1975—Chronology Sources, Notes & Comments


David Fudger, "One Size Fits All," Disc, April 26, 1975

At one stage it had been mooted that the Frank Zappa mind had been toying with the idea of assembling a group of skinny degenerates with a view to presenting to an unsuspecting public the definitive drug-crazed, heavy metal rock band which was to travel under the nifty moniker XS (excess, geddit?). I asked if he still gave the project any currency?

"From the moment that Michael Des Barres started blowing his mouth off about it, I figured that it wasn't worth the trouble going forward with it. He was sort of presumptuous really, because one: I had not talked to him personally—he heard about it from his girlfriend—and two: he was making statements about an album and a tour I hadn't even discussed with him."

"It would have been a nice idea as a surprise, but you can thank him for spoiling the surprise."


January 1975—The Record Plant

Record Plant

Shooting Star—Celebrity Photo Syndication

Shooting Star
Frank Zappa (1974) Photo Credit: Yoram Kahana/Shooting Star

Charles Ulrich, July 18, 2013

My guess would be that this is one of the Greggery Peccary sessions, which actually took place in the first week of January 1975.

I instantly recognized Earle Dumler standing up in the back. Also Donald Waldrop (tuba) and Dana Hughes (trombone).

Michael Braunstein, "Deni & Michael: A Record Plant Romance," The Record Plant Diaries Project, April 22, 2018

I was pretty busy (this was in December of 1974, merging into January of 1975) [...]. I was working in Studio A with Frank Zappa [...].


Cancelled Tours

Mary Campbell, "Frank Zappa's Dream: A Rock Group Of 80 Or More Musicians," Indiana Evening Gazette, December 14, 1974

An East Coast tour played 31 shows from Oct. 28 to Dec. 1 [1974]. September was spent in Europe. A southern U.S. tour will come in February [1975] and after that a trip to Germany to work with a symphony orchestra, then a tour of Japan.


March 1975—The Record Plant

Michael Braunstein, Facebook, March 5, 2015

TBT: My "Way Back Machine" (aka my Little Red Book, 1975) says that on this date in 1975 (yikes), I was mixing Frank Zappa in Studio B at Record Plant LA - a QUAD mix, at that. Remember those, guys? A Quad mix was when the label agreed that you hadn't spent enough money in the studio yet and granted you an extended budget to be really self-indulgent and use joysticks to make the guitars swim all around. All for a format that lasted, what, six months? Songs mixed in March 5 session and the following week included Greggery Peccary, originally 20+ minutes. Did something like 41 razor blade edits in the first ten min. of the four-track mix. Cooler still, March 4 in 1975 - did percussion overdubs with Alan Estes and Emil Richards in Studio C. The entire studio was filled with two truckloads of those guys' percussion stuff. At one point, FZ had them running from instrument to instrument so violently that Estes had to stop and take his shoes off and put tennis shoes on. Then we had to put him in bare feet cuz we could hear his shoes squeaking on the linoleum floor. True story.

MARCH 1975

Monday 3

Tuesday 4

Wednesday 5


April 1, 1975—Kendun Recorders Acetate

Rockaway.com Auction, c. October 2007

Kendun Recorders Kendun Recorders


33 1/3 RPM

Low Budget
200 Years Old
Regyptian Strut


The Royal Albert Hall Trial

Allan Jones, "Court In The Act," Melody Maker, April 26, 1975

The judge presiding over the court is 67-year-old Mr. Justice Mocatta. The Hon Sir Alan Abraham Mocatta, who was knighted in 1961 and received the OBE in 1944. He's been a Judge Of The High Court of Justice, (Queens Bench Division) since 1961 and was educated at Clifton College and New College, Oxford. Who's Who details a distinguished War Service Record as follows: "2nd Lieut 12 LAA Regt RA, TA, 1939; Bde Major, 56 AA Bde, 1940-41; GSO (2) AA HQ BTNI, 1941-42; Lt Col GS, Army Council Secretariat War Office, 1942-45."

Whether you can translate Who's Who's peculiar shorthand or not, it sounds pretty impressive.

The day before we got to court Mr. Justice Mocatta, who has to decide whether the AH Management were justified in their decision to cancel the concert on the grounds that Zappa's material was "in poor taste" or in any way offensive or obscene, was treated to an illustration of Zappa's music.

Mr. Alan Campbell, representing the Zappa/Cohen Bizarre Productions Inc, played the judge two songs from the soundtrack album of 200 Motels. Mr. Justice Mocatta listened, head in hands, to "She Painted Up Her Face," after which he commented: "A certain amount of the speech I could not hear." He then lent an ear to "Daddy, Daddy, Daddy." His response to the latter was: "I could not hear the beginning or the end."

Mr. Campbell, QC, suggested that the judge might like the volume of the stereo player increased to which Mr. Mocatta replied: "It's quite loud enough."

Mr. Justice Mocatta refused to listen to a third song which Mr. Campbell QC had intended to play. It was called "Penis Dimension."

"You need not listen to that particular song," said Mr. Campbell (who was educated at the Ecole Des Sciences Politiques, Paris, and Trinity Hall, Cambridge and whose clubs are listed in Who's Who as the Carlton and Pratt's).

"In fact," he continued, "we draw attention to it and it is open to reasonable objection on the ground of good taste. We have made it plain from the start we were prepared to substitute with other songs."

This [...] was a point which would be taken up by Mr. Michael Ogden, QC, who was representing the Albert Hall management. But before we move on to that matter, we'll just take in a brief exchange between FZ and Mr. Justice Mocatta. The latter was a little confused by a reference to a "groupie."

"Is a groupie a girl who is a member of the group?" he asked.

"No," replied Zappa. "She is a girl who likes members of a rock and roll band."

[...] On Wednesday the court is already in session at 10 am. Zappa is answering questions directed at him by Mr. Ogden. Mr. Ogden has been a Barrister-At-Law since 1968, and was educated at Jesus College, Cambridge. He served as a captain in the RAC (Royal Glos Hussars and l6th/5th Lancers) l944—l947.

As the legal representative of the corporation which controls the Albert Hall, Mr. Ogden has to establish, using as references the lyrics to the soundtrack of 200 Motels and the movie script, that the performance of all or parts of Zappa's material would've been (here we go again) offensive etc.

As we pick up the story Mr. Ogden is questioning the validity of Zappa's claim that the concert need not have been cancelled. If, Zappa argued, the AH authorities had specified which particular songs they considered offensive he could have amended the lyrics to ensure they were "socially acceptable."

Mr. Ogden remains somewhat sceptical about Zappa's ability to rewrite, at such a crucial point, an entre body of lyrics.

The amended version could even have been prepared by someone other than Zappa, he pressed.

"Would it speed things up if I agreed with you?" retorts Zappa, with sardonic nonchalance.

"And what if someone types it wrong?" he adds.

Mr. Ogden then diverts our attention to the actual contents of Zappa's compositions in an attempt to reveal the true nature of his lyrical flights of fantasy. He makes a reference to one song, and questions the significance of the words "dumping excreta."

Excreta, says Frank is a euphemism for the word which actually appears in the script.

This, he continues, "is a short word which represents the concept" of excreta. In rock and roll parlance, it refers to "the material" musicians carry around with them and is used in their profession.

[...] Mr. Ogden draws our attention to another FZ song, "Lonesome Cowboy Burt." The role of Burt in the movie was played by Jimmy Carl Black, the well-known redskin cowboy. This lyric, asserts Mr. Ogden, clearly indicates the desire of Cowboy Burt to have sexual intercourse with a waitress.

Mr. Ogden draws particular attention to a stanza which ends with the line "and you can sit on my face." This, he concludes, is surely a reference to the girl sitting on Cowboy Burt's face.

"Not necessarily," answers Zap. "It could mean a piggyback ride in an unusual position." That, says Mr. Justice Mocatta must be "Very unpleasant."

"He's an unusual character," comments Zappa. Both Mr. Ogden and the judge press for a further explanation of Frank's song. The song, explains Zappa, is an attempt to draw a portrait of a character called Lonesome Cowboy Burt, and, to create an authentic impression of the character and his lifestyle, he's portrayed Burt in his "normal speaking style," being obnoxious in a bar. The exchange between Burt and the waitress is based on an actual incident he witnessed.

Mr. Ogden presses on with his examination of the lines he's quoted. He considers the lines to have a "cruder" meaning than the description supplied. Doesn't it actually refer, he wonders, "to the naked buttocks of the girl coming into contact with the man's face."

Zappa smiles. The line in question, he says, was "written on the wall of a toilet where people like Cowboy Burt would go . . . "

He runs his fingers through his hair and looks suitably pleased with himself. He's looking unusually smart today. Subdued checked suit and conservative tie, careful to appear as unprovocative as possible. But sharp-tongued enough.

The next song which Mr. Ogden inspects is "Would You Go All The Way." "Going All The Way" he says, "that's another reference to sexual intercourse?"

"It's an archaic expression," replies Zappa. It was "used in the 1950s to express sexual intercourse." In fact, it transpires that it's a song about US soldiers and is only incidentally about sex.

