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  Wikipedia: The Mamas & the Papas

Wikipedia: The Mamas & the Papas
The Mamas & the Papas
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.

The Mamas & the Papas were a leading vocal group of the 1960s, and one of the few American groups to maintain widespread success during the British Invasion, along with The Beach Boys.

John Phillips, Cass Elliott, Denny Doherty and Michelle Phillips formed the group after several previous folk groups failed. They hit it big immediately after forming the Mamas & the Papas with "California Dreamin'," still their most recognizable and enduring song.

The name of the band was inspired by a daytime television talk show. Before their first album, the band was known as "The New Journeymen." Wanting a name easier to remember, they were sitting around their house (which all four band members initially shared) brainstorming on a new name. Someone switced on the TV and a talk show was on with a Hell's Angel. The first thing they heard was: "Now hold on there, Hoss. Some people call our women cheap, but we just call them our Mamas." Cass jumped up and exclaimed, "Yeah ! I want to be a Mama." Michelle chimed in that she wanted to be a "Mama" too. John and Denny looked at each other and John said, "Papas? Okay, problem solved." And the band had a new name.

In interviews, former band members confide that their recording sessions (and lifestyles) were usually heavily drug-laden, with large reserves of marijuana and other popular '60s drugs on hand. They even admit that their drug activites were usually openly viewed by their young children, also usually present at recording sessions.

The break up of The Mamas and the Papas can be likened to that of Camelot: as infidelity destroyed King Arthur's kingdom, so did it tear apart the four members of the band. John Phillips married Michelle long before the formation of the band when she was just seventeen. Early on in the band's history, when they were still "The New Journeymen" sans Cass Elliott, Michelle and Doherty began an affair. They were able to keep it secret from the other two band members for quite some time. During a trip to Mexico, Denny revealed his affair to Elliot, who was furious (since she was secretly in love with Doherty). Soon afterwards, John Phillips caught Michelle and Doherty in the act and moved out of the house.

John couldn't stand to live with Michelle afterwards and so moved back in with Doherty. They were both still in love with Michelle and one day confronted her and told her to decide between them. Initially she couldn't decide, but eventually went back with John before leaving him again. At this point she fled into the arms of Gene Clark of The Byrds (friends and rivals of The Mamas & the Papas). After one concert where Michelle blew kisses to front-row-seated Clark, John said he couldn't stand to perform with Michelle any longer. Consulting their attorney, they drafted a formal statement kicking Michelle out of the band.

At this point they hired a new band member to replace Michelle, Jill Gibson, girlfriend of their producer. Gibson wasn't a singer (but arguably, Michelle wasn't much of a singer either), but learned to sing within a few weeks. Her most important asset, however, was that she was a good replacement for Michelle: long blonde hair, slim figure, pretty face, etc. Shortly after they started touring with her, however, it became apparent that the fans weren't happy with the substitution of Michelle. At every concert, the crowd would scream, "Where's Mama Michelle?", "We want Mama Michelle!" Shortly afterwards, they re-introduced Michelle to the band's lineup and ejected Jan.

Michelle moved back in with John and the band tried to forge ahead and things seemed fine for a while (at least they pretended they were). Doherty was drinking heavily trying to forget Michelle and had a hard time seeing her back with John. Eventually the band closed The First Monterey International Pop Festival, but performed dismally.

The band tried to work on another album (to which they were contractually obligated). After making no progress, they decided to take a trip to Europe to spark their creativity. While in England at a party thrown by the record company, Elliott was talking to Mick Jagger. John approached them and made an insulting remark about her in front of the guests. Digusted and humiliated, she stormed out of the party and quit the band. The record company released a Greatest Hits compilation as a stop-gap measure. Cass was contractly obligated for the next album, however, and appeared on "The Papas and the Mamas."

The band broke up in 1968.

Cass Elliott started a very successful solo career and toured the U.S. and Europe. In reviewing their contracts, the record company decided the band owed them one more album. After about a year apart, the band regrouped and released their final album "People Like Us" in 1971.

Cass Elliott died while on tour of a heart attack on July 29, 1974. "Papa John" Phillips died of heart failure on March 18, 2001.


John's first daughter, Mackenzie Phillips went on to play a teenager in the 1970s TV series One Day at a Time. John and Michelle's daughter, Chynna, would go on to form the band Wilson Phillips along with the daughters of Beach Boy Brian Wilson, with whom she's been friends since infancy. John's last daughter, Bijou Phillips, is a successful actress.

The Mamas and the Papas were inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1986 and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000.


  • Download sample of "California Dreamin'" from If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears

External links


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. 
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