Rock's Backpages Library Rock's Backpages
Rock's Backpages

Don Waller

Don Waller

A second-generation native of Los Angeles, Don Waller was the author of The Motown Story (Scribner's, 1985). Unlike 99% of music books, it sold so many copies they had to pay him royalties. Like 99% of music books, it's now out-of-print. Waller also contributed a chapter to the L.A. punk-rock history Make The Music Go Bang! and wrote about Lenny Bruce and Lord Buckley for The Rolling Stone Book Of The Beats.

A founding member of the semi-legendary Back Door Man fanzine/indie record label, Don wrote extensively for Mojo, USA Today, Billboard, Variety, Radio & Records, L.A. Weekly, L.A. CityBeat and – more than 370 stories – for the Los Angeles Times. His byline also graced the The Guardian, New York Rocker, Creem, Spin, Musician, Pulse, Request, Option, Raygun, ICE, Harp, Guitar World, Star Hits, Network, BAM, the L.A. Reader, the (Detroit) Metro Times, and California as well as Amazon, iTunes, Launch, eMusic, Playboy.com, Rollingstone.com, Sonicboomers, Napster, Addicted To Noise, Microsoft Music Central, Entertainment Asylum's Music Axis (AOL), Allstarmag, and Feed The Monster. Some of these are even still in business.

Waller also wrote more than 40 sets of liner notes, including such various artist packages as Beg, Scream & Shout! The Big Ol' Box Of '60s Soul, multiple volumes of garage-rock Nuggets, New Orleans R&B, and Soul Shots, a compilation of the original versions of songs covered by the Beatles, and a '70s Party Killers collection that defied rational analysis. He also provided liners for reissues ranging from Little Richard to Los Lobos to SCTV Network90 Vol. 1, a multi-DVD collection of seminal shows from the Canadian comedy troupe. Some of these are even still in print.

Along with serving as a music consultant for several cable-TV shows, Waller contributed bonus material to the U.S. DVD edition of Don Letts’s documentary Punk: Attitude, and created a 90-page catalog detailing all the video properties owned by Dick Clark Productions.

Long before he became a not-so-humble scrivener, Waller was a member of proto-punk outfit the Imperial Dogs – who wrote and recorded the original version of 'This Ain't The Summer Of Love', later reworked /re-recorded by the Blue Oyster Cult. The band recently unearthed an hour-long video performance, The Imperial Dogs: Live! In Long Beach (October 30, 1974), that's currently available from theimperialdogs.com
 
Don passed away in November 2016.

L.A. Times tribute to Don

44 articles

By Artist | By Date

List of articles in the library by artist

14 Karat Soul: Sister Suzie Cinema Strikes 14 Karat Soul

Report by Don Waller, New York Rocker, 14 January 1980

The whole world is a stage And everybody's playing a part The stage is set, the curtain goes up The scene is a broken ...

AC/DC: For Those About To Rock We Salute You (Atlantic SD 11111)

Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 6 December 1981

ROCK'S A-B-C'S FROM AC/DC ...

The Alley Cats, The Bags, Black Flag, The Dickies, The Germs, The Go-Go's, The Nerves, The Plugz, The Screamers, The Weirdos, X: L.A. Punk: California Screamin'

Retrospective by Don Waller, MOJO, July 2004

Ignored by the major labels, hounded by cops, fuelled by booze and drugs, L.A. punk was born in a concrete basement in Hollywood known as ...

Bananarama: Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles CA

Live Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 10 April 1989

Bananarama Half-Packs Universal Amphitheatre ...

Lester Bangs: My Black Pages: Lester Bangs' Mainlines, Blood Feasts, and Bad Taste

Book Review by Don Waller, LA CityBeat, 21 August 2003

BACK FROM THE dead and bigger than ever! As a writer – hell, more importantly, as a reader – the Editorial We wuz turnin' cataleptic ...

Black Flag, Circle Jerks, The Germs, X: The Decline of Western Civilization (Dir. Penelope Spheeris)

Film/DVD/TV Review by Don Waller, New York Rocker, September 1981

THE DECLINE of Western Civilization, Penelope Spheeris's documentary of the L.A. punk scene circa late '79/early '80, is by turns funny, provocative, pretentious, inspiring, boring, ...