Mr. Ogden again quotes from the lyrics. The section singled out this time describes a guy out on a date with his chick. His hand is on her shoulder, her arm, her elbow . . . Suddenly, her brassiere has VANISHED. This, according to Mr. Ogden's interpretation, suggests that the male has his hand on the female's breast! Was this not the case, and if not, what happened to the brassiere?

"The brassiere has disappeared mysteriously in the dark of the theatre," offers Zappa.

"What is this monster," asks Mr. Ogden, referring to a subsequent line which, rather ambiguously, describes the sudden emergence of a "monster." The couple are watching a movie, says Zappa, and . . .

Shelley Benoit, "Groupies Ripped My Tweed," Circular, April 28, 1975

The first day Frank went to make himself available to speak, he was denied because he was not wearing a suit. (Although dress rules do not affect visitors who are free to come and go from the spartan wooden pews up behind the court proper.)

Frank went right out and bought a classic English brown tweed suit, and while in a spending mood, expressed a desire to have a justice's wig made for himself. He was obviously delighted when shown into the narrow Dickensian room where old ladies sit all day fixing the firm grey curls in place. They tried to dissuade Frank by telling him wigs cost 66 pounds (about 165 dollars), but he remained keen.

Meanwhile, back at Greek Street the press office hurled itself into an "immortal verse" hunt to provide evidence that Frank's lyrics were no more offensive than those of his contemporaries. Visitors to the court stifled laughter when counsel assiduously pronounced "penis dimension" and when Bizarre's Herb Cohen stated that one of the words that so agitated the Albert Hall people was "brassiere." The notion of this being an obscenity was funny enough, but the episode was given added piquance by a subtle pronunciation war: the English "brossy-air" vs. the Yankee "br-zeer."

Frank's moment of glory came when a skeptical examiner tried to trick him into showing that he, Frank, wasn't capable of changing lyrics almost instantly. Frank was handed a bit of material and told he could have three to five minutes to alter it. Naturally, he produced a thoroughly irresistible rewrite, to the great delectation of court visitors and his own team.

Michael Gray, "The Truth—The Whole Truth—And Nothing But The Cheeseburger," Let It Rock, June 1975

Act One: Tuesday Afternoon April 15th:

FZ: Do you know what a score is?

QC: I know what a score is but you must assume we know almost nothing.

FZ: It's the musical equivalent of a recipe. It lists all the ingredients.

QC: Er, thank you . . . And what are social games?

FZ: Social games are a sophisticated social charade (pron. charaid) . . .

Judge: . . . Charade! (pron. Charard).

QC: . . . Would you not say that any young woman who seeks to contact a member of a rock and roll group in order to procure sexual intercourse—that such a young woman is in a very sorry state?

FZ: Er, no. I would not.

QC: I don't think you can have heard the question. I will repeat it . . .

Act Two: Wednesday Morning April 16th:

QC: Now. 'Lonesome Cowboy Bert'. This cowboy, Bert, is saying that he wants to have sexual intercourse with a waitress. Is it not? (Long wrangle about original and amended versions of the lyrics. FZ finally concedes that such might possibly be a summary of Lonesome Cowboy Bert's intention. QC mutters "It's like extracting teeth" under his breath. FZ explains that the song illustrates Bert's character, which is not the same as approving of it, and that the phrase 'You can sit on my face' was taken from the actual bar-room graffiti seen in the sort of bar a Lonesome Cowboy Bert would frequent.

Judge: Did he say 'perfidy'?

QC: No, 'graffiti', m'lud.

Judge: Ah.

QC: Now. 'Would You Go All The Way'. That means having sex, does it not?

FZ: It is an expression that was used in America in the 1950s to mean having sex. It is an archaic expression, intended for laughs.

QC: Well whatever its intention, that's what it means. Now, m'lud, I turn to 'She's Painting Her Face' . . . (reads through the lyric aloud, finding double-entendres everywhere, and even reading the line "to break her pants in" as "to break her parts in". Instead of apologising, retorts that "Once one starts reading this kind of script, one finds oneself making these mistakes.") . . . Now this next song . . .

FZ: It's about unhappiness.

QC: Hm, well be that as it may, do you not consider it objectionable for boys and girls of fourteen to hear this song?

FZ: No.

QC: Twelve?

FZ: No.

QC: Eleven?

FZ: No.

QC: Nine?

FZ: That could be problematical . . . Your attempt is to direct all my lyrics into a sexual meaning, which is neither fair nor accurate.

QC: What does 'pussy' mean? The pubic hair surrounding female private parts?

FZ: In the part of America that I come from, it means the private parts themselves . . .

(QC then asks about the two newts in the nightclub in another song:)

QC: Are you sure that "newts" just means newts? That there is nothing at all suggestive about that?

FZ: Anyone who is disturbed by the idea of newts in a nightclub is potentially dangerous.

Act Three: Wednesday Afternoon April 16th

QC: What age group did the Mothers of Invention aim at in 1971?

FZ: I write my music for anyone of any age; but people in a younger age bracket are more disposed to buying albums and concert tickets.

QC: Sir Louis Gluckstein of the Royal Albert Hall, a man of considerable eminence, has said that you write "filth for filth's sake". What is your response to that?

FZ: My only response to that is that if I were in his position, I would not make an irrational statement like that.

Sanchez Manning, "Frank Zappa Settles An Old Score After 42 Years: Banned In 1971, '200 Motels' Will Finally Be Played In The UK," The Independent, August 11, 2013

When Zappa and his manager sued, Mr [Tony] Palmer agreed to appear as a witness in the hearing at the High Court in London in 1975. "The judge questioned me and said we're not having homosexuality in the Albert Hall. So I said to the judge that, in the Prom season just gone Death in Venice had been performed, which was clearly about the homosexual attraction between a man and a young boy. The judge looked at me and said 'Who is that by?' And I said Benjamin Britten, and he said, 'Could you spell it?' At that point we knew the game was up and the judge didn't have the slightest idea what we were talking about."

The judge, Mr Justice Mocatta, was none too impressed when Zappa's song "Penis Dimension" was played in court, asking: "Have I got to listen to this?" Zappa lost his claim for £8,000 damages.

Tony Palmer, "Groupies, Drugs And Boredom: On The Insanity Of Directing 200 Motels With Frank Zappa," The Talkhouse, January 23, 2017

Zappa had wanted to perform 200 Motels at the Royal Albert Hall. The performance had been cancelled at short notice by the management of the hall because, they said, of the obscene nature of the content. Zappa had sued the management for breach of contract, and the matter had finished up in the High Court. I had been called as a so-called expert witness. Did I really think that a piece which included "homosexual material" was suitable for performance in the home of the Proms, the Judge asked me? It so happened that Britten's great opera Death in Venice had been performed the previous year in the Proms. When I mentioned this, the Judge said: and who wrote that? Benjamin Britten, I replied. And how do you spell that, the judge asked?

Tony Palmer, interviewed by Andrew Greenawy, The Idiot Bastard Son, June 28, 2021

Former Turtle Howard Kaylan has suggested that the cancelled Albert Hall concert was just a big publicity stunt. Your view?

Certainly not. It was very serious—hence our joint appearance at the Law Courts.

Ah, that was in 1975. Had Frank changed much then?

No. He was very grateful that I agreed to appear as an expert witness, thus totally disproving that we had 'fallen out' (as in 'burning the master tapes', which I still have incidentally).

FZ, interviewed by Peter Frame, February 1991, MOJO #300, November 2018

The Albert Hall maintained that my use of the word "brassiere" was obscene. One of the pieces that was going to be performed at the concert had the line in it, "What sort of girl wears a brassiere to a pop festival?", and they complained about this, thought it was obscene. I told the court that if they were going to be that squeamish about what I was going to do, I could change the words to all my songs right there on the spot—and they said, "Oh really? Prove it!" whereupon they handed me some of my lyrics and had me adjust them. I thought I did a pretty good job right there on the stand. I can't remember the complete context, but one of the rhyming words that I'd used in something was the name of the town Pudsey—and this created a big question mark over the entire court. They acted like they had never heard of Pudsey before and I had to explain that it was something I had seen on the front of a bus.

FZ, interviewed by Karl Dallas, Schlager, Sweden, June 1983

Han lade ut 50 000 dollar på en stämning av Albert Hall för kontraktsbrott. Med hans egna ord: "Domarens slutliga dom var 'Den här musiken är inte obscen. Albert Hall har brutit kontraktet. Men—eftersom Albert Hall är ROYAL Albert Hall, är det du som förlorar.' "

—Eftersom jag inte ville lägga ut ytterligare 13 000 pund på att överklaga, lät jag det vara. Hur ska man kunna få någon rättvisa i det här landet? Folk är fixerade vid vissa saker som anständighet, och vad de tror är obscent och hotande, på ett sätt som passerar gränsen för vad som är bra för den mentala hälsan. Jag kommer inte att försöka förändra det här landets uppsminkade fasad. Det enda jag vill är att få min musik spelad. Så det får vara som det är med Albert Hall.

