The story of the
Mamas and the Papas begins with John Edmund Andrew
Phillips. He was born in 1935 in Virginia. He was
fascinated by the close harmoneis of groups such as The
Four Lads, but embraced the rise of rock'n'roll and Elvis
Presley in 1956. He created a jazz quartet named The
Abstracts, who were later renamed The Smoothies. They
appeared on American Bandstand in
1960. Later, Phillips, Scott McKenzie, and Dick Weissman
formed a trio called The Journeymen. In 1961, John became
obsessed with a stunning seventeen year old Model named
In 1963, The Journeymen were touring, and that's when John befriended Denny Doherty. Denny was the lead sing of the Halifax Three, at the time. Later, Denny left this group to work with a brassy contralto named Ellen Naomi Cohen (Cass Elliot). As part of the group the Mugwumps, Denny and Cass formed a lasting friendship.
|In the meantime, personality
conflicts were forcing the Journeymen to break apart.
John, determined to regroup, formed The New Journeymen
with Michelle, banjo player Marshall Brickman, and Denny
Doherty handling the lead vocals. In 1965, John,
Michelle, and Denny took a vacation from the folk music
scene and fled to the island of St. Thomas in the Virgin
Islands. Cass, who had a romantic interest in Denny, soon
followed the group. At first, they lived
in tents on the beach and sat on the sand working out the harmonies of their early masterpieces.
wasn't formally a part of the group yet, but desperately
wanted in. John wouldn't allow it because her voice
didn't go along with his required vocal mesh. But, it is
said that an accidental blow to her head somehow raised
her singing voice a full tone higher, which fit in
perfectly with his harmonies. At a boarding house called
Duffy's on the street of Creeque Alley, the group
In Los Angeles, they met with and old friend, Barry McGuire. He introduced them to his producer, Lou Adler. He was stunned at the wealth of fantastic material the group had ready for the studio. They audition with California Dreamin' and were signed on instantly.
|In the midst of all this, the topic
of a name for the group was neglected. When Cass
overheard a biker on a Los Angeles talk show refer to the
women in his gang as "mamas", she declared that
she and Michelle were "The Mamas". The names
stuck and the rest followed! Ironically, Cass would find
herself burdened with the name "Mama Cass" for
the rest of her life. Later, in her solo career, she grew
to dislike the name intensley.
|In the Summer of '66, things got bad for the group. Michelle and Denny had an affair, which split the group immensley. At one point, John fired Michelle and she was replaced by Jill Gibson, Lou Adler's girlfriend. Michelle eventually returned, but this was the beginning of the end for The Mamas and The Papas.|
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Several websites and information from the Greatest Hits cd were used to compile this short history.