- The Mamas & the Papas
The Mamas & the Papas
From left to right, top to bottom: Denny Doherty, John and Michelle Phillips, and Cass Elliot.
Background information Origin New York City, United States Genres Folk rock, psychedelic rock, sunshine pop Years active 1965–1968
Labels Dunhill Past members John Phillips (1935-2001)
Denny Doherty (1941-2007)
Michelle Phillips (born 1944)
Cass Elliot (1941-1974)
Jill Gibson (1966)
Mackenzie Phillips (1981)
Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane (1981)
The Mamas & the Papas (credited as The Mama's and the Papa's on the debut album cover and sometimes shortened to Mamas & Papas) were a Canadian/American vocal group of the 1960s (Denny Doherty was from Canada). The group recorded and performed from 1965 to 1968 with a short reunion in 1971, releasing five albums and 11 Top 40 hit singles. They have sold nearly 40 million records worldwide.
Their signature sound was based on four-part male/female vocal harmonies arranged by John Phillips, the band's songwriter, who managed to "leave the folk music behind" and blend his writing with the new "beat" sound in an unprecedented mode.
- 1 History
- 2 Aftermath
- 3 Legacy
- 4 Discography
- 5 Awards and nominations
- 6 References
- 7 External links
After the split-up of their two previous folk groups—The Mugwumps and The New Journeymen—bandmates Denny Doherty and John Phillips formed a new group, which included John's wife Michelle. The last member to join was Cass Elliot, though chief songwriter Phillips never wanted Elliot in the group as he was convinced that there was no way they could succeed in the music industry because of her size.
After briefly being known as The Magic Cyrcle, the group found they disliked the name. One night, the Hells Angels were on a talk show; one member said "Now hold on there, Hoss. Some people call our women cheap, but we just call them our Mamas." Cass stood up and said, "Yeah! I want to be a Mama!" Michelle joined Cass; they danced around, chanting "We're the Mamas! We're the Mamas!" After a couple of minutes of this, John and Denny looked at each other and shrugged. "The Papas?" From then, shortly after signing a five-album contract with Dunhill Records, they referred to themselves as The Mamas and The Papas.
Early commercial success
The band's first single, "Go Where You Wanna Go", was released in 1965, failing to chart. However, the second single, "California Dreamin'", was released later in 1965 and quickly peaked at number 4 in the US, while in the UK, it peaked at number 23. The band's debut album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, was released in early 1966 and became the band's only number 1 album on the Billboard 200. The third and final single from their debut was "Monday, Monday", which became the band's only US number 1 hit. The song brought the band international success when it peaked at number 3 in the UK Singles Chart.
After it was discovered that Michelle Phillips and Doherty were having an affair, tension in the band erupted. Consulting their attorney, Abe Somer, as well as their label Dunhill Records, the band drafted a formal statement expelling Michelle from the group in June 1966 - in the midst of recording their second album, The Mamas & the Papas. At this point they hired a new singer to replace Michelle, Jill Gibson, girlfriend of their producer Lou Adler. Gibson was already a singer/songwriter who had performed on several Jan and Dean albums. Although Gibson was not known as a strong singer, she learned to sing Michelle's parts within three weeks while the band was in London. Who sang on the second album is a disputed point, and further confused by using Jill Gibson to dub over an unknown number of vocals on the second album. Gibson says she sang all but two songs. Rock Historian Greg Russo says studio records show Michelle had already recorded six songs for the second album with the group in April 1966, including the singles "I Saw Her Again" and "Words of Love." Gibson recorded with John, Cass and Denny in July and early August 1966. Michelle was asked to rejoin the group by the end of August and went right into the studio, and Gibson was let go and received an undisclosed payment for her part. Producer Lou Adler states in the book Go Where You Wanna Go that Gibson sang on "maybe six songs", but Michelle re-recorded them when she returned. In the same book, Michelle Phillips is quoted as saying that she does not know for sure who is singing on the second album, that she and Jill both recorded many of the same songs. Phillips says only Engineer Bones Howe and Producer Lou Adler know for sure who was on the final record.
The first single from the album, "I Saw Her Again" was about the affair. It peaked at number five in the US and number eleven in the UK. There is a false start at the final chorus of the song, which John Sebastian later mimicked on the Lovin' Spoonful song, "Darlin' Be Home Soon" (Kenny Loggins' "I'm Alright" repeated the theme in 1980). Paul McCartney, however, was not impressed by the way the group came in too soon on the recording. "That has to be a mistake. Nobody's that clever," he told the group.
When the album was released afterwards, it peaked at number four in the US, continuing the band's success, but peaked at number 24 in the UK. "Words of Love" was released as the second single in the US and peaked at number five in the US. In the UK, it was released as a double A-side with "Dancing in the Street" and peaked at number 47. "Dancing in the Street" was released as the third and final single in the US and peaked at number 75.
The band then recorded its third album, Deliver. During this time Doherty was drinking heavily, trying to get over Michelle Phillips. As the closing act of the first Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967, the band performed dismally. John and Michelle Phillips and Lou Adler organized the festival, and according to interviews with the members of the group, they were all so caught up in the festival they never got around to rehearsing. That, combined with Doherty's last-minute arrival from Canada, resulted in the mediocre performance.