Google Translate:

He spent $ 50,000 on a lawsuit by Albert Hall for breach of contract. In his own words: "The judge's final verdict was 'This music is not obscene. Albert Hall has broken the contract. But—because Albert Hall is ROYAL Albert Hall, it's you who loses.' "

—Since I did not want to spend another 13,000 pounds on appeal, I let it be. How can justice be done in this country? People are fixated on certain things like decency, and what they think is obscene and threatening, in a way that crosses the line of what is good for mental health. I will not try to change the make-up facade of this country. All I want is to get my music played. So it must be as it is with Albert Hall."


The Spring 1975 Band

The Dig, August/September 1996, p. 62

The Dig, 1996
[Tom Fowler, Bruce Fowler, George Duke, Captain Beefheart, Napoleon Murphy Brock, FZ, Denny Walley, Terry Bozzio]



FZ, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, April 23, 1975

First I bought a building. And then the building has a rehearsal hall in the back, that's 60 by 40 feet. And then we set up our PA system inside the building. We own the PA system and we practice with the PA. Not the whole thing, cause we can't set the whole thing up in there, we set up most of it. And we practice for about a month, roughly six hours a day, with the dinner break, for 5 days a week, prior to the starting of the tour.

Ruth Underwood

Steve Weitzman, "What's A Mother To Do?," Zoo World, January 2, 1975

Ruth Underwood plays marimba and percussion for Frank and regretfully, he adds, "is planning to leave in January for personal reasons." Replacing her would be impossible, he feels, since "there's no other percussion player in the world who can do all the things she's doing now.

"Because even if they could play the parts and memorize the vast amount of stuff that she knows, they're still not her. And she adds as much from her personality as she does from her musicianship."

She keeps the troupe in high spirits by her own outrageousness, laughs Frank. "What can you say? You get a nymphomaniac percussionist on a bus with X number other guys and it's pretty amusing."

FZ, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, April 23, 1975

I got a letter from her about six weeks ago, she was living with her mother in Long Island, and Ian is working in Los Angeles in studios, playing synthesizer in a lot of film scores, they had some marital problems, I do not know how they're being resolved, and musically Ruth is not doing too much, and I already told you what Ian is doing.

FZ, quoted in Go, March 1975

Förra året var till exempel Ruth och Ian Underwood med. Men Ruth började ligga med ljudmixaren och då slutade Ian. Sen slutade Ruth, eftersom hon inte kunde hålla ordning på sitt privatliv.

Google translate:

Last year, for example, Ruth and Ian Underwood were involved. But Ruth started sleeping with the sound mixer and then Ian stopped. Then Ruth quit, because she could not keep her private life in order.

Chester Thompson

Chester Thompson interviewed in World Of Genesis, February 2002

Alphonso Johnson was a very good friend. He is from Philadelphia, and I'm from Baltimore, and we had started to cross paths. We had mutual acquaintances, so we started doing some playing together in situations would run into each other. I was playing with (Frank) Zappa at the time and Alphonso had been with Weather Report for a couple of years at that point. In fact, I remember the night he called me up to tell me that he had gotten the gig with Weather Report. He was pretty excited about it.

He kept saying, "Man, you've got to come down and jam with us . . . " because they were kind of between drummers at the time. So, they were looking for a drummer, but at the same time they were, I guess, auditioning via jamming. He kept trying to get me to come down and play something with them. I probably wouldn't have gone, but Zappa had cancelled a tour, and I hadn't been in L.A. that long, and I didn't have an awful lot of contacts or anything. So, canceling a tour meant that I needed to get busy, basically. So, I went down and auditioned with them, and it was just a good fit. In a band, you either fit with them or you don't, ya know? Fortunately, it 'clicked.' I had toured with them a year before Black Market was done, so the band was actually pretty tight at that point.

[...] I mean, as much as I loved the Weather Report experience, had I still been regularly touring with Frank, I don't know if I would have just left, because I like being loyal.

FZ, interviewed by Deborah Parisi, Rhythm, July 1989

Definitely solid, inspiring drummer, a totally different style than the other guys. It was always fun to play with Chester, especially after he learned how to play polyrhythms, because he came into the band basically from the world of boogaloo. He could boogaloo his brains out. But trying to play guitar solos with Chester . . . you had the positive side that his rhythm was so contageous that people could really tap their feet no matter what you were doing on the guitar; but the negative side was that if you were doing some of the polyrhythmic things that are comfortable for you to do, and the drum track doesn't move with what you're doing, then it doesn't quite mesh.

So I had a couple of talks with Chester, and tried to explain to him in a non-technical way how things should be at certain points in musical compositions, and he scratched his head over it and started modifying, and I think it opened him up a little bit to some other ideas. He was great to travel with, too. A hilarious guy.

Jawaka, alt.fan.frank-zappa, March 26, 2010

Re: Chester Thompson to be awarded Curtain Call Award at Belmont School of Music

Afterwards a Q&A. Lots of FZ's.

Why did he leave Zappa's band? Frank got new film editing equipment, so he cancelled the tour. Chester had to work, so he ended up in Weather Report after a "jam session" he attended due to his friendship w/ Alphonso Johnson.

Andy Greene, "Chester Thompson On His Years With Genesis, Frank Zappa, And Weather Report," Rolling Stone, February 4, 2021

Why did you leave?

He canceled a tour and was honest about it. He got a film-editing machine and wanted to really dig in and learn how to use it, which he did. But since I had been in his band and on the road so much, I hadn't had time to do any networking or meet many people in L.A.

Suddenly, I'm there with no income. [Weather Report bassist] Alphonso [Johnson] had been a friend for years. We go way back. They were in town and Alphonso said, "The guys are in town. Why don't you come and jam with the band?" I said, "Man, I'd love to, but I don't really want to audition."

He'd mentioned that they'd been through a few drummers that year. I go down there and jam with the band. And of course, there was another drummer there and it was an audition. We went back and forth. The other guy called himself Sonship, Woody Theus. He was a phenomenal player—oh, my goodness. Somehow, they offered me the gig. They were starting rehearsals the next week for a new tour and that happened to be my favorite band at the time.

That was that. I called Frank immediately and he wasn't happy about it, but he knew that my background was more jazz and stuff. He got it. We crossed paths several times [after that] and there were never any weird vibes about it or anything. I always thought he was a pretty good friend to me.

Terry Bozzio

Terry Bozzio, interviewed by Andrew Greenaway, The Idiot Bastard, September 29, 1992

I heard from Eddie Henderson—who I was playing with at the time—that George Duke had said that Zappa was looking for someone. Never heard his music. Three days before the audition, I decided to buy a couple of albums—'Live At The Roxy' and 'Apostrophe(')'. Didn't sleep for the next three days. Flew myself down to LA. Went to Zappa's warehouse—you know, he had a big huge stage, sound and light equipment I'd never seen before. Most difficult music I'd ever seen spread all over the stage. There was about 50 drummers around. There were two Ludwig Octaplus sets set up. And one drummer would set one kit up while the other one would audition. And they were going back and forth, dropping like flies. So I thought I'd never get this gig, so I asked some friends if they'd heard about a Weather Report audition, because I heard that they were looking for a drummer and I knew I wasn't gonna get this gig. And they said, well Frank's drummer [Chester Thompson] left to join them. So that made me even more discouraged. But I thought, well I paid the money to come down here, I owe it to myself to try. The one thing I'd noticed was a lot of the drummers were sort of flaunting their chops. I thought the least I could do was go up there and listen and try and play with the guy. So I did the best I could; sight-reading a very difficult piece, memorising a very difficult piece, jamming with a very odd time signature—like 19—and then playing a blues shuffle. At the end of that, Frank said "You sound great, I'd like to hear you—after I hear the rest of these guys—again." And I turned to his road manager, his road manager turns to the twenty or so guys that were hanging around, and they're all shaking their heads, and the road manager turns around and says, "That's it, nobody else wants to play after Terry." So Frank turns to me and says "Looks like you've got the gig if you want it." So I was completely blown away.

Terry Bozzio, interviewed by Sid Smith, Prog, February 21, 2017

It was amazing. I auditioned and he said he wanted to hear me after he'd heard the rest of the guys and nobody wanted to audition after me. So Frank turned to me and said, "It looks like you've got the gig if you want it." My words were, "Are you sure I can do this?" [Laughs] He said "Do you want to do it?" and I said, "Yeah!" I wasn't sure if I was heavy enough to work with his guys and he told me that if I was willing to work hard I could do it. So like a good father, he took me in.

Tom Fowler, interviewed by Evil Prince, T'Mershi Duween, March 2000

One thing that happened that drove George Duke and me nuts was that Bozzio, during my last tour, would play that elastic shit with Frank while Duke and I were supposed to keep time, and it was really confusing. We'd be there watching each other's feet to see where the beat was, literally because it was so confusing and irritating too. It was no fun. Bozzio's a great player though; I'm not putting him down. He was following instructions, but it just didn't work for some reason. Maybe it was my fault, I don't know.

FZ, interviewed by Steve Rosen, Guitar Player, January 1977

Terry Bozzio, the drummer in the group now, is excellent. He has a tendency to frenzy out a little bit, but I just figure that's because he's from San Francisco.

