Art Tripp writes about Don

In 1984 Don and I had renewed our friendship for many years in north California after we’d both left the music biz. Our homes were only about a mile apart. He came to my office periodically for chiropractic treatment, and we’d also get together frequently just for laughs.

In the late 1980’s he seemed to be developing some neurological symptoms which were resistant to cure from chiropractic adjustments. I told Don and Jan that he needed a consultation with a neurologist. He refused to go, and Jan was unable to convince him. Around 1992 he and I had a falling out. As a result, I never did hear any further reliable information about the course of his health. From what I’ve read recently, it sounds as though he had the progressive form of multiple sclerosis.

We always joked about Zappa, but yet Don —even more so than I— had a deep respect for Frank’s talent. And now I feel the same way about Don Vliet. He was a unique individual with more demons than the average human, but whose talent extended beyond the stratosphere.

The completely unequalled gift that Don had was his cornucopia of ideas; whether they were music phrases, images, paintings/drawings, or third-stream observations, puns and double entendres. His brain was a bottomless well of arts images.

Don had the gift of gab—an extremely hip salesman. He could get you to thinking that yellow was actually red. Don was primarily a painter and sculptor. What he did in music was no different from what was represented by the images in his wonderful paintings. You could say that whenever Don was with other people, in most circumstances, they were participants in a painting. That was predominantly Don’s view of life: as an art statement, with reality being a nuisance. Symbolism took precedence over substance. The art world has lost a major force, and Don’s friends will always recall the times that they spent with him.

My thoughts now shift to his wonderful wife, Jan. I hope she doesn’t suffer too long. She was devoted to Don for 40 years, and a man could not have asked for, nor have received, a better wife. She is a strong woman who will begin a new chapter in her life now with the wind at her back.

Art Tripp

19 December 2010


  1. My head is my only house unless it rains

    Douglas in Scottish Borders

  2. one of the first lps I ever got was Troutmask Replica…one of the most out there recordings at that time. The first tunes I ever wrote where inspired by the good Captain.
    not having him here on this earthly plane, makes me feel a bit more alone. Rest your soul Captain!

  3. One of the first lps I ever bought was Trout Mask Replica..easily one of the most "out there" recordings of that time…or any time. Captain Beefheart was one of my first songwriting inspirations.
    I hope he and Zappa are renewing their friendship and jamming.
    With Don gone, I feel a bit more alone in the world.
    rest your soul Captain.

  4. Thanks for your thoughts Art. Much appreciated.

  5. I think Don will be waiting for us when we reach the other side – at least I hope so : )

    1. How amazing would that be?!?! I think he’d be pissed off about my four BCP bootlegs….and my attendance of The Magic Band gigs circa 2004/’05….:(

  6. If I could travel in time, would choose a early Coast Be-In ,grooving to Captain Beefheart & the Magic Band.

  7. There will be a lot of "why wasn't he recognized when he was living?"
    And there will be people jumping on the band wagon saying how much he influenced them, etc

    But you know what? Those of us who are fans were fans then and will be fans now. There are a lot of people who have listened to Don and still do since day one. It was his decision to retire from music and who can blame him.

    But he has always been appreciated from a hard core following for a long time

    He was one of a kind

  8. Thank Art for the words and thanks for the drum stick when you guys played in Staten Island in 1970. I still have it in my collection. For me, everything you guys did was magic, instead of a 1 2 3 4 count, you would give a grunt. And to this very day I still try to get my drummers to play the high hat like you.

  9. Děkujeme Captain, pomáhal jsi nám přežít v dobách kdy nám komunisti zakazovali hudbu.

  10. Thank you, Mr. Tripp for sharing your wonderful thoughts. You added so damn much to the mystique.

    peter brainpang

  11. Thanks, folks. And Vinnie, I'm glad you still have that drum stick. I'm still using the other one… ~Art

  12. Lieber Freund,
    Deine Musik, war für mich über all die Jahre eine nie versiegende Quelle, ein Einblick in die Schönheit des kosmischen Chaos und wird es immer sein.
    Danke dafür

  13. I didn't get a drum stick from you Art but I saw you play at the Jahrhunderthalle in Germany in April '72. When you came out with the panties on your head and scratched that 'ghord thing' I cracked up. I was too young to understand at the time but I have grown much since. CB&HMB is at the top to me.

