Mallard was an American swamp-rock band that released a self-titled album on Virgin in 1975, followed by In a Different Climate in 1976. They were formed by three members of Captain Beefheart and His Magic Band.
Members: Mark Boston [aka Rockette Morton] (bass), John French (drums, vocals), Bill Harkleroad [aka Zoot Horn Rollo] (guitar), John Thomas (keyboards), Arthur Tripp [aka Ed Marimba] (drums), Sam Galpin (vocals), John “Rabbit” Bundrick (keyboards), George Draggota (drums)
Mallard formed in 1974 when three members of Captain Beefheart‘s Magic Band — Bill Harkleroad (Zoot Horn Rollo), Mark Boston (Rockette Morton), and Art Tripp III (Ed Marimba) — walked out on their leader after the April 1974 Mercury release Unconditionally Guaranteed.
For Harkleroad and Boston, this marked the end of a five-year, five-album stint as Magic Band members that began with the 1969 release Trout Mask Replica. Tripp joined on the 1970 followup Lick My Decals Off, Baby and played on the 1972 albums The Spotlight Kid and Clear Spot. He also backed Frank Zappa in the 1968–70 lineup of the Mothers of Invention.
The trio formed Mallard with vocalist Sam Galpin. They took their name from the mallard wild duck of subtropical Central America, Eurasia, and North Africa. Early support came from Jethro Tull frontman Ian Anderson, who demoed the band at La Maison Rouge, the mobile studio on his country estate. Musician John French, a Beefheart sideman through two periods (1967–72, 1976–80), briefly played with Mallard and co-wrote some of their early songs.
Virgin, a small label with ties to England’s avant-garde scene (Gong, Henry Cow, Hatfield and the North, Robert Wyatt), liked Mallard’s mix of quirkiness and rootsy elements. The label signed Mallard as part of a shift towards raunchier rock (Boxer, Supercharge).
Mallard released their self-titled debut album in late 1975 on Virgin. It features eight vocal tracks, mostly composed by Harkleroad with co-writes by French (“One Day Once,” “A Piece of Me,” “Reign of Pain”), Boston (“She’s Long and She’s Lean“), and third wheel David Wagstaff (“Back on the Pavement,” “Winged Tuskadero”). Harkleroad also arranged the French composition “South of the Valley.”
Mallard also features three instrumentals: Harkleroad’s “Yellow Road,” the Boston co-write “To Morroco,” and Beefheart’s “Peon,” a Lick My Decals track.
The one outside number, “Desperados Waiting for a Train,” was written by country singer Guy Clark; it features Galpin on piano. Keyboardist John “Rabbit” Bundrick (Free, Crawler) plays Fender Rhodes electric piano on “One Day Once,” “A Piece of Me,” and “Reign of Pain.”
Harkleroad co-produced Mallard at La Maison Rouge with Robin Black, who also produced 1975/76 albums by Steeley Span and Silly Sisters. The album was mixed by engineers Dave Harris (Sailor, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath, Colosseum II) and Trevor White (Greenslade, Automatic Fine Tuning, Gentle Giant, Steve Hillage) at Morgan Studios.
Illustrator Mick Lye of Blue Egg Studio did the cover art: a rolling blue choo choo train, as seen through a riveted port hole. He also illustrated the 1976 release Crosscut Saw by Groundhogs.
Between the first and second Mallard albums, Tripp cleared out for drummer George Dragotta. They also welcomed another Magic Band alumni, keyboardist John Thomas.
1976: In a Different Climate
Mallard’s second album, In a Different Climate, appeared on Virgin in late 1976. Harkleroad wrote six of the eight numbers with help from Boston on “Green Coyote” and Thomas on “Heartstrings” and “Your Face On Someone Else.” Wagstaff co-wrote the latter and partnered with Thomas on “Harvest,” which features pedal steel guitar by John McFee (Clover, Doobie Brothers). Boston wrote and played dobro on “Old Man Grey,” which segues into Harkleroad’s “Texas Weather,” co-written by one Ted Alvy, who also added lyrics to “Mama Squeeze” and “Big Foot.”
Harkleroad co-produced In a Different Climate with South African producer Robert John Lange, who just recently entered the UK studio scene with work on 1975/76 albums by Supercharge, City Boy, Kevin Coyne, and Graham Parker & the Rumour. Sessions took place at Clearwell Castle and Trident Studios with engineering by Manor Mobile’s Mick Glossop (Clearlight, Camel, Strawbs, Jade Warrior) and Trident’s Jerry Smith (Quantum Jump, Nova) and Peter Kelsey (Charlie, Café Jacques).
Virgin Records photographer Cooke Key designed the cover: a scenic shot of Monument Valley, Arizona, between West Mitten Butte and Merrick Butte with an iceberg obscuring East Mitten Butte. Key also did visuals on 1976 album sleeves by Delroy Washington, The Gladiators, Tangerine Dream (Stratosfear), Peter Baumann, and Rory Gallagher (Calling Card).
“Harvest” and “Green Coyote” were paired on a 7″ in the UK, where Mallard received most of its promotion.
Harkleroad moved to Oregon, where he worked as a guitar tutor.
Boston played on a 1979 single by new wavers Ace and the Eights. He returned as Rockette Morton with the 2003 CD Love Space.
Thomas surfaced in the mid-’80s edition of Sparks and later worked with Bruce Hornsby.
Tripp rejoined the Magic Band for the 1978 release Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller), recorded in 1976. He also played on Al Stewart‘s 1978 album Time Passages. Later, he became a chiropractor.
Mallard and In a Different Climate were reissued as a two-on-one CD in 1994 on Virgin.
- Mallard (1975)
- In a Different Climate (1976)