DENNY WALLEY BIO
I am a self-taught musician. As a child living in New York in the 1950’s, I went with my parents one day to visit some of their friends. All the kids were promptly sent to the downstairs playroom while the parents stayed upstairs playing cards and drinking highballs. While downstairs I discovered a suitcase in the corner and opened it. There it was, a child-size 12-bass accordion. I asked to try it and in a short time was playing a few simple songs. Shortly after that I started taking lessons and stuck with it for about five years until my Dad got transferred to Lancaster, California.
Once I got to Lancaster, I would rarely play the accordion. I had become totally obsessed with the Blues and collecting blues records, especially 45’s. That music changed my life. After hearing a recording of Muddy Waters playing slide guitar on “Louisiana Blues” the accordion went under the bed! It wouldn’t be seen again until many years later, when I played it on “Harry Irene” on Captain Beefheart’s original “Bat Chain Puller” LP.
In the 1960s I moved from CA back to NY and met a guy, who would become my very best friend, Tom Leavey. Tom, Wayne Jordan and I soon put together a little Blues/R&R band called “The Detours.” We played together for 9 years. During that time we signed a deal with Atlantic Records, were re-named “The King Bees” and cut a single produced by Tom Dowd & Arif Mardin for their ATCO label. The A-side was “Who Do You Love” and the B-side was “Peace of Mind.” There was only one recording studio at Atlantic so our success was short-lived. With heavyweights like Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, The Young Rascals, Cream, etc. being signed to Atlantic, we quickly faded into the distance.
Back to L.A. in 1969
I heard from a friend in L.A. that there might be a chance to play with Canned Heat. So I quit my job, took some money from the bank, packed my guitar & amp and a few clothes, drove to JFK Airport in my ex-wife Josie’s T–Bird and just left it in the parking lot. After arriving in L.A. I found that the Canned Heat gig was total BS – in retrospect, probably the best thing for me and my career.
So I couch-surfed for a while with friends who had a huge Spanish-style mansion in Laurel Canyon, right on Lookout Mountain. I soon hooked up with Frank Sorkin aka “Scoobie” at Local 47 Musicians Union Hollywood. “Scoobie” was the young, hip representative in charge of all things Rock & Roll and sent me to tons of auditions — more than a few that actually produced gigs! I played and recorded with several soul/funk bands in and around L.A. and spent four years as the in-house guitarist for a small label in Hollywood called WHIZ Records.
Around that time I reconnected with some of my High School friends from Lancaster who were now living in the San Fernando Valley. Tom Leavey was also back in L.A. and had landed a gig playing bass in Jimmy Carl Black’s new band “Geronimo Black.” When their guitar player suddenly decided to leave the group, I tried out and it clicked immediately!
Geronimo Black went on to record an album for Universal Records and did several small tours through the Pacific Northwest but the band eventually split up. With the band no longer together I started playing and recording with several local groups on an as-needed basis.
During that time, I had also been in touch with my old friend Jim “Motorhead” Sherwood, an original member of The Mothers of Invention. Jim & I had grown up together in Lancaster and attended Antelope Valley Joint Union High School with both Frank Zappa and Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart). One day “Motor” had just come from a FZ rehearsal where Frank said that he was looking for a slide guitar player, and asked Jim if he knew of anyone. Jim told him that I played slide and was available and Frank asked that I bring my axe to rehearsal the next day. I showed up with my Danelectro Bellzouki 12-string (strung with only 6 strings) and the first and only song I got to play was Advance Romance. Frank liked what he heard and commented, “Anybody who has the balls to play those low noted on the slide has got the job.” So I joined the band just in time for the 1975 “Bongo Fury” tour. That tour would also bring Don (Capt. Beefheart) and me together for the first time since going to school back at AVJUHS. I would go on to tour and record with both FZ & CB for several more years.
The Magic Band – 2003-2014
When Captain Beefheart retired from music in the early 1980’s, The Magic Band broke up. More than twenty years later in 2002, John “Drumbo” French, original drummer for Beefheart, brought several former members of Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band to the Mojave Desert to see if the music would stand on its own without Don’s vocals. We met in Lancaster and first played strictly instrumental versions of many of the songs — but John surprised us all when he began singing and sounded eerily like Don. The members of that first reincarnation were John “Drumbo” French, Mark “Rockette Morton” Boston, Gary “Mantis” Lucas, Robert “Wait For Me” Williams, and me, Denny “Feelers Rebo” Walley.
The band began touring in 2003 and has been on and off the road ever since. After nearly twelve years of playing with The Magic Band I felt it was time to explore the musical influences that have been so crucial to creating my style of playing. With no Magic Band tour plans on the books, it seemed a good time to follow my heart and explore all of the music that has brought me to this point, so on September 15, 2014 I left the band.
With a bunch of new and old original songs, a stack of power-slide Blues tunes, and material that I’ve sung on, played and recorded with both FZ and Captain Beefheart, I am dying to take it on the road. Hope to see you all out there!
Played / Recorded / Toured
Albert Collins (toured), Big Joe Turner (played / guest), Big Moma Thornton (played), Sunnyland Slim (played / guest), Brenton Wood (toured – recorded), The Valentinos, Rosie Greer, Bill Cosby, Noel Redding (recorder), Tim Rose (toured),
R. B. Grieves (toured), Connie Lush (played / guest), Jeremy Steig (played), Tom Waits (recorded), Frank Zappa (toured – recorded), Captain Beefheart (toured / recorded),
The Magic Band (toured / recorded), Mats & Morgan band (toured / recorded), ZPZ (played / guest), Geronimo Black (toured / recorded), The Grandmothers (toured / recorded).
FRANK ZAPPA ALBUMS
▪ Bongo Fury
▪ Joe’s Garage Act I
▪ Joe’s Garage Acts II & III
▪ Tinseltown Rebellion
▪ Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar
▪ You Are What You Is
▪ You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 1
▪ You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 4
▪ Anyway The Wind Blows (BTB)
▪ Saarbrücken 1978 (BTB)
▪ At The Circus (BTB)
▪ You Can’t Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 6
1972 Vinyl Geronimo Black on UNI -MCA Records 73132
1980 Vinyl Welcome Back Geronimo Black on Helios Records
1982 VinylLooking Up Granny’s Dress – Rhino Records
1993 A Mother of an Anthology – One Way Records
1981 Vinyl Buy My Record – A&M SP-012401
1982 Vinyl Late One Night – A&M AMLH-64889
Captain Beefheart & his Magic Band
Bat Chain Puller –Recorded 1976/ Released Feb. 22, 2012
CD – Vaulternative Records
The Magic Band
2003 DVD/ CD – Crows Milk – Documentary & Live show at Shepherds Bush Empire, London UK
2003 CD Back To The Front –All Tomorrows Parties
2005 UK CD 21st Century Mirror Men – Proper Records
2011 CD Oxford UK June 6, 2005 – Sundazed Records
2013 CD The Magic Band – Live in London – Proper Records
Work in progress! More albums to be added.