Rusted Shut's Don Walsh Loves Him Some Zappa

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Photo by Chris Gray
Don Walsh and Rusted Shut at Free Press Summer Fest 2011
If I were forced to choose a single favorite Houston musician, and no offense to all the others, I would pick Rusted Shut mastermind Don Walsh, easily. Rusted Shut has been a presence on the local scene for probably 25 years now, specializing in the kind of gruesomely loud and assaultive noise-rock that seems engineered to be as unpleasant to listen to as possible, and has no commercial aspirations whatsoever. Rusted Shut's most recent full-length, only the group's second, came out in 2009. It's called Dead.

Hey, some people get off on that stuff. There is a special kind of integrity that comes with simply not giving a damn. Probably in his mid-fifties now, Walsh is the sort of curmudgeonly character that every music scene needs, someone who keeps it honest and a little unpredictable. He used to call the Houston Press offices, usually on Friday afternoons, and we'd talk about everything and nothing for minutes on end. I wish he still did that.

I hadn't heard from Walsh for a while until earlier this week, when he sent me a Facebook message asking if I was going to see Zappa Plays Zappa -- the Frank Zappa tribute group led by Frank's son Dweezil and usually featuring several former Zappa sidemen -- at House of Blues this evening. It turns out, which in retrospect makes total sense, that Walsh is a massive Frank Zappa fan.

Staring in the mid-'70s through 1984 and once more in the late '80s, Walsh says he saw Zappa and the Mothers of Invention twice at Hofheinz Pavilion, the Joe's Garage tour at Sam Houston Coliseum and at the Summit in 1981. Walsh says he also traveled to Ausitn to see Zappa at the Armadillo World Headquarters in either 1978 or '79, "but that's a blur lol."

My quizzing Walsh on his Zappa memories (which he admits are hazy) turned into a two-day Facebook conversation he was kind enough to allow us to publish.

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Rocks Off: What is it about Zappa that appealed to you?

Don Walsh: I quess that would be his amazing instrumental arrangements and his lyrical sarcasm. Dig that "Peaches en Regalia"!

RO: What were his concerts like?

DW: Just truly awesome. Buying that ticket a month before the show and then spend[ing] a month playing every record you had. Get to the concert with the anticipation, Frank any minute, and then you hear the guitar in the darkness of the stage and bam!!!. Just amazing, long shows with all the quirky stage dialogue. Awestruck events. You knew you had seen genius onstage.

RO: How old were you when you first saw him?

DW: I started going to concerts in '73 but i missed zappa when he came that year. I was 15 then, but didnt get to see frank until 1975. I was 17 then.

Location Info

House of Blues

1204 Caroline, Houston, TX

Category: Music

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i know Don to be a closet Yes fan...  the uninitiated dismiss Rusted Shut as bombastic drivel, but you can't do what he does without knowing music...  on stage they are nothing short of a religious experience...

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