The Blasters: Just An American Band

Interview by Don Waller, Spin, October 1985

The Blasters could play any bar in the U.S.A.: these roots were made for rockin'. ...

The Box Tops: House Of Blues, Los Angeles CA

Live Review by Don Waller, MOJO, August 1997

ADDING YET another layer of cracked lustre to lead singer Alex Chilton's legendary cult-star, The Box Tops popped on-stage, pumping out a pluperfect-for-frat-parties version of ...

Jon Brion

Profile and Interview by Don Waller, MOJO, April 2003

Jon Brion, America's most in-demand singer-songwriter and producer, has his own L.A. residency. Don Waller went to check it out. ...

Solomon Burke: Go On Back To Him

Report by Don Waller, MOJO, June 2002

BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! "What's that noise in my earphones?" soul giant Solomon Burke calls into the studio control roost from the vocal isolation booth. "That's ...

Chic: Take It Off (Atlantic SD 19323)

Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 20 December 1981

CHIC ON A COLD STREAK ...

Chris Clark: Motown's Great White Hope: Chris Clark

Retrospective and Interview by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 21 August 2009

CHRIS CLARK was a 17-year-old, 6-foot platinum blond when she arrived at Motown's Detroit headquarters in 1963 -- demo in hand -- to audition for ...

The Cramps: Palladium, Hollywood CA

Live Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 14 July 1986

A DATE WITH CRAMPS ...

Robert Cray: Blues Pour L'Homme

Interview by Don Waller, MOJO, July 1995

MOJO catches up with handsome devil Robert Cray in that traditional milieu of the blues hero: on the road in Anchorage, Alaska… ...

Morris Day: Universal Amphitheatre, Los Angeles CA

Live Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 9 May 1988

Sellout Time for Day but the Routine's Dated ...

Lee Dorsey: Club Lingerie, Los Angeles CA

Live Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 23 January 1984

DORSEY'S NEW ORLEANS R&B SOUL ...

The Electric Prunes: 'I Had Too Much To Dream (Last Night)'

Retrospective and Interview by Don Waller, MOJO, January 1997

From the "mind-expanding" opening to the screaming-droning guitars to the '(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction'-derived drums, The Electric Prunes' 'I Had Too Much To Dream ...

Experience Unlimited (EU): E.U.: Livin' Large (Virgin) ***

Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 5 March 1989

YOWL, Y'AWL. Let's git LARGE. Big Time big time. For their major-label debut, the D.C.-based veteran "go-go" outfit not only reprises last year's booty-bustin' dance ...

Experience Unlimited (EU), Skyy (US): Skyy, E.U.: Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles

Live Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 5 February 1990

Skyy Pales Before the E.U. Groove Machine ...

Fabulous Thunderbirds: Blue(S) Metal Flake on a Big White Fab T-Bird

Report and Interview by Don Waller, New York Rocker, November 1980

(Cue music: Juke Boy Bonner's 'Runnin' Shoes') ...

The Falcons: Starwood, Los Angeles CA

Live Review by Don Waller, New York Rocker, June 1980

I dig rock 'n' roll music I can do the Twine and the Jerk I wear strictly Continental suits and high collared shirts I got ...

Faster Pussycat, Guns N' Roses: Guns N' Roses: Appetite For Destruction (Geffen) **; Faster Pussycat: Faster Pussycat (Elektra) **

Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 9 August 1987

WHAM, GLAM, NO THANK YOU, MA'AM ...

Rosie Flores, George Jones, Ricky Van Shelton: George Jones, Ricky Van Shelton, Rosie Flores: Greek Theatre, Los Angeles CA

Live Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 2 November 1987

George Jones' Myth Persists at the Greek ...

Foreigner, Junior Walker & The Allstars: Junior Walker — A Soul Man

Report and Interview by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 4 January 1982

BY 10:30 SATURDAY night, the line in front of the Club Lingerie, a trendy Hollywood rock spot catering to in-crowd tastes, stretched around the corner. ...

Screamin' Jay Hawkins: Life For Jay Hawkins Is Still A Scream

Profile and Interview by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 25 December 1983

"MAN, I WAS 20 years ahead of my time," says rocker Screamin' Jay Hawkins, whose early '50s recording of 'I Put a Spell on You' ...

