There have been very few musical acts with the vocal blending of the Mamas and the Papas during our lifetime. Toss in John Phillips' exceptional songwriting ability, Denny Doherty's and Cass Elliot's outstanding singing ability and Michelle Phillips' looks and just enough scandal and debauchery and you have the perfect recipe for a great singing group in the 1960's and beyond.
Many years ago I was approached by a female co-worker who also was employed at a record store to see if I would write a biography of the Mamas and the Papas, which was given to her by her employer as an in-store project.
I readily accepted the assignment and began researching the group and about a week later came up with a fairly decent biography for them. She was pleased, her boss was also very happy with it (not knowing that I did it) and more importantly it inspired me to begin writing several more biographies of a large number of 50's and 60's musical acts in an Encyclopedia form, although the info is far more extensive than any Encyclopedia about any subject published to date.
14 years, 6900+ pages, 600+ acts and several $1000's later, it is still an ongoing labor of love and my new entry for the Mamas and the Papas is 100 times more detailed than the project I did for that girl so many years ago.
So thanks to the Mamas and the Papas and my friend who offered me the opportunity to put my writing skills to the test, one day there will be available the most comprehensive set of books available for "Oldies" groups ever written.
During my high school years I lived in Huntington Beach, Orange County, CA. (Jerry McGee of The Ventures was our back neighbor but I never met him). During the summer of 1971 it was my job at home to paint the back of our house. To make the work enjoyable I played records (as loud as I dared) through the outdoor speakers back there. As I scraped and primed and painted for weeks on end, the records I played over and over every day were the two LPs in "A Gathering of Flowers". That made me a Mamas and Papas fan for life. I went on to review "People Like Us" for the high school paper, when it was released. ("Pacific Coast Highway" was a minor radio hit in LA). I bought "Wolfking of L.A." and it became one of my favorite albums (still is). I became a lifelong fan of Hal Blaine's and Joe Osborn's musicianship. And I thought that Dave Mason and Cass were a great duo and I wish they'd made more than one record together. Just this morning I listened to about six Ms and Ps tracks to start my day. Recommendation: to get a little more insight into the group (esp. John), rent the "Monterey Pop" DVD. It's extremely well done with many extras.
The Mamas and Papas was definitely my favourite group when I was growing up. I remember I would listen to their records non-stop. I loved folk and folk-rock music and would try to incorporate some of their songs into my high school music group. The 1968 Papas and Mamas album was my favourite. Like the another fan who sent in his comments, I liked "Gemini Child" and also "Safe in My Garden".
I loved Cass's humour on the Carol Burnett show. And her voice moved me like none other.
I have also admired (and still do) John Phillips tremendous song-writing ability. His harmony techniques inspired to arrange and write - much later on - for my mixed choir, which often sang in a folk style. The 1971 album "People like us" didn't seem to get good reviews...but it gets a good one from me. I had the LP when I was at university and I have the CD now.
(I have never driven up the Pacific Coast Highway....but I do in my imagination when I listen to the song!) "Pearl" on that album - the dedication to Janis Joplin - is in my mind, a beautiful piece.
I saw them play live at the Hollywood Palace taping in 1967 the studio was on Vine St. in Hollywood.
Before I moved to L. A. I listened to "California dreaming" all winter in Arkansas then I left for L A on March 1 1966
I can honestly say that I'm one of the Mamas and Papas original fans! I was 16 years old when they released their first song, California Dreaming and I know exactly where I was-Yosemite National Park, with a couple of buddies of mine. We were sitting around a campfire, waiting for the "Fire Falls" from the top of Glacier Point, listening to our transistor radio, and then the most harmonious melodies I had ever heard, came out of that small transistor radio and I was instantly a "fan"! From that moment on, I couldn't get enough of the Mamas and Papas. To be sure, there were a lot of great groups during the 1960's, and although they were only together for a little over two years, they made some wonderful songs.
What a group, what fantastic songs they wrote and sung! To be a teenager back in the mid-sixties was to feel alive! Those were magical years; tearful years, and historic years, to say the least, and to have been a part of it, is one the highlights of my life.
My first real memory of the Mamas and the Papas was when I witnessed their final TV appearance on the "Ed Sullivan Show" in September 1967. I had just begun kindergarden, but was lucky enough to have a sister eleven years my senior, who had some of their records. I can still recall how exciting it was seeing them perform a half-live medley of hits from their first album, with all those cool props onstage and Michelle looking very pretty (even though we only had a black and white set!) To me, that was THE coolest "Ed Sullivan Show" moment. I thought the Beatles were Gods, but I had only seen them as Saturday morning cartoon characters at the time. The Mamas and the Papas were my personal favorites. After this, another sister bought the "Glad To Be Unhappy" single, and my big sis got the "Farewell To The First Golden Era" LP for Christmas (which I wished I had gotten!) I even remember one of my sisters showing me a picture of Cass in the paper when she got arrested in England. Needless to say, I was shocked, but was glad to hear she was out of prison! Following this, I owned a copy of the "Dream A Little Dream of Me" single and eventually we bought the "Papas and the Mamas Presented By" LP, which is still a favorite of mine, despite the group's state of affairs at the time. I was aware at this point that the group had broken up, but was still a fan of Cass' right until the end. Of course, I was upset by all the 'ham sandwich' jokes, which I knew was just untrue. Thank you for letting me share these precious memories with you from my youth. It is great to know I am not alone!
Peace and Love, Joseph W. Giannini
Michelle Phillips to me is lost youth..full of beauty, inner and outer..her angelic and wild looks.. her far reaching music. She conjures up something wonderful inside me .. from long ago..long ago.
