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Jennifer Lucy Allan

Oral Histories: John 'Drumbo' French

June 2014

Magic Band drummer and musician John French talks about how he learned to sing like Captain Beefheart.

John French, the Magic Band's drummer, was eight years younger than Beefheart, and was often bullied by his bandleader. He often also transposed much of the group's music.

With The Magic Band, he began touring again in 2006, and when the group found they wanted to include vocals, French put himself in the place of Beefheart, and taught himself to approximate Don Van Vliet's growl to an uncanny degree of accuracy.

Here he tells Jennifer Lucy Allan how the reunion came about, why he decided to sing as Don, and the lyrics he reinterpreted to deal with the shadow of Van Vliet's influence.


Great book John, enjoying the wonderful work you are doing with the MAGIC BAND.

Luv ya!

It should be made into a movie!

Mr. French "transcribed" the music, rather than "transposing" it.

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