Don Caballero Origin Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States Genres Math rock, post-rock, instrumental rock Years active 1991–1996, 1997–2000, 2003–present Labels Touch and Go, Relapse Associated acts The(e) Speaking Canaries, Storm & Stress, Six Horse, Knot Feeder, Battles, Bellini, Creta Bourzia, Teddy Duchamp's Army, Broughton's Rules, Tanlines, German Shepherd Website Don Caballero at Relapse.com Members Damon Che
Past members Mike Banfield
Don Caballero are an American rock group from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The group took their name from the character Guy Caballero, portrayed by Joe Flaherty, on the sketch comedy show Second City Television. In SCTV's parody of the film The Godfather, Guy Caballero is called "Don Caballero."
Don Caballero (affectionately called "Don Cab" or "The Don" by fans) formed in the summer of 1991, released five albums on Touch and Go Records between 1993 and 2000, then disbanded in November 2000. Drummer Damon Che recruited new personnel for a reconstituted Don Caballero in 2003 which has released two albums on Relapse Records.
Che's energetic and unconventional style of drumming was often praised, and earned him the informal title of "The Octopus" due to the wild flailing of his arms while playing. Critic Steve Huey wrote that "it was Che's manic explosions and stop-on-a-dime shifts in time signature that mapped out the trail his bandmates followed."
The members of Don Caballero originally intended to draft a singer to join the group. However, their early rehearsals generated such interest that the group was offered paying gigs and decided to remain instrumental.
The band issued two singles for the Pittsburgh-based labels Pop Bus and Broken Giraffe, and one single for Detroit-based label Third Gear. A deal with the prestigious Chicago based label Touch and Go Records yielded yet another single and then finally their debut album, 1993's For Respect.
In the fall of 1994 bass player Pat Morris left Don Caballero to form the band Six Horse with Louisville transplant Shannon Burns and Blunderbuss drummer Bill Baxter. Throughout 1994 and 1995 a number of Pittsburgh-area musicians filled the bass slot in Don Caballero, including Len Jarabeck, Dave Reid, Matt Jencik, and George Draguns.
In 1995 they released their second LP Don Caballero 2 whose liner notes stated that "Don Caballero is rock not jazz, Don Caballero is free from solos."
In the wake of their second release, Che and Williams expanded their respective musical palettes: Che with Speaking Canaries (featuring bassist Karl Hendricks and drummer Noah Leger) and Williams with Storm & Stress, an experimental rock trio featuring bassist Eric Emm and drummer Kevin Shea.
In 1997 the group reconvened after an almost two-year hiatus, with original bassist Pat Morris back in the fold. In the following year the band released the follow-up to Don Caballero 2, What Burns Never Returns.
In the fall of 1998 Pat Morris left the band once again and was replaced by Storm & Stress bassist Eric Emm. The band set out on a number of successful U.S. and European tours and finally released a collection of their singles and compilation tracks called Singles Breaking Up (Vol. 1). During this period, Mike Banfield retired from the group; former Bitch Magnet guitarist Jon Fine briefly filled in and allowed Don Caballero to complete its touring obligations in support of What Burns....
The band, once again a trio and now based out of Chicago, Illinois, toured extensively throughout 1999 and 2000, playing a set of almost all-new material. To fill the void left by Banfield, Williams and Emm played through Akai headrush pedals that allowed them to loop and layer their parts. These nine new songs were committed to tape by Steve Albini at his Electrical Audio recording studio and released in the fall of 2000 as American Don.
While touring in support of American Don in November 2000, personality issues and fatigue took their toll on the members of Don Caballero and they decided to break up after the tour was done. The band never made it to what would have been their final show in Detroit, however, as their van hit a patch of ice on I-75, spun out of control and crashed into a semi truck.
Che reformed Don Caballero in 2003 with an entirely new lineup consisting of members of Pittsburgh's Creta Bourzia. The new members were Jeff Ellsworth on guitar, Gene Doyle on guitar, and Jason Jouver (former singer of Teddy Duchamp's Army) on bass. (Mike Banfield and Pat Morris were invited to participate but both declined.) The new Don Caballero signed with the heavy metal label Relapse Records in 2005 and released the album World Class Listening Problem in early 2006. The group toured in support of the album throughout 2006 and 2007, even playing its first shows in the UK and Japan.
Ellsworth amicably parted ways with Don Caballero in late 2006 to spend more time with his wife and newborn child. In November 2010, he and his ex-Creta Bourzia bandmate and drummer Dennis Kern joined friends Blunderbuss (band) guitarist and bassist Ben Matthews and James Nemeth to release an album as a group named Broughton's Rules on Relapse Records.
The remaining Don Caballero trio debuted several new songs (or "New Shapes" as they called them) in 2007, some of which featured vocals courtesy of Damon Che. The group recorded this new set of music at Rust Belt Recorders in Royal Oak, Michigan in early 2008 and released it as Punkgasm on August 19, 2008. The record contained some ideas taken from the Speaking Canaries sessons. Doyle sang on one of the tracks, Che sang on "Dirty Looks", while the title track "Punkgasm" featured Che on guitar and Doyle on drums.
Tomas Haake of Meshuggah and Dave Konopka (Ian Williams' bandmate in Battles) have both named What Burns Never Returns as one of their favorite albums, and guitarist Marnie Stern has cited a video of a Don Caballero performance as the inspiration behind her extensive usage of two-handed tapping. The track "Chief Sitting Duck" from the album For Respect was featured in the second season intro for the reality show Buzzkill on MTV and the program Icon featured their music more than three years after their 2000 breakup.
- Damon Che Fitzgerald - drums, vocals (1991–present)
- Gene Doyle - guitar (2003–present)
- Jason Jouver - bass guitar (2003–present)
- Mike Banfield - guitar (1991–1999)
- Ian Williams - guitar (1992–2000)
- Pat Morris - bass guitar (1991–1994, 1997–1998)
- Eric Emm - bass guitar (1998–2000)
- Matt Jencik - bass guitar (1994–1996)
- George Draguns - bass guitar (1994, 1995)
- Leonard "Len" Jarabeck - bass guitar (early '90s, live only)
- Dave Reid - bass guitar (early '90s, live only)
- Jon Fine - guitar (1999, live only)
- Jeff Ellsworth - guitar (2003-late 2006)
- For Respect (1993)
- Don Caballero 2 (1995)
- What Burns Never Returns (1998)
- Singles Breaking Up (Vol. 1) (1999)
- American Don (2000)
- World Class Listening Problem (2006)
- Punkgasm (2008)
- "Lucky Father Brown" / "Belted Sweater" / "Shoeshine" 7" on Pop Bus (1992)
- "Unresolved Karma" / "Puddin' In My Eye" 7" on Broken Giraffe (1992)
- "Andandandandandandandand" / "First Hits" 7" on Third Gear (1993)
- "Our Caballero" / "My Ten-Year-Old Lady is Giving It Away" 7" on Touch and Go (1993)
- Our Caballero 12"/CD EP on City Slang (1993)
- "If You've Read Dr. Adder, Then You Know What I Want" 7" EP track on Coat-Tail (1995)
- "Waltor" / "Shuman Center 91" 7" free with Chunklet #11 (1996)
- "Trey Dog's Acid" / "Room Temperature Lounge" 7" on Touch and Go (1998)
Songs from all of Don Caballero's EPs (with the exception of the Chunklet 7") are collected on the CD Singles Breaking Up (Vol. 1), released in 1999.
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