Great story ... I grew up with this music and love it still today ... just something about it ... Just a different place and time .. not saying that it was better then but definitely seemed from my perspective a more casual and less stressful if you will ...
I am closing in on 46 and was just a young boy about 10-12 when I first heard the voices of Cass Elliot and John Phillips along with others like Scott McKenzie and the Wilson brothers of the Beach Boys fame ...
It is saddening to me that they are both gone and she died so young and had so much talent ... Kind of like Karen Carpenter ... she died of a different cause but so wonderfully talented .. and with us no more .. life is just that fragile and fleeting ...
Take care and remember the "music" that they gave us ...
My first experience with a Mamas & Papas album was 'The Papas & the Mamas'. I bought a copy of it in 1970 to give to a friend as a gift. I was so curious to hear it that I opened it and played it before I gave it to him. Up to then, I vaguely knew who the group were. Or is it was? I don't know why I selected that LP, but I did and it planted the seed that grew. The album intrigued me greatly. Gemini Child is one of my favorite tracks by the group. It sounds almost like a demo or a rough mix. But it works. Their vocals blend well on this song. I [think] that it is probably the closest track they ever did to a harder rock sound.
I, like so many other young men of the 1960s fell in love with Michelle Phillips at first sight.......
Living in SoCal, I collected all the info I could about the group and one day took my little Honda motorcycle up Bel Air road and located their house (two Jags in the driveway was the tip-off). I took down the address and sent Michelle a birthday card (we are both Geminis) and a few weeks later she sent back a thank-you note and photo, personally inscribed.
When the M&Ps had their concert at the Hollywood Bowl, I took a couple of girls up to see their house after the concert and we fell into a full-scale party, which we crashed. I located Michelle and introduced myself. She graciously spoke with me for awhile and didn't have us thrown out! Due to a lack of parking, all of the guests parked in one lane of the street and we all got $25 parking tickets that night.
I made a habit of sending a birthday and Christmas card to her for almost 25 years and she often replied, giving me an update on her life and how things were going. She called me her #1 Fan for my persistence and I really appreciated her friendship over the years.
I have a few photos of her with Chynna (as a baby) that I took when I visited her in 1968 and again in 1974.
I also wrangled a 20th Anniversary M&Ps tour shirt from John, when they were giving a concert at the Wild Animal Park in San Diego, which I had autographed by most of the band members. Probably the only one like it on the planet....
As my daughter grew up, she too sang along with M&Ps songs and became a big fan of Wilson Phillips. Chynna was kind enough to send along some autographed photos and CDs to my daughter as a 16th birthday gift.
Great memories of a lovely lady and of the wonderful music they made back then....
This happened a long time ago, so the memories of dates may be a bit fuzzy, but the story is true. I believe that it was the fall of 1965. I was a freshman at Ohio University when the Mamas and Papas came to campus to do a concert. My friend Brad was a reporter for the student newspaper, so he had a press pass and I tagged along.
We went over to the fieldhouse perhaps a couple of hours early(maybe as little as one hour early), and just walked in. We both had cameras around our necks to look more official, and weren't hassled in the slightest.
When we got there, the band was doing sound checks. Yes, they did this on their own in those days. Denny was singing a few bars from a song. Then they did some work on equipment, and finally the whole band did some harmonizing over the microphones. We stood in the back of the auditorium trying to look as if we did this sort of thing all the time and that we were true rock and roll sophisticates. We were only eighteen and nineteen, and were in reality scared to death that we would get booted out at any time. No one paid the slightest attention to us.
Finally the band left the stage. We watched the technicians for a few minutes, and then began to wander around in the bowels of the fieldhouse.By this time, having encountered no hassles whatever, I think that we were beginning to get pretty brave.
We stopped before the door of a locker room, hesitated, looked at each other for a few seconds, screwed up our courage and opened the door. No hollers or shouts greeted us. No entourage hustled us, no security challenged us. The light was on in the locker room. We walked in, and there, all alone, sitting on a bench before a row of lockers, sat Cass Elliot. Brad, having a lot more brass than I, walked right up and introduced himself. I followed.
Instead of kicking us out, Cass was truly gracious and invited us to sit down. Brad whipped out his handy dandy reporters notebook and began an interview. I remember being struck by the fact that Cass' speaking voice was the same lovely contralto as her singing voice.
Now for a crazy part that I think shows what a neat person Cass Elliot was. This is true. I kid you not.
Cass had a pint of Southern Comfort from which she occasionally took a drink while we were talking. I don't know what made me think I could pull it off, but after a while, I asked if I could have a swig. Cass looked at me funny, told me I didn't look old enough to drink, laughed and handed me the bottle. I took a pull and handed her back the bottle saying thanks. Cass took a pull or two, and to my amazement, handed me the bottle again. I took it, again took another pull and handed it back.
Brad looked furious. Here he was being very businesslike and reporterlike, and his kid friend was bumming drinks from this famous rock and roller and endangering his whole interview. But by now, full of bravery and a bit of booze, I kept right on. Back and forth went the bottle, and before I knew it, that pint was gone and I was more than a little tipsy.
Finally, Cass looked at us and said, "I gotta get ready. You guys have to get out of here now." We thanked her and left. As we were leaving, she looked at me with an amused face and said, "I got a kid drunk."
Brad and I went back into the auditorium, and eventually the show went on. All through the show, I sat there grinning drunkenly as Brad would look over occasionally and say, "I don't believe you did that. I just can't believe you did that." I did though, and it was fun.
Now John is gone and Cass is gone and I am a fifty-three year old grandfather of five. But one night, a long time ago, the boy that I was shared a pint with Cass Elliot.