Denny Walley

Denny Walley, interviewed by Andrew Greenaway, The Idiot Bastard, July 31, 2008

While living in CA, I had re-connected with Jim 'Motorhead' Sherwood whom I had also gone to school with back in Lancaster at AVJUHS. He told me that Frank was looking for a slide guitar player and told him about me. Frank said for me come on down the following day. I loaded up my gear and went into Hollywood to Frank's rehearsal space and set up my rig. The band at that time was Terry Bozzio (drums), Tom Fowler (bass), George Duke (keyboards), Napoleon Murphy Brock (horns & vocals) and of course Frank. The first song I was asked to play on was Advance Romance. It was in the key of G, which was perfect for me as my guitar was already tuned to an open G, plus it is basically a blues. I was nervous as hell, but as soon as we started playing I was totally relaxed. At the end of the song, Frank said "Anyone with the balls to play those low notes has got the job". He told his then road manager Marty Perellis "Sign him up". That was it, I was in!

Denny Walley, interviewed by Michael Buffalo Smith, Michael Buffalo Smiths's Universal Music Tribe, 2004

The first tour I went on with Frank was the Bongo Fury album and tour and that was both Beefheart and Frank. Frank had enlisted Don to come out on that tour and that was the first time we had played together. [...]

The way I got the audition, Motorhead told Frank that I was playing guitar and I had not seen Frank in about 15 years. MotorHead said he had talked with Frank and told him about me, and Frank had no idea that I even played. So he said that Frank wanted me to come by the next day and that he was looking for a slide guitar player. So I brought my slide guitar and my amp and I went in and there was George Duke and Terry Bozzio, Tom Fowler and Napoleon Murphy Brock. So there I was and couldn't back out now, so I set up my mess and Frank said he wanted to do "Dance Romance" and do it in "A" and I had my guitar tuned in "A" and did it cold. Half way through he just stopped it and told Marty Perellis, his road manager, "Marty, sign him up, anyone that has the balls to play those notes has got the job!" and that is how it happened.

Tzvi Gluckin, "Forgotten Heroes: Denny Walley," Premier Guitar, August 18, 2015

After [Geronimo Black] disbanded, [Denny] Walley went back to work in L.A. He continued with blues, R&B, and soul acts, working with King Cotton, the Kingpins, and others. Near the end of 1974, Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood—another old friend from Lancaster and a longtime Zappa associate—came to visit. "Motorhead said Frank was looking for a slide guitar player," Walley remembers. "He told Frank about me. Frank had no idea I played because when he knew me in high school, I wasn't playing yet. So Frank says, 'Tell him to come on by tomorrow.'"

[...] Slide guitar was an obvious timbre choice for a Zappa lineup featuring Beefheart. It conjured serious blues mojo and complemented Beefheart's blues-influenced style. But Walley hadn't seen Zappa in years, and by 1974, Zappa was an institution. Walley was ready for his audition, but nervous. "I walked in the door and could've dropped to my knees," he says. "George Duke was on keyboards. Tom Fowler was the bass player. Chester Thompson was behind the drums, plus Napoleon Murphy Brock and Frank. That was what I walked into."

The audition couldn't have gone better. "Frank introduced me to everyone and it was real relaxed. He was so disarming. Frank called 'Advance Romance.' I'd never heard it before, but it turned out they played it in A, and I had my guitar tuned to open A. As soon as I heard the beginning I started to shake, because I knew that this was so in my wheelhouse. It was like Frank wrote it for me so that I would pass the test. Halfway through, Frank stopped the song and said, 'Anyone with balls enough to play those lows notes has got the job.' That was it. I packed my stuff and went with [road manager Marty] Perellis into the office. He got my information and signed me up."

FZ, interviewed by David Fudger, "One Size Fits All," Disc, April 26, 1975

"That's another interesting thing about the band that we have now. Besides Beefheart; this guy Denny Walley is another person from Lancaster, the town where Beefheart and I used to go to high school. At that time, Denny lived next door to me; he was about 10 years old. Now he's all grown up and plays slide guitar real good. So him, me and Captain Beef' sit around and have some great discussions.

"It's nice to have some people in the band who are not only disinterested in chess, but who share a common interest in other forms of recreation."

Like getting wiped?

"Well no, it's more into . . . I'll tell you what we do, if we're sitting round in the dressing room we just sing blues songs, as we all know the same old records."

Captain Beefheart

Steve Weitzman, "Zappa And The Captain Cook," Rolling Stone, July 3, 1975

Zappa and Beefheart tried again this spring. "Although he still has trouble remembering words and making things happen on the beat," Zappa said, "he's better. Just before the tour, I tried him again and he squeaked by."

[...] Remembering the lyrics had apparently been a problem for Beefheart—he keeps them written down on a stand located at his feet onstage. Zappa is interested in getting Beefheart "to relax to the point where he can improvise words. He can do really funny stuff when he's sitting around in a room. But he hasn't really gotten comfortable enough yet."

Denny Walley, interviewed by Andrew Greenaway, The Idiot Bastard, July 31, 2008

The band had been rehearsing for about a week or so before Frank brought Don in to start doing his parts. I had seen Don with The Magic Band a couple of times before this, but hadn't had a chance to talk with him. I knew Don from back in Lancaster when we went to the same school (AVJUHS). He was just amazing. His vocals and harp playing were chilling. He was pure genius. He said 20 brilliant things a day.

Bruce Fowler interviewed by Evil Prince, T'Mershi Duween #55-57, November 1996-March 1997

That was fun. I got to meet Don and we became good friends. We were out on the road and he and I hung out a lot. I could talk to him and he could talk to me, whereas it seemed that George and Napoleon, we weren't really on their wavelength. We were more out yippo than them, more abstract thinking. We had a lot of humour going on all the time. Both of us stood around a lot and then we'd do our little things. Don only did about two or three tunes a night and he just drew the rest of the time. When it came to a guitar solo, I would chase him off stage or he'd chase me. We'd go out and smoke a cigarette or drink a beer and Frank would be playing his solo. We'd crawl onto the stage over to his guitar lead and start chewing on it; stuff like that. Sometimes we'd crawl clear across the stage and he never knew it, because his eyes were closed and he was playing this solo. I'm sure he heard about it.

David Fudger, "One Size Fits All," Disc, April 26, 1975

So how did Cap and the Zap feel about the two Hot Rats being together again? They had fallen out previously, during disputes over the two defunct labels Bizarre and Straight. "He's happy. It's fantastic! It's probably the best way for him to perform because he's really not a band leader. He doesn't have the business sense or the self-discipline to keep a band going and this really gives him an opportunity to cavort.

"This is a different dimension of responsibility for him, too. Now he has to discipline himself in order to remember lyrics and perform things consistently so that the band can have cues to relate to."

Has there been an opportunity to see if Beefheart could do his stuff? "Yes, we did two concerts in California just before we came over." And they were quite successful.

Dick Barber, interviewed by Andrew Greenaway, The Idiot Bastard Son, April 24, 2023

I would say the only real jerk that Frank was involved with was Captain Beefheart. At the end of the Bongo Fury tour, Frank was saying, "Never again: I'm not taking him on the road again."

I remember we were somewhere in Texas, and Beefheart somehow convinced the limo driver that he was in charge, and so he took the limo. We didn't know where he went. He didn't show up for soundcheck, and he finally shows up and he'd gone out and bought a big Stetson hat. I don't think he had a lot of money at the time, because I know he was getting cash advances from me—I was the banker on the road. And Frank was pretty upset about that.

Sound Engineers

FZ, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, April 23, 1975

What we play on stage has little or nothing to do with what the mixer does, sitting out there in the hall. During the sound-check in the afternoon I set up a basic balance of the group for him, so that the equalisation of the instruments get the panning set up, but once the show starts, what the audience hears, is the result of what that mixer does. Now prior to this tour, we rehearsed for a month with a mixer named Stephan. And Stephan learned the songs, and the first concert Stephan got pneumonia, and that was about a week ago, and this guy has walked in with no rehearsal and he's mixing the show. I don't know what he's doing out there, and the only way that I can check it is by listening to cassettes that we make off the board each night, and if I hear he's doing something really wrong in terms of a blend, then I tell him about it, but it's hard to make music in a place that's designed for sports.


FZ, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, April 23, 1975

Question: I wanted to know what type of guitars, wah-wahs, strings and amps do you like to play out of . . .

FZ: OK. What I use on-stage now is a customized Gibson SG with a mixed set of strings: the top string is a .009 Ampeg string, the B-string is a Gibson E-string, and the G-string is an Ernie Ball 15 . . .

Captain Beefheart: The music was thud-like . . .

FZ: . . . and the D-string is a Rickenbacker D-string. And the A-string is a Rickenbacker E-string, and the low E-string is a Gibson 340 A-string.


April 11, 1975—Bridges Auditorium, Pomona College, Claremont, CA

Claremont, April 11, 1975

Claremont, April 11, 1975

Teresa Hinds, "Zappa Rings Out In Claremont," Daily Report, April 17, 1975

Frank Zappa, a onetime West End resident who has become a major figure in rock music, was back in home territory last Friday with his Mothers of Invention and Captain Beefheart for two concerts at Bridges Auditorium in Claremont. [...]

