I've heard a variety of stories about this fellow:
wrote that Herb Bermann (with an extra N) was the bass player on Safe As Milk.
"I know for a fact that Herb Bermann was a co-composer on safe as milk, and I believe he also played bass."
"I gather Herb Berman was mainly just Don's dope connection. And an older beatnik type inspirer/mentor of Don's that worked on lyrics with Don." He also mentioned that Herb Berman did not play guitar.
I received this email from Gary "Magic" Marker, former Magic Band member:
"In all the days and nights and hours I spent with "Donny," not once, not ever did I actually meet the person known as Herb Berman. When I'd query Don about who this guy was whose name kept cropping up as co-writer on his lead-sheets, he'd explain: "Oh, it's just some guy I know who helps me out sometimes." Or: "He was my manager for a while." The story kept changing--then one night he told me, "There is no Herb Berman. I just made him up when I got in contractual difficulties with my last managers and producers and A&M records--so they couldn't sue me for songwriter royalties."
Only DVV knows the real story, and he's not talking. Maybe some of the original Magic Band members know of an actual Herb Berman. And to date, no H. Berman has stepped forward to identify himself--nor has he has any further involvement with the music business. "
From Steve Froy:
"I have come across his name in a separate context, so maybe he does exist. He is listed as a co-writer with Dean Stockwell of a screenplay called "After the goldrush" from the late '60s. The film was never made but Neil Young used it as the inspiration for an album."
Again from Henry Kaiser:
"John French says he met & interacted with Herb Berman many times. With Don. So I'm sure he was real. I think Don just wanted to erase his lyrical creative contributions."
And from Carlton B. Morgan:
"If Herb Bermann ain't real how come he gets credited on "Owed T'Alex"?" and "if you go to www.bmi.com and stick in a Van Vliet composition it'll eventually find for you all the compositions listed by BMI including some listed under Bermann/Van Vliet and others (compositions/co-authors) I have never heard of... interestingly enough HB has sprouted a middle name "Fred" on some occasions...
From Scott McFarland:
"Gary Marker told me this, I don't remember whether he posted it out to the Beefheart newsgroup or not - although John French remembers meeting a Herb Berman, Bob Krasnow was introduced to two entirely different individuals as being Herb Berman at times - it was as if Don was making up stories and couldn't keep it straight. So perhaps he introduced people as being Herb Berman but was telling the truth when he told Gary that HB was a fictional entity."