Goodbye to Don Vliet
I first discovered Captain Beefheart was someone I knew when I heard a song from his album being played on the loudspeakers in a record store in Berkeley and they played it on request from a customer, and Beefheart was already kind of famous by then. I didn't know Captain Beefheart was that someone I had known some in my past. And my previous brush with him was quite limited. But as I knew the person who acted as major domo and manager for the Beefheart group, a person I brought into the mix myself, a trustworthy and eventempered sort who said he wanted a career in show business, I have an anecdote about Capt Beefheart.
The Captain and his wife Jan tried I think to escape what they saw as the madness that was Los Angeles music biz by moving far into the Northern Coastal reaches, where as the folk song aptly has it "North Coast, the wild coast, is lonely..." They'd moved farther North than that, even up past the Lost Coast, onto a little promentory, a squiggle on the coastal outline called Trinidad. They chose Trinidad because the place was said to remind them of Mendocino, but also mentioned was that (then, at least) it wasn't as expensive or exclusive as Mendocino. Well, things weren''t going well for them there. They were nearly starving by all reports as money or royalties weren't arriving as expected. And, truthfully, having a history of metro living, they were quite unsuited to the kind of planning needed to survive much less ease the rigors of rural coastal living. They hadn't so much as pulled in a stick of firewood for the cold rainy winter months and had they remained much longer, they in all likelihood may have soon fallen ill if not frozen to death.
So there might be some difficult characters in show biz, see? Anyway, the major domo/manager was as I said a pragmatic sort when dealing with odd or unusual behaviors and he played some sort of role in rescuing the couple from the inclement though scenic Trinidad. In his formative years, my friend, the domo, had been forced to take on the role of guiding adult in the family home as his own dad had for years suffered and deteriorated from myasthenia gravis, a nerve disorder. The major domo later went on to tour every body from Manhattan Transfer to Ry Cooder for the record company. He ended up with nearly a lifelong career in the music biz, managing tours for Beefheart, then managing the Beefheart group, then the Beefheart ensemble called Mallard. He had an office in London, at least a house or two in the Canyon, and (accustomed since childhood to the traipings of upper middle class wealth) wore fancy suede jackets. I heard he died a few years back from picking up a virus that attacked his heart muscle from some soil that was delivered for his organic garden.
Keep in mind here, too, that I think the good stories come from the past. Don loved Mendocino, and I even had wandered around the sand dunes with him a bit one day. He loved Trinidad because the dunes and coast were like Mendocino's. I'm glad he finally got back up there to live in a place he loved.
Tonight, I'll raise a toast to all the Trinidaddians and all the Trinimammians.