The performance marked the premier of the Mothers' 1975 concert tour. Napoleon Brock, singer and saxophonist; Bruce Fowler, trombonist; Terry Bozzio, drummer; George Duke, keyboards; Tom Fowler, bassist; and Danny Walley, rhythm and slide guitarist, were introduced by Zappa as "your eight closest relatives."

[...] After what seemed an eternity of applause following the peformers' exit from the stage, Zappa, the Mothers and Captain Beefheart returned to the stage for an encore of "George's Boogie."

Ronnie Williams

FZ, quoted by Michael Gray, Mother! The Frank Zappa Story, 1996, p. 157

Hey, another guy who came to our concert—you know the song about "Let's Make The Water Turn Black"? Well we played it for an encore at the end of the second show, and standing there right in front of the stage was Ronnie! And I could barely recognize him. I mean, he was totally drunk and he had this knitted hat on and he was out there going "DO THE SONG ABOUT THE BOOGERS!", y'know, and I was doing "Who is this guy?"—and it was Ronnie!

So I pulled him up onto the stage—and I had just explained the song to the band a few days before, and they were going; "Yuhk! You know a guy who saves snot on the window??!" and all this sort of thing—squeamish!—and next thing you know, he was up on stage with 'em: it was really funny.

Bo Salisbury, quoted in United Mutations

I remember it as plain as day. Frank looked down after the request was shouted out, laughed and said something like, "It's Ronnie Williams!" As I recall, he was in the center, about 6-8 rows back, and Frank invited him up on stage . . . Denny Walley was playing bottleneck most of the night on a Telecaster, took it off and handed it over to Ronnie. They played the song, the audience cheered, Ronnie gave the Telecaster back to Denny and the show moved forward. It was great.

Ron Cote, quoted in United Mutations

It was the spring of 75' that Ronnie went on stage with Frank in Pomona. He did not sing he played guitar. He told me he shouldn't have been up there, he was so out of practice, but Frank didn't care. There was a review in the local paper that talked about it, the critic did not like what was going on.

Ronnie's guitar and equipment got stolen around this time. His telecaster had a design carved on the back. It was the nickname Frank gave him, Snail saw, Frank said it was because Ronnie was slow as a snail but he could buzz like a saw.


Old Mothers & Friends

Ray Collins

FZ, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, April 23, 1975

Ray Collins is currently employed as a carpenter, living at Don Preston's house, he's trying to get a group together, he has been trying to get a group together for quite some time.

Roy Estrada

FZ, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, April 23, 1975

Roy Estrada is working some place in Orange County, I think he might be driving a truck or working in a warehouse.

Pamela Zarubica

FZ, interviewed by Ed Baker, The Hot Flash, May 1974

She's had a series of head injuries. She's been in a number of automobile accidents for some reason. She's in England now and she keeps getting in car wrecks and hurting her head.

FZ, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, April 23, 1975

[Pamela Zarubica] had three automobile accidents, mostly head injuries, and she's probably still living in England.


Orchestral Music

FZ, Syracuse University, Syracuse, NY, April 23, 1975

Do you plan to do anything again like you did with the LA Phil?

We've had maybe 5 or 6 offers from all over the world since that time, but it always seems like the wrong thing to do because what they want, really, is to get The Mothers as a rock and roll band to come and play alongside of the orchestra, so that they can improve their concert attendance. And so they use us as bait to bring kids into the concert hall with little or no regard for my music as something for an orchestra to play, and just, you know it's a shock, and I felt that from what happened with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and have sort of avoided the orchestral experience ever since. 'Cause it's disheartening to spend a lot of time writing some music for an orchestra and know that they just don't give a shit when they get the music, it's just another thing for them to do.


prob. Monday, April 28, 1975—FZ at The Speakeasy, Cambridge, MA

Peter "Hi Fi" Ward, "The Speakeasy, Home Of The Blues," The Blues Audience #165, August/September 2007

"One time Frank Zappa was in town, on a Monday night I think. He came up to the bandstand and called off a tune in F sharp, and it really flipped everyone out. 'F sharp? What the f*** is going on here?'" said [Dave] Maxwell. Zappa, accompanied by Captain Beefheart and drummer Aynsley Dunbar, played so loud that Tom Principato worried he might damage the Fender amplifier Zappa was using. "After the first song—I went up to Zappa and went, 'Hey Frank, could you not play my amp on 10?' Like I tried to be discreet about it, and he went, 'Oh, I could buy this f****** amp if I wanted to,' and he put down the guitar and walked away," said Principato.

Principato recalled a twist. "After Frank stormed off the stage he still hung around and tried to offer a gig to our sax player, Dave Birkin, and Dave turned him down—in front of everybody. Very cool," said Principato.

Tom Principato's MySpace


Zappa w/my ES335 sitting in with Powerhouse 1975


May 20-21, 1975—Armadillo World Headquarters, Austin, TX


May 23, 1975—County Coliseum, El Paso, TX

Jimmy Carl Black, interviewed by Andrew Greenaway, The Idiot Bastard, June 23, 2000

I sang "So Fine" and "Lonely, Lonely, Nights" and had a great time with the guys. I didn't know all the guys in the band but Denny Walley and George Duke I knew from before. By the time FZ and DVV got to El Paso, they weren't even speaking to each other anymore. Seems that DVV was drawing too many pictures of Frank in his drawing book and Frank didn't like it. I saw some of the pictures and I thought they were pretty funny. Frank didn't. That is where Beefheart hired me to join the Magic Band, and I did.

Jimmy Carl Black, For Mother's Sake, 2013, p. 160-162

I was in school [at The University Of Texas at El Paso] when Zappa and the band came through El Paso in May '75 during their Bongo Fury Tour. They'd just done the two gigs at The Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas where they had recorded for the live album Bongo Fury. Don Vliet (Captain Beefheart) was guest vocalist on that tour and Denny Walley was playing slide guitar in the band. He had called me to say they were coming to El Paso, so I went out and met them at the airport.

Frank and I had a nice time talking and he asked if I would sit in with them and sing a couple of blues songs. He was glad to hear that I was back at school and him and Loretta had a good time talking about old times together. [...]

That's where I first met Terry Bozzio, Tom and Bruce Fowler and Nappy [Napoleon] Brock. That is when I brought up the fatal question to Frank. I asked Frank, "Well, how's Don doing?" and he said, "That fucking guy's full of shit and not only that, he's driving me crazy!" That's all he said, so I left it at that. I didn't ask any more questions about the subject. Frank had just had it with him and apparently they hadn't been talking for weeks! Frank was tired of all the pictures that Don was drawing of him because most of them were of Frank as the devil, with horns, a tail and all that kind of shit, if you know what I mean!

All Don had with him on the tour was this brown paper shopping bag which was full of these books that he used to draw in. I don't think he took any clothes with him because Dick Barber said he wore the same things for the whole tour.

[The next day] I spent some time talking with [Don Vliet] and that's when he asked me if I would be interested in joining the Magic Band and going out to L.A. to do this tour with them in two months. I said, "Yeah, Man! I'll do that. I'd love to go out on the road with you." Little did I know what that was going to involve so I skipped one semester and went and did that tour.

Herb Cohen was also managing Beefheart at the time. He told me that the deal would be a seven-week contract, six weeks of rehearsals and one week of shows. I was to be paid a one-off fee of $2000.


No European Tour

David Fudger, "One Size Fits All," Disc, April 26, 1975

When would we see the new line-up in Britain? "I have no plans to come back to Europe this year at all. That doesn't mean we won't, but I have no plans to do so. I left the summer open because I was contemplating more work on a film project in that time. You see we have a long tour starting this Friday—a six-week tour—and then we have another long tour of the States in the Fall and the only time we could possibly come to Europe would be the summertime. I wanted to leave the summertime free to do the film."


June 1975—One Size Fits All


The Summer 1975 Band

Terry Bozzio, "Zoot Allures," terrybozzio.com, c. 2002

After the first tour [FZ] told me "Duke & the Fowlers left, I'm gonna form a new band around you and me. Move to L.A."!!!

Terry Bozzio, liner notes, Orchestral Favorites 40th Anniversary (2019)

[After the 1975 Spring Tour] I went home to San Francisco and Frank called and said, "Move to L.A. It's just you, me and Denny."

FZ, 2JJ AM Radio, Sydney, Australia, July 27, 1975 (as transcribed by Charles Ulrich)

The new group that I'm putting together is three guitars, bass, and drums. A different kind of event than I've done before.

Lanny Waggoner, "Frank Zappa—Expecting The Remarkable," Los Angeles Free Press, September 12, 1975

The new band includes holdovers Terry Bozzio on drums, Napoleon Murphy Brock on sax, and Denny Walley on slide. The third guitar will be handled by Frog ("a good singer also"), with old-time Mother Roy Estrada on bass. "Roy has been working in Orange County, driving a truck, being a night watchman and working in a wire factory," grins Frank. Novi of Chunky, Novi and Ernie will play violin and contribute what Zappa assures are definitive versions of the Frug and the Pony.

[...] Some craziness surrounds the beginning of the tour, since Zappa is still seeking a keyboard player to replace George Duke. One had not been found by early September, and the lucky winner will have a monumental task in learning the Mothers' complex repertoire in time. But Zappa expects the remarkable (and occasionally the impossible) from his musicians.

