Best known as the drummer in one of the longer incarnations of King Crimson (January 1971-April 1972) and as a drummer for Bob Dylan, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, and Crosby, Stills & Nash, Ian Wallace was one of rock's busier drummers for more than half a century. Wallace's rock credentials went back to 1963 and a band called the Warriors, whose membership included a young vocalist named Jon Anderson, as well as future Badger bassman David Foster. The Warriors lasted until the end of 1967 -- Wallace's next band was the World, featuring the Bonzo Dog Band's Neil Innes on vocals, guitar, and keyboards, which lasted six months in 1970. Finally, in the spring of 1971, Wallace joined King Crimson in the wake of the collapse of the interim lineup of the group.
This version of King Crimson was a great performing unit, but its unity was always in doubt, especially when rumors began abounding of an impending breakup within six months of its formation. They toured extensively and won a serious following, but internally their relations were a nightmare, as Wallace and his bandmates Boz Burrell and Mel Collins insisted on a degree of autonomy as composers that clashed with guitarist and original bandmember Robert Fripp's musical vision of the group. During the first six months of his work with Crimson, Wallace's playing broke some new ground on-stage when Peter Sinfield, the group's lyricist and computer expert, used a VCS-3 synthesizer to process the sound of Wallace's drums. Additionally, subsequently released live tapes of that version of King Crimson, following Sinfield's exit but before the breakup of the whole unit, have revealed the full complexity of Wallace's playing with the band, and even Fripp has noted the quality of his work in live performance during those years.
As it turned out, Wallace, Burrell, and Collins turned out to enjoy working together more than they did working for Fripp, and they quit the band en masse in the early spring of 1972. They immediately hooked up with Alexis Korner and Peter Thorup, playing with them of the remainder of 1972. Wallace continued working with Korner for two years and on four albums, and also played with Steve Marriott, Big Jim Sullivan, and Alvin Lee. In 1978, he became Bob Dylan's drummer, beginning with the Street Legal album and continuing on the subsequent tour and the Live at Budokan album as well. During the 1980s, Wallace also played with Ron Wood, David Lindley, Jon Anderson, Stevie Nicks, Don Henley, Graham Nash, Jackson Browne, Bonnie Raitt, the Traveling Wilburys, and Roy Orbison. In the 1990s, he played with Joe Walsh and Don Henley, but much of Wallace's activity centered around his own label, Artist Road Records of Santa Fe, NM. Wallace's work moved more in the direction of jazz in tandem with his business partner in Artist Road, pianist Brian Trainor, and guitarist Larry Coryell was among the musicians he played with during this period.
During the 2000s Wallace issued his only solo album, Happiness with Minimal Side Effects (2003), and he also revisited his King Crimson legacy, joining the Crimson Jazz Trio (appearing on the group’s 2005 release King Crimson Songbook, Vol. 1) and the 21st Century Schizoid Band (appearing on the 2006 album Pictures of a City: Live in New York). In 2006 Wallace was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and he succumbed to the disease at 60 years of age on February 22, 2007, in Los Angeles. The Crimson Jazz Trio’s King Crimson Songbook, Vol. 2 had been completed -- with assistance from Crimson reedman Mel Collins on two tracks -- prior to Wallace’s death, and was released in 2009. ~ Bruce Eder