Don Caballero

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Don Caballero
Don Caballero 23.jpg
Background information
OriginPittsburgh, Pennsylvania, United States
Years active1991–1995, 1997–2000, 2003–2009
WebsiteDon Caballero at
Don Caballero's official Facebook
Past members
  • Damon Che
  • Gene Doyle
  • Jason Jouver
  • Mike Banfield
  • Pat Morris
  • Ian Williams
  • Eric Emm
  • Matt Jencik
  • Jeff Ellsworth

Don Caballero was an American instrumental rock group from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.[2] The group took its name from the character Guy Caballero, portrayed by Joe Flaherty, on the sketch comedy show Second City Television.[3] In SCTV's parody of the film The Godfather, Guy Caballero is called "Don Caballero".[4]

Don Caballero (affectionately called "Don Cab"[5] or "The Don"[6] by fans) formed in the summer of 1991 and released three albums on Touch and Go Records between 1993 and 2000.[7] The band's almost entirely instrumental sound was centered around drummer Damon Che, who had been the only continuous member.[8] After the breakup of the band in 2001, Che recruited new personnel for a reconstituted Don Caballero in 2003 and released two albums, World Class Listening Problem and Punkgasm on Relapse Records[9] before going on hiatus once again in 2009.[10]


The group's original lineup consisted of Damon Che (drums), Mike Banfield (guitars), and Pat Morris (bass guitar).[11] Its members originally intended to draft a singer to join the group.[12] However, their early rehearsals generated such interest that the trio was offered paying gigs and decided to remain instrumental.[13]

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.[14] 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."[15]

The three-piece Don Caballero issued two singles for the Pittsburgh-based labels Pop Bus and Broken Giraffe in 1992 before Ian Williams joined as a second guitarist. A recording session with Steve Albini and 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 1993 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 the band released its second LP Don Caballero 2. The liner notes of the album's promotional CD stated that "Don Caballero is rock not jazz. Don Caballero is free of solos."

In the wake of Don Caballero's second full-length, 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 (Tanlines) 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 its 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, including a performance in Toronto,[16] 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 completed. The band never made it to what would have been its final show in Detroit, however, as its van hit a patch of ice on Interstate 75, spun out of control and crashed into a semi truck.[17]

Throughout 2001 and 2002, the former members of Don Caballero embarked on a variety of new musical projects: Damon Che with Bellini, Ian Williams with Battles and Eric Emm with Good Morning.


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 on bass. (Mike Banfield and Pat Morris were invited to participate but both declined).[18]

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, playing its first shows in the UK and Japan.

Jeff Ellsworth left Don Caballero in 2006 and the remaining 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 sessions. 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.

Current status[edit]

Don Caballero has not released new music since 2009, but it has released three albums of archival recordings: Gang Banged With a Headache, and Live[19] (recorded live 2003; released 2012); Five Pairs of Crazy Pants. Wear 'Em: Early Caballero (the band's earliest studio recordings from 1991; released 2014); and Look At Them Ellie Mae Wrists Go!: Live Early Caballero (the band's second live show, recorded 1992; released 2014).

In a 2014 interview with Noisey: Music by Vice, Damon Che indicated that Don Caballero technically still exists as a part-time band, and mulled over the possibility of limited touring and a series of 12" vinyl singles in the future. However, in a 2017 appearance on The Trap Set podcast, Che spoke of Don Caballero entirely in the past tense and indicated that the group "stopped playing" after a final show in Spain in 2009.[20]

In 2021, an official Don Caballero YouTube channel was created, featuring new videos of Damon Che playing drums along to songs from previous Don Caballero albums. This coincided with Che starting a GoFundMe to help pay for the costs of digitizing all of the Don Caballero master tapes, which he had been in possession of for more than 30 years, before they started to degrade.[21] The GoFundMe page has now finished its donation mark, although nothing new has released as of currently.[22]


Tomas Haake from Meshuggah and Dave Konopka from 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.[23] 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.





Singles & EPs[edit]

  • "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 (live)" / "Shuman Center 91 (live)" 7" free with Chunklet No. 11 (1996)
  • "Trey Dog's Acid" / "Room Temperature Lounge" 7" on Touch and Go (1998)
  • "Got A Mile, Got A Mile, Got An Inch (live)" flexi 7" on Joyful Noise (2016)

Songs from all of Don Caballero's EPs (with the exception of the Chunklet and Joyful Noise singles) are collected on Singles Breaking Up (Vol. 1), released in 1999. Both songs from the Chunklet 7" were later included on Look At Them Ellie Mae Wrists Go! in 2014.

Live albums[edit]


  1. ^ Holm-Hudson, Kevin, ed. (2013). Progressive Rock Reconsidered. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-71022-4.
  2. ^ "SPACE CITY ROCK: Monsters of Post-Rock -- Don Caballero's Damon Che talks about the band's past, his present, and the history of doing stuff".
  3. ^ "Don Caballero". Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  4. ^ "SCTV Network 90 - Season 1, Episode 15: The Godfather". 1981-12-11. Archived from the original on 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Don Caballero on Apple Music".
  7. ^ "Don Caballero Biography, Songs, & Albums". AllMusic.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Don Caballero : Information". Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  10. ^ "The Trap Set".
  11. ^ "Don Caballero | Joyful Noise Recordings".
  12. ^ "Don Caballero Biography, Songs, & Albums". AllMusic.
  13. ^ "Don Caballero Biography, Songs, & Albums". AllMusic.
  14. ^ "Bellini is a warm chill: Drummer Damon Che discusses Steve Albini, the YYYs and that "octopus comparison"". 4 October 2002.
  15. ^ Huey, Steve. "Don Caballero - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  16. ^ "Live Reviews: PW Long / Flashing Lights / Don Caballero / The New Meanies / Danko Jones / Tricky Woo March 6, 1999 The Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, ON". Chart Attack, review by Vanessa Lewis
  17. ^ Weaver, Fred. "The Final Dark Days of Don Caballero". Chunklet. Retrieved 2022-05-15.
  18. ^ "Music Preview: Instrumental monsters Don Caballero return with revamped lineup - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette". 2006-05-18. Retrieved 2012-11-28.
  19. ^ "DON CABALLERO : Gang Banged With A Headache, And Live". Retrieved 8 November 2014.
  20. ^ "113: Damon Che (Don Caballero) » The Trap Set » with Joe Wong". 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  21. ^ "Go Fund Me for Don Caballero". 2021-09-20. Retrieved 2022-01-25.
  22. ^
  23. ^ [1] Archived July 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ "George Draguns's Profile". Retrieved 2012-11-27.

External links[edit]