increasing number of collections of old (presumably out of copyright) tracks. In fact the booklet included in this one is three quarters adverts for other ‘roots’ collections.

This isn’t the first Beefheart roots release … we’ve had Ozit’s interesting but flawed Gimme Dat Harp Boy, the recent Jukebox from Chrome Dreams and I myself put together a collection based on my Blues Roots essay about 10 years ago.

So, is there anything special about this one?

Well, sort of …

For starters though it’s disappointing because there is little information in the booklet to explain why these particular tracks have been chosen and what, if any, connection they have with Don’s musical development. It’s also a pity there isn’t much recording or release information about the tracks themselves either … even Ozit offered more in the way of explanation!

It does, however, contain a short piece by music writer Dave Henderson which is fine, if a bit generalised, and offers that Don liked blues (Sunnyland Slim is correctly named as one favourite) and jazz, and that Zappa was keen on doo wop. I don’t recall reading any comments from Don about doo wop so I’m a bit baffled as to why a couple of doo wop tracks have been included in this collection.

Where this release does break new ground is the inclusion of some jazz pieces. The choices for these are all valid … Don has mentioned these artists at one time or another … and no one has attempted a jazz roots compilation before. Hmmmm, does that mean there is a gap in the market here? (just in case The Jazz Roots of Captain Beefheart – copyright Steve Froy 2009).

Overall it’s an interesting collection which costs very little so it’s not going to make a huge hole in your pocket, but it doesn’t really give an insight into what were Don’s musical roots. See the above listed collections for more appropriate suggestions.

Help us out

If anyone is able to complete or update any of the information above, then please do get in touch.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *