The History of The Mamas and Papas
How it All Got Started
John Phillips first laid eyes on Michelle Gilliam at the hunry i . They instantly fell in love . There was only one problem . Michelle was 16 and John was 25 , married , and had two kids . However , John divorced and got remarried to the beautiful blonde California girl . John's group the Journeymen broke up and as he was trying to come up with a new group it occured to him , that if Michelle was a member , they'd make twice the money . So John's new group , the New Journeymen , was formed . Now they needed a tenor . Enter, Denny Doherty .
Denny had just broken up with his group , The Mugwumps , which also contained future Lovin' Spoonful , Zal Yanovsky and future Mama , Cass Elliot . John had heard Denny perform in the village and he auditioned . Denny's voice fit perfectly and he was in. They sang at various gigs and made a name for themselves . However , where ever The New Journeymen went Denny was always on the phone with the mysterious Cass Elliot . When Michelle and John would ask about her he would say " She's my best friend . " Denny would also always want them to meet her . So one day , they finally did .
One night the threesome heard about a new drug, LSD, so they each took a tablet. Michelle was complaining that nothing was happening . Then there was a knock at the door , and as Michelle was opening the door , she came on to the acid . There was Cass , in a pink angora sweater , a little white pleaded mini-skirt , matching gogo boots , fake lashes , and her hair in a flip . John said , " She looked like a giant mushroom . " So they all experienced their first acid trip together , and from then on became inseparable .
In the name of " creativity " John and the rest of the New Journeymen wanted to take a vacation . So , they blindfolded Michelle , and she shot a dart on a map of the world . Next stop , The Virgin Islands. There it was full moons , gorgeous sunsets , and the scene was just , well ... groovy . So John wrote and put together most of his songs there . Then, their friend , Cass came to join the fun . Another reason she came down to the islands was she fell in love with Denny from the moment she first laid eyes on him ( he saw her while she was singing with her group the Big Three ) . Denny didn't understand where she was coming from though , and didn't know how deep her feelings were . This presents a big problem considering that while on the Island flirting between Michelle and Denny escalated . Although Cass was hurting,she still wanted in the group.
Cass begged to be in the group , but John said her voice couldn't hit the right note . However , in his autobiography , he also explains that she didn't look right in the group because , " we were all string beans .. " . And also Michelle thinks that Cass was too opioniated and John was very controlling . But one day a lead pipe fell down , and hit Cass on the head . She was knocked unconscious and had a mild concussion . And a few days later when they started singing again , Cass had the extra note . So , she was let in the group .
As soon as the foursome was coming together , their credit card got cut off and they were left with about $50.00 . Cass got a plane to LA , the other three hopped on a boat and headed for the casinos . They dressed Michelle in a sexy red dress and sent her to the craps table . She threw 17 straight passes and got enough money to fly them all first class back to New York . When they got there it was cold ; a big change from the Virgin Islands . Michelle was "itching" to get back to warm weather , and John and Denny wanted to show off their new sound. This is when John wrote " California Dreamin' " , and Michelle helped him write the words down ( that's how she got half publishing and royalties ). So , they all made their dream a reality and headed for the West Coast .
There , they met up with their old friend, Cass who was staying with her friend , Barry McGuire. Barry had a single that was climbing the charts , "The Eve of Destruction" . When he heard them sing he told them to sing for Lou Adler, the hottest record producer in town. But when John, Michelle and Denny asked Cass to sing for them, she refused. She was mad at Michelle and Denny for their "island flirtations" and at John for not originally letting her in the group. But she eventually said okay, she'd sing for the audition, but she was not part of the group.
So they went to Western Recording Studios and auditioned. Lou Adler couldn't believe his eyes and ears.He asked them to come back the next day, and their were "contracts all over the floor". And Cass Elliot was a pretty practical woman , so she signed right away and WAS part of the group. Within 48 hours they had a new name. They got this name by Cass, who was mouthing off at the TV when an interview with the Hells Angels came on and one of them said something like , "We call our women mamas". So Cass said, " Well, we got Mamas in our group and we got Papas!" So, John said yeah we could be called the Papas and The Mamas. But of course Cass and Michelle weren't gonna have that, so they became the Mamas and The Papas.They recorded their first single,"California Dreamin'" and it soon became a top ten hit. Then they recorded their first album, "If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears." This was Adler's first thoughts as he heard the group. So, basically "over-night" they were a success and had a tremendous amount of money. They all moved into a house in Hollywood and seemed inseperable. But as they were becoming a bigger and bigger success, their friendship was deteriorating. Michelle and Denny were flirting even more, Cass was getting angrier, and John was becoming more withdrawn from the group. Then one night , while Cass and John were passed out , Michelle and Denny ... well ya know ( this is a PG rated page ) . John was understandably upset when Michelle confessed , but Cass was furious . Michelle was Cass's close friend , and Michelle knew of Cass's deep love for Denny. That night changed everything."They were growing up, they were growing apart, and they were growing rich." As they got more popular, the parties grew and so did their drug use. John was also getting more upset about Michelle and Denny's affair. That's why he wrote "I Saw Her Again Last Night" , so Denny had to sing it every night on stage .
As the group went in the studio to record their second album , John and Michelle split up. Michelle went to live on her own, as did Cass, while John and Denny became room mates. They claim it was a way to keep an eye on each other, so they know the other one won't be with Michelle.
Each member had their own problem. Cass was distancing herself from the group and was hanging out with people who sought to take advantage of her. She had a house in Laurel Canyon, and everyday it was filled with people. Poets, musicians, writers, and bikers. She once said, "It's easy to find a boyfriend, I just buy them a motorcycle , a leather outfit, and acting lessons." John meanwhile was drifting towards a life of drug abuse. He had a good art collection, fancy cars, and thousands of dollars and all were slowly diminishing for drugs. He once was all about the music, but drugs were starting to control his life. Denny was emersing himself with alcohol. He was trying to drink Michelle out of his life , and Michelle's problem was men. She was dating Gene Clark and during a concert she was blowing kisses to him in the front row, with John looking on. So John went buckwild and said he couldn't work with Michelle any longer and it was either him or Michelle leave the group. So obviously Cass and Denny signed a letter that said Michelle was fired, and she was replaced by Jill Gibson. Jill Gibson was Lou Adler's girlfriend, and she had a resemblance to Michelle. So they toured with Jill as the new Mama for about 3 months until pressure from Denny and Cass caved John in and he realized they needed Michelle back.
In April of 67' Mama Cass had a baby girl, Owen Vanessa , she never revealed who the father was. John and Michelle tryed to make their marriage work, but John's excessive drug abuse came between him and his music and him and his family. The group that was once a close-knit family, became almost strangers. John always wrote about that old feeling of family, and "since it was broken [he] didn't write." Cass at this point asked herself what she was doing still in the group. She had a child, and she wanted to take care of herself, and that meant taking care of her career. She was also starting to emerse herself in drugs to lose weight and to escape from loneliness. Somehow John and Lou Adler came up with the energy and creativity to put together the Monterey Pop Festival. This would be the Mamas and Papas last performance. According to the book, Papa John by John Phillips, Cass really decided to leave the group when John made a smart comment to Cass in front of her idol, Mick Jagger. Cass stormed in her room and said she quit. Dunhill put out Dream A Little Dream of Me as a solo by Mama Cass, and Cass came out with her first solo record. Denny , John and Michelle also tryed to go solo, but to no real success. Dunhill forced the group to one more album in 71' called "People Like Us."Cass went on to star in a movie ,"H.R. Pufnstuf" , appear in countless TV programs including her own specials, and even explored politics. John and Michelle had a daughter, Chynna and split up for good. Denny released two solo albums and in the later years put the bottle away for good . In July of 1974 Cass had a 2 week engagement at the London Paladium. She finished it off with a standing ovation. She was just saying she was finally going somewhere, when on July 29th she was found dead in her apartment. The reports initially said she choked on a ham sandwhich because they found a half eaten sandwhich by her bed. They said this to stop reports that it was because of drugs and to calm the media. However, when the autopsy was done, it was clear that Cass Elliot died of heart failure. And that was a big heart. On August 2,1974 the Mamas and Papas were reunited to bury one of their own. The loss they felt was understandably imbearable. But Cass will live on in the hearts that love her, and I know she lives in mine.
In 82' John, Denny , Mackenzie Phillips(John's daughter) and Spanky McFarlane(of Spanky and Our Gang) formed the New Mamas and Papas. They still play to this day, but now they have a new line of people. One including Scott McKenzie. Denny has a one man show called Dream A Little Dream dedicated to his beloved friend, Cass and has stopped drinking for good. John is also clean and sober and is remarried. Michelle leads a successful acting career.
The Mamas and Papas' music is legendary and is more than just a memory. New generations will listen to this music and hear their amazing story. Their music and their legacy will never die.
All these words came out of my own head , however I realized I watched Behind The Music with The Mamas and Papas so much that I couldn't think of any way to put it then how they did. So I quoted all the stuff that I knew came from there ,and the rest I just left.