  14. Wow, so sad to hear this terrible news. Been a while since I checked in with the Radar Station, but this website, and the music of Beefheart himself are both responsible for much of my musical growth as an individual, and my current ability/need to look beyond what popular culture offers. One of the comments stated that Don was not appreciated in his lifetime, and I would have to disagree. The entire soundscape has changed as a result of his endless questing for raw honesty (occasionally embellished for artistic purposes). Though the world has lost a great creative force, I would say that there are comparatively few who have been so privileged as to exert such a wide sphere of influence while receiving few of the drawbacks that accompany fame. True, the financial benefits he felt were lacking, but if we're to attribute the status of "genius" to the man, we should cotton to the fact that he was too hip for such mass appreciation, and sabotaged it every time he had the chance (although it seems he did have a little help from time to time). Don Glen/Van Vliet: simply too hip for the green.

    Thanks for all of the wonderment,

  15. Robin, I'm glad you enjoyed the show enough to remember it. But that wasn't a gourd. It was the Mascara Snake! Best~ Art Tripp

  16. Captain Beefheart, thank you for your art and Art, thank you for nice words

  17. A great idea. Thanks for sharing this. Much appreciated.

  18. Art, what great words you’ve written about Don and Jan. Thanks for those and the information.

    I found out about Captain Beefheart passing at the end of a Saturday Night Live when Jeff Bridges yelled “Rest in peace, Captain Beefheart.” That night, or the night after I almost literally cried into my tortellini thinking about it.

    I had a record store clerk open and play the “Trout Mask Replica” vinyl and have loved almost all his music from the first several seconds on and still listen to it often. I bought the record after hearing two or three songs. I had no idea what to expect it to sound like but I was a Frank Zappa/Mothers of Invention freak, and even a United Mutations member at that age of 14. Both bands have always had a huge influence on me.

    Once I was at Beefheart’s Holiday Inn door when you and Winged Eel Fingerling walked past in full stage clothing. I remember thinking how amazing it was that he, and a former Mother of Invention just walked past! I didn’t know at the time that Winged Eel was actually Elliot Ingber(!!!).

    I was there to allow Zoot Horn Rollo to copy my recording of the band on his cassette recorder.

    I didn’t see him, but while in Beefheart’s room, someone said that Ry Cooder (in the restroom) was about ready to leave. I hung out mostly with Zoot and Rockett Morton (Who asked if I wanted to play his double necked bass, so I did!), and they where really nice people. Same goes for Jan and Don, who at one point was very “Beefheartian” when he stood on the bed with wis arms held out on his sides mimicking the penguins he was watching on a TV documentery. They were in stage outfits too, ready for that nights gig, so that made it even more memorable. Zoot had his cape on for instance. You had a green mustache (Which I copied for my first gig ever—in a theatrical rock band at 16.), monocle, and a marlin fronted fishing hat! All that stuff, and symbology in general, has a quite a creative influence on a sixteen year old kid.

    Thank you for you and the others being such cool people, having cool stage names, and stage clothes that reflect an expanding universe. It’s the ultimate stage presence with the super talent to back it up! It means a lot.

    “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.” —Salvador Dali

  19. To me, Captain Beefheart and the various versions of the Magic Band __combined with his work as a painter is a far better model of what a person can be and do__ and what a group of imaginative people can do…. Don Van Vliet Captain Beefheart enshrines and embodies something really great and inspiriting and electric__ he’s way greater than has yet been understood, and in time that greatness will glow and get larger in its influence will inspire others to create and carry on this work of that was fiery and varied and honest and amicable and magical and thunderous and jagged yet smooth and tender as love itself.

Leave a Reply

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