Distinguished rock drummer Ian Wallace dies of cancer
By PETER COOPER
Ian Wallace, an ex-Nashvillian and one of the most distinguished rock drummers of the modern era, died Thursday in Los Angeles after a long battle with cancer of the esophagus. He was 60.
“All you have to do is look at what he played on to know that a great artist has passed,” said Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame member Rodney Crowell, who brought Wallace in to play drums on his acclaimed album, The Houston Kid. “The only time we recorded together was on The Houston Kid, but I was a such a fan of his. The things he did with Jackson Browne… the things he did with Bob Dylan, and King Crimson, and David Lindley…”
Mr. Wallace joined innovative progressive rock band King Crimson in 1971, and he went on to play on numerous important projects. He recorded and/or toured with Dylan, Browne, Lindley (Crowell calls Wallace’s work on Lindley’s version of “Mercury Blues” “one of the best rock ’n’ roll drum tracks ever”), Don Henley, The Traveling Wilburys, Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Nicks.
Mr. Wallace moved to Nashville in the late 1990s and left in 2004, heading to Los Angeles to play drums for a Val Kilmer musical called The Ten Commandments.
“He was a tremendous player,” said Nashville bass man Dave Roe, who performed with Wallace in Billy Burnette’s band. “I was such a King Crimson fan that I was google-eyed the whole time I was playing with Ian.”
Burnette counted Mr. Wallace among his closest friends.
“He could do so many things on the drums, but he was also great at playing simple things well,” Burnette said. “He played in my rockabilly band when I was first signed to Columbia, and he fit in so well with that. When he was on the road with me, there were so many fans that would come out because they knew Ian Wallace was playing drums. He was loved by a lot of people.”
In addition to his session and stage work with others, Mr. Wallace recorded his own projects including a recent album with the Crimson Jazz Trio, a jazz group that reinvented King Crimson songs.
Diagnosed with cancer in August of 2006, Mr. Wallace chronicled some of his health battles in an online blog.
“The upside is — Is there an upside? Absolutely. — I’ve heard from old friends, old wives, people I never thought I’d see or hear from again,” he wrote. “The outpouring of love and, above all, time from everyone leaves me breathless. There are so many people that I can’t possibly name them. I never knew…”