The Magic Band are the classic backing band for Captain Beefheart. Because the Magic Band changed their line up so much, it will be impossible for us to do their biography justice without missing something out. Below is an outline but to receive a full insight please visit the informative www.beefheart.com and this will answer all your questions.
JOHN FRENCH aka DRUMBO
John was in and out of the Magic Band a number of times between 1967 and 1978. Before the Magic Band he had drummed on occasion for The Exiles (with Jeff Cotton) and fronted his own blues band, Blues In A Bottle, on vocals and harmonica (again with Cotton, as well as Mark Boston). There is some confusion over whether he was ever recorded with The Exiles, but it is definite that Blues In A Bottle was never recorded. Another band, Rattlesnake & Eggs, he formed with John Thomas also failed to leave a recorded legacy and his stint on vocals with the original Mallard line-up only exists on demo tapes circulating amongst collectors.
DENNY WALLEY aka FEELERS REEBO, WALLA WALLA
Denny Walley was the guitarist with the Mothers on the 1975 Bongo Fury tour. He obviously impressed Don who asked him to join the Magic Band for the European and US tour of 1975. He stayed until 1977 when he was sacked probably for standing up for himself too much. His fine slide playing added an extra harder-edged bluesy feel to the Magic Band.
Unfortunately none of the recording he did with the Magic Band is commercially available although the incredible track 'Hoboism' and the original recording of Bat Chain Puller appear on a number of bootlegs and he can be heard on Bongo Fury.
GARY LUCAS aka MANTIS
From being a Beefheart fan Gary became Don's manager along with his then wife, Ling. He occasionally performed on stage during the 1980/81 tours - reciting a poem (usually "One Man Sentence", sometimes "Untitled") or performing the solo guitar piece "Flavor Bud Living". For the album "Ice Cream For Crow" he took up lead full-time alongside Moris Tepper while Rick Snyder moved to bass.
Since the end of the Magic Band he has been very prolific in his own right, solo and within a band, releasing almost an album a year since 1991. His virtuoso solo live shows are awesome in the sounds he extracts from his guitar. For more in depth information about his career visit www.garylucas.com.
Below is a list of the recordings featuring his playing. Apart from these Gary has other songwriting credits with folks like Fred Schneider (B-52's), Sissel, and most recently Warren Haynes (Gov't. Mule, Allman Brothers) also numerous tv and film composing credits.
MARK BOSTON (aka Rockette Morton)
Originally from Salem, Illinois Mark's family moved to the High Desert town of Lancaster in California in 1963. His father worked in a local grain factory and also played bass as well as steel guitar. This perhaps explains Mark's ability on the bass - he's one of the few rock bassists who really know how to use the instrument.
By 1966 Mark was playing bass in John French's Blues In A Bottle band alongside Jeff Cotton on guitar. He also played in B.C. & The Cavemen with Bill Harkleroad on guitar.
French, Cotton and Harkleroad all got their call up to the Magic Band. Finally Mark was offered an audition after bass player Gary Marker decided against a full time stint in the band. Mark had expected to be playing the blues based stuff he had heard from the Magic Band and wasn't prepared for the shock of the Trout Mask songs but as he'd managed to strum along to 'Steal Softly Thru Snow' all the way through, which was better than anyone else had done, he was given the job!
Choosing the name Rockette Morton, Mark developed his own aggressive style of bass playing using three metal fingerpicks and a standard flatpick that shredded the wooden guitar body. His bass solo, complete with metal toaster strapped to his head, lighting up a Rio Six cigar and his irrepressible energy were an unforgettable part of many Magic Band concerts.
From 1969 to 1974 he and Bill Harkleroad were the mainstays of the Magic Band until the lack of money and Don's failure to recognise their contribution forced them to quit.
The Magic Band reunion has kicked his playing into gear again. He's hoping to release a collection of his own music in the not too distant future.