Roy Head: Club Lingerie, Los Angeles CA

Live Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 19 June 1984

YEAAHHH, MAH man. As a semi-legend, Joan Rivers has nothing on Roy Head, whose '65 smash 'Treat Her Right' remains one of the toughest, most ...

Joe Henry: Historical Home Studio: Joe Henry Records Himself in South Pasadena

Report and Interview by Don Waller, Glendale News-Press, 2 December 2011

ROCK MUSICIAN and producer Joe Henry in his home and studio in South Pasadena on Tuesday, November 15, 2011. His home, a Greene & Greene ...

Howlin' Rain: Magnificent Fiend

Press Release by Don Waller, Birdman Records, Spring 2008

MAGNIFICENT FIEND is the second album from Howlin' Rain and the first to be issued under a joint agreement between multi-platinum record producer Rick Rubin's ...

Etta James: Her Voice Can Get A Hold On You

Interview by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 26 October 1985

"WHAT'S HAPPENING now is that all the kids who grew up listening to me on their transistor radios in the '50s and '60s are now ...

Rick James, Ray Parker Jr.: Forum, Inglewood CA

Live Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 23 August 1982

RICK JAMES AND THE FUNK CAPADES ...

The Knack: Starwood, Los Angeles CA

Live Review by Don Waller, New York Rocker, April 1979

ONCE UPON a time, The Knack was a movie starring (I believe) Michael Caine and Rita Tushingham. Set in swinging London, the plot revolved around ...

The Long Ryders: Roxy, Los Angeles CA

Live Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 21 December 1985

LONG RYDERS: WHO WERE THOSE COUNTRY-ROCKERS? ...

Curtis Mayfield: The Palomino, Los Angeles

Live Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 23 October 1989

Mayfield Performs Cream of His Crop of Hits ...

The Plimsouls: Plimsouls: Culver City Arena, Los Angeles CA

Live Review by Don Waller, New York Rocker, March 1980

IT'S FRIDAY night in L.A. and it's been raining for a week. But (prophetically) it's the Midnight Hour, and tonight, the Culver City Arena (in ...

The Power Station: The Power Station (Capitol)

Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 14 April 1985

SCHIZO SUPERGROUP ...

Public Enemy: Ackerman Ballroom, UCLA, Los Angeles CA

Live Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 10 March 1989

Public Enemy Raps the System ...

The Rationals: Detroit blue-eyed soulsters go psychedelic but end up playing shopping malls

Retrospective and Interview by Don Waller, MOJO, November 2003

"SOME FOLKS talkin' 'bout burnin' down/I ain't talkin' 'bout burnin' down/Said I'm just talkin' 'bout gettin' down/Come on!" screams the Rationals' frontman Scott Morgan, pushing ...

Charlie Sexton: Charlie Sexton (MCA) **½

Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 29 January 1989

SAL, BABES, have you heard this kid, here, Charlie Sexton? That's right, kid. Yeah, he's all of 20 years old now and this is his ...

The Smithereens: Palladium, Hollywood CA

Live Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 14 July 1990

Smithereens Deliver Right-Left Combination ...

The Specials: The Specials (Chrysalis)

Review by Don Waller, New York Rocker, March 1980

BY THE END of side one, I found myself plastered spread-eagled to the ceiling, tongue and eyes bulging, my face frozen in a delirious grin. ...

Van Halen: Life With The Top Down

Interview by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 5 February 1984

"A LOTTA PEOPLE figure, 'Oh, Diamond Dave, he gets all the women he wants,'" says David Lee Roth with a cat-that-ate-the-canary gleam in his eye. ...

Stevie Ray Vaughan: Greek Theater, Los Angeles CA

Live Review by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 29 July 1986

YA-HOO! STEVIE VAUGHAN AT GREEK ...

Bill Withers: Who Is He… (And What Is He To You)?

Profile and Interview by Don Waller, MOJO, August 2003

Remembered as a smooth '70s balladeer and a raw soul pioneer, Bill Withers is the music legend who opted out. Don Waller tracked him down ...

List of genre pieces

Peter Guralnick's Soul Hits Sweet Spot

Interview by Don Waller, Los Angeles Times, 9 November 1986

DO YA like good music? (Yeah, yeah.) Then Peter Guralnick's new book Sweet Soul Music (Harper & Row) is right down your alley, two steps ...

back to LIBRARY

COPYRIGHT NOTICE