Don Van Vliet

Don Van Vliet

Real Name:
Don Glen Vliet
Born: 15th January 1941, Glendale, California, USA.
First recorded appearance: "A Low Forceps Delivery", featuring Don Glen Vliet, at Glendale Research Hospital 16:25 hours on 15/01/41.

Died: 17th December 2010, of complications from multiple sclerosis.

Don Van Vliet, aka Captain Beefheart, vocalist, harp-player, saxophonist, flautist, songwriter, lyricist, poet & painter. Frontman of The Magic Band and artist with a dozen official albums and more besides. An often perverse career path, interwoven with Frank Zappa, followed by 'retirement' in 1982 when he went to live in seclusion with his wife Jan and paint full-time. He subsequently released some poetic works, which accompanied his art portfolios & exhibitions.

His career in music & art featured in the BBC documentary "The Artist Formerly Known As Captain Beefheart", with narration by John Peel & vignettes by Matt Groening, Ry Cooder, Doug Moon, John French & other past members of The Magic Band

(In late April 1966 Vliet enrolled for 3 months with the American Federation Of Television And Radio Artists, using the pen-name of Don Van Vliet with a hand-scrawled caveat of "Captain Beefheart" added to the document - see images).
Vliet's compositions & tracks have also featured in the following films: "Abba Zaba" in Something In The Air (2012); "Clear Spot" in How To Be (2008) and Things We Lost In The Fire (2007); "Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles" in The Big Lebowski (1998) and vocals on Nitzsche's "Hard Workin' Man" in A Civil Action (1998) and Blue Collar (1978); "Electricity" in Entourage (TV show, Season 5).
In Groups:

Don Van Vliet Discography


OZITDAN LP 8020 Don Van Vliet Son Of Dust Sucker- The Roger Eagle Tapes(LP, Ltd, Num) Dandelion Records OZITDAN LP 8020 US 2014 Sell This Version
OZIT DAN LP 8024 Don Van Vliet And The Magic Band Don Van Vliet And The Magic Band - Rough, Raw And Amazing (Live At Leicester De Montfort Hall 1972)(2xLP, Num, Yel) Dandelion Records, Ozit-Morpheus Records OZIT DAN LP 8024 2015 Sell This Version

Singles & EPs

Don Van Vliet Stand Up To Be Discontinued (Maxi, EP) Hatje Cantz, Nur/Nicht/Nur Germany 1993 Sell This Version


RHM2 7817, ISBN 0-7379-0284-1 Don Van Vliet Riding Some Kind Of Unusual Skull Sleigh(CD, Comp + DVD-V, NTSC + Box, Ltd, Num) Rhino Handmade, Artist Ink Editions RHM2 7817, ISBN 0-7379-0284-1 US 2004 Sell This Version


DR-4354 Don Van Vliet / Anton Corbijn Don Van Vliet / Anton Corbijn - Some YoYo Stuff - An Observation Of The Observations Of Don Van Vliet(DVD-V, NTSC) Music Video Distributors DR-4354 Canada 2003 Sell This Version

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December 17, 2010
R.I.P Don....Frank's been waiting for you.


January 17, 2010
edited over 6 years ago
The name "Don Vliet" first appeared before the record-buying public on “Who Do You Think You're Fooling”. A self-penned B-side to his first official single “Diddy Wah Diddy”, a cover of a Bo Diddley hit, released early in 1966 under his performing persona of "Captain Beefheart", fronting one of the early line-ups of "The Magic Band". This B-side also appeared on the band's second single "Moonchild" in the UK, which had another Don Vliet number "Frying Pan" on the flipside in America. It was not until the release, a year later, of the "Safe As Milk" album and its "Yellow Brick Road" single that Vliet's nom de plume of "Don Van Vliet" would emerge.

By July 1966 the name "Don Vliet" had also featured on the sleeve of a ground-breaking double album, listed on the inner gatefold of ‘Freak Out!’ by ‘The Mothers Of Invention’. A small but significant credit, buried enigmatically among 8 columns of 179 entries, headed “These people have contributed materially in many ways to make our music what it is. Please do not hold it against them”. A credit that stands as an open acknowledgement from Frank Zappa to a mutual creative relationship, representing the ‘stick that poked down’ in two musical paths that began when they met as two disaffected teenagers at Antelope Valley Junior High. Two paths on tracks that would criss-cross throughout their careers in the making of music ‘from the other side of the fence’.

Whilst Zappa managed to carve his own vast and unique genre in the output of ‘alternative rock’ the work of Don Van Vliet often lay dormant in the wings of mainstream popularity, defying classification. His key talent was his voice. His vocal rendering akin to that of Chester Burnett, plumbed from the depths of the delta swamps, vibrantly delivered like the saxophones of Kirk or Coleman - with whom he briefly associated. Whilst his own accompaniment of ‘free-jazz’ saxophone or other reed-instrument playing should not be considered in the same light as such artists, his skilled blues harmonica was fittingly brought to bear in much of his work. In this respect Vliet also pops up in two further nomenclatures on Zappa works, as "Bloodshot Rollin’ Red" and, one assumes, his college-pal nickname of "Donnie Vliet".

Lyrically, Vliet’s work comes from all points of the compass. It ranges from the unashamedly romantic “Her Eyes Are A Blue Million Miles”, used in the film “The Big Lebowski”, to the gritty blues howl of “Hard Workin’ Man” on the Nitsche soundtrack of the film “Blue Collar”. Then there is the other side of the coin, where Vliet plays the wild card. The Jack of uncourtly prose and obliquity. From the angst-ridden “Veteran’s Day Poppy”, “Dachau Blues” or “Ashtray Heart”, to the angularity of “Brickbats” or the acidic dreamscape of “Making Love To A Vampire With A Monkey On My Knee”. If Vliet had a failing it was the fact that he never compromised, much to the chagrin of the many record executives with whom he dealt. He was so often an idiosyncratic and self-centered personality, like a Munchausen character, conducting his own world of dreams and imaginings. A trait which both distanced him from the realities of the music industry and the musicians with whom he worked. He became an artist who was hostage to fortune and circumstance, a dropout fish continually in search of a school in which to swim.

Vliet made his last official album “Ice Cream For Crow” in 1982 and retired from the attractions of the ‘turquoise jewelry’ that was the 'music business'. He headed off into the sunset of the Mohave desert with his wife Jan to take up his love of painting and poetry full-time. An encapsulation of his artistic direction and success in this field can be found in the limited edition of “Riding Some Kind Of Unusual Skull Sleigh”, an art catalogue of prints with a CD of poems in a hand-made box set. This also contains a DVD of a short documentary film by Anton Corbijn. A film that also appeared on general release, entitled “Some YoYo Stuff”.

From the blues-oriented debut album “Safe As Milk”, hailed by 'Rolling Stone' magazine as “One of the forgotten classics of rock and roll“, to the third free-reined and iconic album “Trout Mask Replica” described by the magazine as “...the most astounding and most important work of art ever to appear on a phonograph record”, Vliet took the world of ‘alternative rock music’ and shook it by the throat. For those who had ears, for those who became his hardcore followers, the world was never the same again. Don Van Vliet will continue to be one of the most important of ‘underground rock’ musicians in our time.

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