George Duke

George Duke, "Discography—1970s," George Duke Online

[The Billy Cobham—George Duke Band, "Live" On Tour In Europe (1976)] I was in the process of leaving the Mothers of Invention, not because I was unhappy, but I just needed to challenge myself in other ways. I wanted to dive headfirst into fusion.

Bruce Fowler

Bruce Fowler interviewed by Evil Prince, T'Mershi Duween #55-57, November 1996-March 1997

There wasn't really room for me any more. All those guys left: George had gone, and it became more of a vocal thing. I just sat around and it was hard for me, sitting in a cold arena not doing anything and then to play a really difficult part. I'd make mistakes and Frank would get mad. It was just not right for me. Napoleon wasn't really an instrumentalist; he couldn't play that stuff in the right way. It needed Ruth, and when it was Ruth and George and me and it was more of a jazz group, then it made sense to have me there. But when it went back to more of a rock group, unless you're going to get trumpet and sax, then it doesn't make sense to have me in the band. Plus this is when synthesisers were first coming out strong and of course Frank was one of the first to use synths and try them because he was always into technology. It was just time for me to be out of the band.

[...] Don [Van Vliet] asked me to be in his band and then he asked me to play bass in the band. His manager heard me and said 'Well, don't call us, we'll call you'. So I said 'Fine, I won't go to the rehearsals. If those guys really want me in the band, they can come and get me.' So they did and told Herbie I was going to be in the band. I used an electronic trombone set up. Even as bad as it was, it was sort of OK. It didn't have the punch of a real bass, but it was kind of interesting. I could certainly go awfully low. But that was a great experience, trying to play the Captain's music on the bass.

Tom Fowler

Tom Fowler, interviewed by Evil Prince, T'Mershi Duween, March 2000

I went with Jean-Luc Ponty (after 'Bongo Fury') which was a big mistake. His music was pretty fun, but it was unbelievably loud, way too loud. After a gig, I'd go back to my hotel room and it would still be loud. My ears would ring all night. It was painful and it was a drag and he paid us nothing and politically it sucked. It was a real drag. But some of the guys in the band were OK. Allan Zavod was in the band. He was hysterical. He'd play a chord, then twirl round and try to hit the same chord again. He never did. He always missed it, but it was pure comedy. It wasn't totally bad but it ended bad and I have a bad feeling about it.

Roy Estrada

Lowell George, ABC FM Australia, c. 1978

Roy was offered to play with Beefheart and he seemed to think at that point that the music was more aligned to his style of playing. Because he thought it was all improvised. And he found out later that it was all very well structured and written. A lot of it was written out. Beefheart used to have the band notate these cassette tapes that he would like write four songs at a sitting at a piano, and then he would have the band notate it. That disturbed Roy a bit. I think he's back in his prime element now playing with Frank, because I think Frank's roots and Roy's roots are very similar musically.

Leon Rubenhold

Leon Rubenhold, "Beefheart Stint," Captain Beefheart Radar Station, December 7, 2005

My dear friend Elliot Ingber (a.k.a. Winged Eel Fingerling) told me Don needed another guitarist for their upcoming European tour and I should check it out. So I went down to the rehearsal studio which was on Sunset Blvd near Gower St. It was actually Frank Zappa's headquarters of offices and rehearsal rooms. I went in the room and Don was there along with John French (a.k.a. Drumbo). John and I jammed for awhile, maybe a half hour or so playing spontaneous riffs and grooves. At the end of that jam John said "We've had over seventy guitar players come in here and you are the only one who has the feel we need. You've got the gig if you want it."

[...] Rehearsals began shortly thereafter and continued on for about two weeks or so. It was John and I mostly going over the tunes and feels together while Don sat in a corner of the room and drew in a coloring book with magic markers coloring on the reverse side of the pages . . . an interesting technique. He would stop coloring sometimes to voice a comment or whistle or sing a specific lick he wanted played. At one rehearsal I was deeply concentrating on a specific passage when I turned my head and Zappa was standing right next to me with that typical intense look on his face scrutinizing what I was playing. I stopped playing and we started talking and he said he was impressed with what and how I was doing with learning the parts. Which by the way had to be played exactly as written or the song would not work.

[...] Rehearsals were going along fine till one Saturday afternoon Don called me at home and told me that Denny Walley the guitarist in Frank's band had just quit and that he had decided to have Denny replace me because Denny knew all the material and they would not have to rehearse anymore. Don hated to rehearse.

So on the following Tuesday I get a call at home from Frank Zappa and he is asking me if I wanted to replace Denny in his band and could I come up to his house and play for awhile to feel things out?

Later that afternoon there I am at Frank's home studio sitting cross legged on the carpet with Frank playing acoustic guitars together. We ran through some of his more difficult material and we both agreed that there just wasn't enough time to get it together for a tour of Australia that started on Friday of the same week. He said that if we were flying on a chartered flight we could have rehearsed on the plane but since it was a commercial flight it wasn't possible. I was thinking it would take a week just to learn one of his songs properly not the whole show. In addition he wanted me to be the only guitarist because he just wanted to sing. Talk about turning up the pressure a few notches.


September 17-18, 1975—Royce Hall, UCLA, LA, CA


October 1975—Bongo Fury


The 1975-1976 Band

New Gibson SG

FZ, interviewed by Steve Rosen, Guitar Player, January 1977

One time we were working down in Phoenix, and this guy came to the dressing room after the show with this guitar he'd built and wanted to sell. He had copied a Gibson [SG] except he'd added one more fret so it went up to an Eb, and it had an ebony fingerboard, humbucking pickups, and some inlay, and some real nice woodwork on it. He wanted $500 for it, and I thought it was a real nice guitar, so I bought it. I had [guitar maker] Rex Bogue do some stuff to it, add a preamp and snazz it up, and that's the one I'm using now.

Denny Walley

Denny Walley, interviewed by Andrew Greenaway, The Idiot Bastard, July 31, 2008

After the Bongo Fury tour, Frank suggested that I play with Don as we got on really great and it would put Don back on the road and in the studio. The new Magic Band was Elliot "Winged Eel Fingerling" Ingber on guitar, John "Drumbo" French on drums, Jeff Morris Tepper on guitar, Bruce "Fossil" Fowler on air bass, and me on slide guitar. That was the most challenging music I have EVER had to learn to play.

Denny Walley, interviewed by Michael Buffalo Smith, Michael Buffalo Smiths's Universal Music Tribe, 2004

After that tour ended and Frank took a break from touring he asked if I wanted to play with Don, and I said sure, you know. He gave me a copy of Trout Mask Replica and then I went home and listened to it and said, "What the hell is this? What part of this is mine?" (laughs)

Denny Walley, Bat Chain Puller, liner notes, 2012

In 1975 at the end of the Frank Zappa "Bongo Fury" tour with featured guest Captain Beefheart, Frank took a break from touring to work on new material. Frank told me that Beefheart was looking to put a new band together, and he thought I would be a perfect fit. I have to admit i hadn't listened to any of Beeheart's music before then. My only knowledge of what he was about came from my experience playing with him on the Bongo Fury tour. Frank gave a me a copy of Trout Mask Replica to listen to so that i could familiarize myself with Beefheart's music.

On first listen to TMR my reaction was, "Why's Frank mad at me? First I'm out of his group and now this! Who the hell could even play this? It's impossible to know where to even start!"

Terry Bozzio

Terry Bozzio, "Zoot Allures," terrybozzio.com, c. 2002

After a few incarnations the lineup settled on Roy Estrada, Andre Lewis and Napoleon Murphy Brock. We did a '75 Fall US tour on a private plane (w/ a brief excursion to the former Yugoslvia), a special New year's show at the Forum (complete w/ giant Father Time statue onstage which was destroyed during the show by the band members and almost fell on and killed me!), and an Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and European tour in Jan-Mar '76.

Norma Jean Bell

FZ & Norma Jean Bell
[Norma Jean Bell, FZ.]

Terry Bozzio, interviewed by Andrew Greenaway, The Idiot Bastard, September 29, 1992

Norma Bell was a woman who came from Detroit. She's a really good saxophone player. She played with Tommy Bolin and, I think, Ralph Armstrong who was being considered for the gig at the time. He was the Mahavishnu's bass player. He suggested her. She played with us on stage somewhere like Detroit, where she lived, and then Frank brought her along on the road. By the time we got back to LA at the end of the tour she had pretty much succumbed to, you know, hanging out with the wrong people and doing a lot of drugs. And so Frank said, "Forget this!" She wasn't showing up for rehearsals. She didn't last very long. I don't think we recorded anything with her.

Dan B., quoted in united-mutations

I have a live CD from The Tommy Bolin band from '76 at Ebbets Field featuring Norma Jean Bell on sax and vocals (and the great drummer Narada Michael Walden, etc.). Anyway, in the attached newsletter there's some info from brother Johnnie Bolin: "Norma Bell was playing with Frank Zappa in Los Angeles when Tommy asked her to audition. I remember Tommy saying he went down and saw Norma at S.I.R. Studios, where she was rehearsing with Frank Zappa and Terry Bozzio on drums . . . when he got the final line-up, he (Tommy Bolin) said it was the most phenomenal band he had ever worked with." So I guess Bell quit Zappa's band to join Bolin's.

Andre Lewis

Andre Lewis, in correspondence with Patrick Neve, c. 2000

There is a lot to say about [Johnny Guitar Watson]. I was his bandleader for many years and it was because of him I'm sure that Frank first took a liking to me or even listened to me.

Andre Lewis, in correspondence with Patrick Neve, 2000

I had a group called "Maxayn". Also during this period, I was recording Johnny Guitar Watson's recordings and we were very good friends as well. I went to Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd one day to pick up some bass strings. They had a promotion where you buy one set and you get one free. And somehow, I had to leave my number with the salesperson or they had it from my account; anyway, evidently Marty [Perellis], who was at that time Frank's road manager (I'll have stories about him later) went to the Guitar Center and asked if they had anyone they could recommend for keyboardists, as Frank was holding auditions the next day. Marty called me and asked if I would like to audition.

[...] I knew of Frank and had listened to some of his music but I was not particulary a Mothers fan so I was somewhere probably inbetween being a fan and just playing a gig. I agreed to auditon in a couple days. When I went to the audition there were probably 5-6 other guys there that Frank listened to and I thought I had no chance because these guys could read flyspecks! I was surprised tho when Frank found out that I was the keyboard player for Johnny Guitar Watson and had a memory and ear which subsidized not being able to read music that well. He immediately took a liking to me and we were both Sagistarians. Frank asked me if I sang, I sang "Sunny" and after the rehearshal/audition he asked me to come back tomorrow.

My impression at the time was that he was a guy who knew what he wanted, like myself. and if it was a little 'odd' or away from the norm or what everyone else accepted or liked, it made him no difference. He saw his picture and he was the painter. The first gig was to be a 40-piece orchestra concert at Royce Hall before we started the Mothers tour.

November 21-22, 1975—Yugoslavia

Barbara Lewis, "Zappa Carries Musical 'Mothers' Tongue To Yugoslavian Crowds," The Tennessean Showcase, December 28, 1975

Under any circumstances, Zappa's unique appearance would draw attention. But in Zagreb and Lublijana, where he did two concerts, he chose to wear a floor-length multi-colored coar wtih a matching wooling dunce cap.

His attire kept him out of the dining rooms of the posh new Intercontinental Hotel in Zagreb and almost kept him from appearing at his concert in Lublijana when entry guards refused to admit him at the gate.

The government representative, who had invited Zappa and his Mothers of Invention to perform in Yugoslavia, convinced the arena attendant to let the goateed musician in, but nothing moved the hotel's maitre d'. Consequently, while members of his group scared up spare jackets and ties, their leader ate alone in his suite.

Zappa's invitation to Yugoslavia was to draw attention to Interdisc, the country's international record festival, which began this year and marked Yugoslavia's entry as a viable music market.

The music exhibition was held in the Chinese Pavillion at Zagreb's International Industrial Fair, hed each spring and fall. Since Peking has not made use of its fair facilities in three years, the Yugoslavs appropriated the building for Interdisc. Curiously, Zappa's only connection with the exhibition was one visit where he met with the local press.


Zappa appeared in Yugoslavia as a guest of the government, which offered to provide him, his group, his crew, his managemente team and one American journalist with transportation and hotel acomodations.

Both the government and Zappa had ulterior purposes. The Yugoslavs wanted to focus attention on Interdisc and Zappa wanted to showcase his act in hopes that he could open up concert dates behind the Iron Curtain. Yugoslavia, he said, was a first step.


During the three-day trip to Zagreb, [FZ's sound and light] equipment was being used conveniently by Beefheart, while Zappa rented equipment in London. The company they had planned to rent the lights from declared bankruptcy the day the material was to be shipped. A last-minute crew was assembled to go along with the leased equipment.

To add to the last minute problems, the concerts were held in ice hockey arenas and the stage was put directly over the ice. Not only did the perfomers suffer from the cold, but the instruments did as well.


The audiences, both in Zagreb and Lublijana, looked like rock audiences anywhere, in blue jeans, long hair and platform shoes. They were quiet and attentiva, which disturbed the performers until they received three standing ovations.


Uniformed police guarde the doors but were polite and friendly as they escorted drunks from the arena.

Terry Bozzio, interviewed by Andrew Greenaway, The Idiot Bastard, September 29, 1992

I remember Zagreb was literally the smokiest gig I've ever played in my life. It was so smoky that as a comment on it I went out and played the show with an unlit cigarette hanging out of my mouth. The follow spots were like two beacons coming through the fog—like a lighthouse. I had never been in a hockey rink, with 10,000 people, filled with so much smoke in my life. It was probably horribly unhealthy. But the gig went over great. They didn't say a peep through the whole show—we thought we were dying a death—then they stood up and cheered for 20 or 30 minutes. As we left, they were still cheering. It was ridiculous. Then we went to Ljubljana and I remember that I went out after the gig through the arena, which was pretty much empty—went up to the mixing board and was just saying hi to my friends on the crew and there was this guy asleep with his face welded onto the ice—out on drugs. I just remember those images.

FZ, interviewed by Lanny Waggoner, Los Angeles Free Press, January 9-15, 1976

"We played before great audiences in Zagreb and Ljubljana. They spoke good English and knew the old songs. The kids there are into all differant kinds of music, and if those are the Communists of the future, we'll be in pretty good shape, because they were real nice.

But the older generation there was real weird and hostile. It was hard to get something to eat in the hotels, and they had detectives checkin' the rooms for girls. The detectives also followed Napoleon Murphy Brock around the hotel. There were maybe two other black people in the hotel. When Norma Bell went into a public toilet, this woman freaked off and wanted to touch her hair because she'd never seen an Afro. It was total culture shock.

[...] We were guests of the Yugoslav government, and although government 'attention' was in evidence, it wasn't oppressive. But there are lots of places l'd rather be. I did tell them when we left that I wasn't coming back; but I guess I was wrong, because our upcoming European tour will start in Belgrade. I figure, what can it hurt for one day?"

Then a few days later, Zappa taughtingly added, "It looks like we won't be going back to Belgrade after all, due to time problems."

FZ, interviewed by Rob Fixmer, Bugle American, December 17, 1975

I got visions of Centerville from 200 Motels in your description of your reception in Yugoslavia: You know, with the images of the barbed wire fences and all.

Yea, there was a hint of that there. Quite a bit of the time we were just following orders. Even in the dining room. The guy who was the maitre d' wouldn't let us order anything. It was really hard to get anything good to eat.


Well, first of all your jacket wasn't right. So you change your jacket and your pants aren't right, and your hair ain't right, and this ain't right, and that's wrong, or you don't have a meal ticket. Or if you do have a meal ticket, it's got the wrong date on it. And if you ask any questions everybody's just following orders.

What's the story? Is everybody there on a meal ticket?

Well, we had meal tickets because we were guests of the government.

Was Yugoslavia the only so-called Iron Curtain country you visited on this tour?

They poo-poo the idea of that being an Iron Curtain country. They don't approve of the term. I suppose because they are the most liberal of all the "Bloc" countries.

Because of Uncle Tito?

Yea, and when they show you around you'd think they'd just discovered the wheel And they haven't really quite come around yet, so you see these people—not horses, but people—dragging these wagons with the big wooden wheels. Ladies with the babushkas on their heads, big coats and monster shoes, pulling wagons with twigs that they're gonna burn in their fireplace, I guess.

November 21, 1975—Sportska Dvorana, Zagreb, Yugoslavia

Zagreb, 1975

November 22, 1975—Hala Tivoli, Ljubljana, Yugoslavia

Jani Guna, "Frank Zappa," Our Space, November 3, 2017

Ljubljana, 1975
[Napoleon Murphy Brock, Norma Jean Bell, FZ, Roy Estrada]

Ljubljana, 1975

Today is seem sheer impossible, but I have to tell the truth, that this tour was called in by our late Yugoslavian government itself, which gave Zappa and his team to know, that they arranged for his transportation, hotel rooms, concert, interviews on the Zagreb fair Interdisc and everything that came along.

Ralphe Armstrong

Jon Liebman, "Ralph Armstrong Exclusive Interview," For Bass Players Only, August 9, 2010

When the Mahavishnu group disbanded, I went out with Frank Zappa. That was in '76. I did a Canadian tour with him. We did some recordings but I don't know what happened to them.

I think I met Zappa on a show. We opened for him. And he was freaking out at how I played the bass. And what's so funny about when I worked with Zappa was that Zappa had me bring every damn instrument I had on the road! It was so funny. I had my bass violin with the Barcus Berry pickup on it, digital effects with it, I had an electric sitar John McLaughlin gave me. He had me play that. All the shit I had on the stage! All kinds of basses! I was 19 when I played with Zappa. And what's so funny is that Zappa was a character, man. He called me when he came to Detroit in '76 because I was burnt out from traveling, you know. We worked so much. And I came to Cobo Hall and played with him right in Detroit. He had me sit in on stage with him. The next thing I knew, he was sending me an airplane ticket. He also put me on salary, like John McLaughlin did. Back then, it was different. They would put you on salary. I was part of his company. [...]

I got some music of his that I'm holding on to that was never played. I've never seen a human being write as fine as Frank Zappa, no human being. And I've seen some of the great writers. I mean the penmanship was like a computer, a work of art. It was incredible that way he could write. [...]

I played with Zappa for about seven months and then I quit. And I did it on good terms, as a friend. I told him I was just burnt out. For the type of tour he was doing, it was like being in the military. It would wear you out. There was no time. It would kill you. We would work every day, just about. You'd get up in the morning at 7:30, go have breakfast, leave the hotel at 8:30, get on the plane—he had his own plane—and then you'd go to the next venue. You'd go to the hotel for 30 minutes, you'd leave the hotel, go to the sound check for an hour-and-a-half, then eat dinner right after the sound check, then go back to the hotel for one hour, leave the hotel, go to the concert, then, when you got through with the concert at around 11:10, you'd get back at your hotel at about 11:35 and that was your free time. There was nothing. No leeway. Even when we had a day off, we were having dinner together. I was burnt out. I told him I had to leave. And he was so cool. He was a good guy.

December 6, 1975—Civic Arena, Ottawa, Canada

Bill Provick, "Listeners Walk Out As Zappa Concert Drones On," The Citizen, Ottawa, December 8, 1975, p. 59

Saturday night we dragged ourselves away from a tedious but intriguing jigsaw puzzle to join 5,000 people at the Civic Centre for a concert by Frank Zappa and his current edition of the Mothers of Invention.

[...] The evening started well with a fine 40-minute warm up set by Myles and Lenny from Toronto. [...]

The crowd was anxious to greet its here, the king of American freak jive, but Zappa had a trick up his sleeve and failed to appear when the house lights finally dimmed and the spartan stage was beautifully illuminated.

Instead a "tape of a CBC interview just completed in Zappa's dressing room" was blasted through the sound system.

In the "interview," Zappa did A Rap on the Poodle, bringing it to a slightly obscene punch line before swinging into a long rap on his costly hassles to sue England's Royal Albert Hall.

Zappa seemed to be hung up on berating the Queen for all his troubles, managing to somehow tie her in to the fact that his records don't get played on AM radio. [...]

The crowd seemed just mildly amused by Zappa's soap-box oratory and became visibly and vocally impatient long before the band finally arrived to end the 10-minute "interview."

Dressed in white with bright beams of light reflecting from his guitar, Zappa finally ignited the stage with his presence and immediately unleashed a marvelous stream of tight, crisp, charmingly demented rock. Not even pausing for applause, he dazzled the audience with his quick flashes of musical genius and his sometimes refreshing literary inventiveness.

[...] At first the concert were suitably animated to keep us interested and involved with what was happening on stage. This initial excellence climaxed with a marvelous, stylized soul routine by the lead singer [...].

Unfortunately, from here the show seemed to degenerate into a series of antiseptic guitar solos by Zappa—many were fine, but not very entertaining.

[...] The more Zappa eased up and the more his stage presence ebbed, the more routine did his musical mini-masterpieces sound. As he droned on, I couldn't help yawning and twisting restlessly in my seat as a stream of people began to trickle from the arena.

Back-to-back saxophone solos sounded strident this late in the show and a cleverly-lit drum solo frequently sounded like cats fighting in metal garbage cans.

After all the tedium that had set in, Zappa's duet with keyboardist reawakened some spirit and he and the band swung in to one more uptempo tune to close the show.

While the majority of the crowd cheered for an encore, others continued to leave the premises. [...]

Hamilton, Ontario—December 7, 1975—Eddie Jobson Audition

Eddie Jobson interviewed by Jay Yu, Art Rock, October 26, 1995

Eddie Jobson: "Black Napkins" was my audition track. I went on tour with Zappa when I was still with Roxy Music. Frank flew me to Canada, and I went around with him on tour in Canada after Roxy tour. I used to play in the dressing room with Frank and Norma Bell, saxophone player. One night I was playing in the dressing room little bit. I think it was Montreal . . . no, it was Hamilton, Ontario. He just said, "I want you to come on the stage tonight." From the dressing room. I was just like traveling around with him, but he wanted me to play on the stage. I was completely unprepared and had no idea of what was going on the stage. It was like 5 minutes before the concert started. So I had to go on the stage with the violin. He played this "Black Napkins," which he wrote on this tour, and that was my audition in front of 10,000 people. He pointed me, and I had to do solo over "Black Napkins." Then he did something else, and he sent the keyboard player off the stage, put me on the keyboard, and he did some other songs. I forget what we did . . . and again that was like part of my audition. He just pointed like solo, you know. I was playing this guy's keyboard, and I didn't even know how it worked. I tried to read the knobs and expressive devices because he had a synthesizer that I didn't even know . . . old Roland synthesizer, and it had a Hammond organ on it. I was just trying to read the synthesizer.

Art Rock: On the stage?

Jobson: On the stage! This is my live audition, and next night I think I played again with him in Montreal.


December 31, 1975—Forum, Inglewood, CA

Forum, Inglewood

Forum, 1975

Jennifer Stace, "Philospher's Daughter," LA Knockers's Blog, June 22, 2010

I choreographed films and commercials and created the avant-guard comedy troop, The LA Knockers. Regulars at the Comedy Store and the Improv, The Knockers performed with Zappa and Dr. John at the Forum, were featured in Dick Clark's Rock and Roll Revue (Las Vegas), and toured the U.S., Canada and overseas during their twelve-year run.

Al Fresco, Zappateers, October 29, 2016 (from Herb Cohen's auction)

Forum, Inglewood
[Dr. John, LA Knockers, FZ]

Ongaku Senka, Japan, March 1976, p. 110

Ongaku Senka, March, 1976, p. 110

Tan Mitsugu, February 15, 2019

The photos that accompanied the [Ongaku Senka, March 1976] interview were shot during the concert at the Forum in Inglewood, CA on Dec. 31, 1975. (In the photo on p. 110, you can see several members of the L.A. Knockers Dance Troupe carrying huge "visual aids".) [Armando] Gallo also wrote a very short review of the concert on p. 88, stating that the audience got wildly excited at the New Year celebration with dancers holding colorful balloons and feathers, and a giant baby doll that symbolized the beginning of 1976.


Additional informant: Tan Mitsugu.

c. 1975?—Dick Barber quits

Bob Zappa with Bob Stannard, Frankie & Bobby: Growing Up Zappa, 2015, p. 353

After eight years of touring with the Mothers, Richard [Barber] decided to seek a more traditional career path which included selling airplanes and later working as a college administrator.

Dick Barber, interviewed by Andrew Greenaway, The Idiot Bastard Son, April 24, 2023

Initially [my relationship with Gail] was fine. You know she really was kind of a groupie. She'd been with a couple of other musicians—you probably know more than me. I think they were of some note.

[...] But by the mid-70s, it was pretty apparent to me that Gail wanted to be in charge. So I could see the handwriting on the wall. And by that time, I'd had enough. It's tough, touring all of the time.

I tell the story: so were touring in the Chicago-Midwest area, and I wake up in the middle of the night, and I'm in the hotel room, and I can't find the light—for like, a minute. I'm up, out of bed, trying to find the light. And finally, I found the light and turned it on and I went, "Oh my God: we're at the Kensington Gardens in London!" Too many days in a row—that great line out of the Jackson Browne song about being on the road: "We do so many shows in a row, these towns all look the same." Are we in LA, Chicago or whatever!

And then of course, more and more, Gail would pretty much isolate Frank. Did I have any contact with Frank after I left? No. Even Bobby couldn't talk to him. And I'm sure you've read some of the bizarreness to do with the Zappa Family Trust, what she did with that and how she screwed the kids—particularly Dweezil and Moon. So there was a part of Gail that, no, I didn't like.

[...] I was already spending time with another group we were trying to develop out of Herb Cohen's office. I didn't enjoy some of the music that was happening by the mid-70s. And prior to being on the road with Frank, I wasn't dreaming of the day I could be on the road with a band. I thought I would teach fourth grade. But that's what happened: we spent the summer there in 1967, and it was quite an eye-opener for me because I got to see all kinds of great acts . . . who was this kid that everybody was so excited about? He came in and played one night and I didn't think he could sing very well. He had frizzy hair. But everybody was so excited by him. What was his name?

Oh, Bob Dylan—yeah, that's right! [laughs]

Anyway, Bobby told me at one point in his last few years that he really appreciated that I stayed with Frank as long as I did.

[...] You know, I think a tour ended, and then he decided he was not going to work for a while. And I'd kinda gotten ready to go my way, and all of a sudden it was very difficult to get through to Frank because of his wife. And I think the discussion had already started that he was going to leave Herb Cohen, but I was already on my way before that actually happened. So yeah, there were no goodbyes, no thank yous—it just kind of fell apart. Maybe it was because I'd met a woman that I ended up marrying, and I think my life was changing. And I'm sure Frank's was too.

You know, Bobby couldn't talk to him. None of us could.



Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos
This page updated: 2023-12-29