The first single from the album was "Look Through My Window", which peaked at number 24 in the US, but failed to chart in the UK. However, the second single, "Dedicated to the One I Love", gave the band a comeback, peaking at number two in both the US and the UK. That success helped the album peak at a strong number two in the US and number four in the UK. The third single "Creeque Alley" showcased the band's history before their success. It peaked at number five in the US and number nine in the UK. The fourth and final single, a cover of "My Girl", peaked at number fifteen in the US, but failed to chart in the UK.
Shortly afterward, a non-album single called "Glad to be Unhappy" was released and peaked at number 26 in the US, but failed to chart in the UK. Also that year, a song from the group's second album titled Dancing Bear was released as a single and peaked at number 51 in the US, but also failed to chart in the UK.
First break-up and fourth album
The band then made their final television appearance together where they performed some of their most popular songs, on The Ed Sullivan Show in June 1967. During the ensuing conversation with Sullivan, they revealed that they would be taking a long vacation but would return. Because of this announcement, Dunhill released their first greatest hits album entitled Farewell to the First Golden Era volumes 1 and 2 featuring their early work.
Subsequently in October 1967, the group decided to take a trip to Europe to spark their creativity while recording their fourth album. While in England, Cass Elliot was talking to Mick Jagger at a party thrown by their record label Dunhill Records, and John made an insulting remark about her in front of the guests. Disgusted and humiliated, she stormed out of the party and quit the group. However, Cass was contractually bound for the band's next LP, and therefore appeared on The Papas & the Mamas, their fourth album.
The first single "12:30 (Young Girls Are Coming to the Canyon)" peaked at number 20 in the US, but failed to chart in the UK. The album was then released and was another commercial success in both the UK and US (although it was their first album not to go gold or peak in the top ten in America). After the second single, "Safe In My Garden" failed on the charts, only making it to number 53, their label released Elliot's solo song from the album, a cover of "Dream a Little Dream of Me" and it ended up peaking at number twelve in the U.S. It also became their first single to chart in the UK after five failed singles, peaking at number eleven. It was their only single to ever chart higher in the UK than the U.S.
Second break-up and final split
After the success of "Dream a Little Dream of Me", Elliot admitted she wanted to embark on a solo career. The fourth and final single from the band's fourth album was "For the Love of Ivy", which peaked at number 81 in the US and failed to chart in the UK. For the second time, their label released a single from their previous work. A song from their debut titled "Do You Wanna Dance" was released as a single, but failed to chart in the UK and peaked at number 76 in the U.S.
After the official breakup, John Phillips issued the country-flavored album The Wolf King of LA, featuring the minor hit single, "Mississippi", but it was not a commercial success. In the television special, Straight Shooter: The True Story of John Phillips and The Mamas and the Papas, other band members said that if they had recorded the material from that album, it might have been their best album and would certainly have been a hit.
In reviewing their contracts, their record company held that the band owed them one more album and threatened to sue each member of the band for US$250,000 for breach of contract. Subsequently in 1971, after about a year of John catching the other members as they passed through town, teaching them their parts and then overdubbing them on tape, the band released their final album People Like Us. The only single, "Step Out", peaked at number 81 in the US and failed to chart in the UK. With the failure of the lead single, the album failed to chart in the UK and became the first album of the band's not to chart in the top 20 on the Billboard 200, peaking at number 84.
After the failure, the band officially split, with each member embarking on solo careers.
After the final breakup, Cass Elliot had a successful solo career, touring the U.S. and Europe, becoming popular with hits such as "Make Your Own Kind of Music" and "It's Getting Better". The three albums she recorded for RCA, (Cass Elliot, The Road Is No Place for a Lady, both released in 1972 and Don't Call Me Mama Anymore, released in 1973) contained singles, but none hit the charts.
She had many successful appearances on American variety shows, including the highly popular Carol Burnett Show and the CBS game show Match Game '73. She also starred in two U.S. prime-time network television specials - The Mama Cass Television Program airing on ABC in January 1969 and Don't Call Me Mama Anymore airing on CBS in September 1973, the soundtrack of which was her third and final album for RCA.
After featuring her solo act in a sold-out two-week engagement at the London Palladium in July 1974, Elliot died of a heart attack in a London flat owned by Harry Nilsson following the closing night performance on July 29. The night before she died, she had called Michelle in Los Angeles to tell her how thrilled she was about getting standing ovations. Michelle Phillips says that Cass Elliot "died a very happy woman." Her former band mates and Lou Adler all attended her funeral in Los Angeles.
John Phillips' "Mississippi" peaked at #32 on the Hot 100 on 18 July 1970, and he continued to write songs for solo performers and other acts. Perhaps his best-known effort outside of The Mamas & the Papas was as co-writer of the Beach Boys' #1 hit "Kokomo".
In the 1980s, John reunited with Denny Doherty and formed The New Mamas and The Papas, with John's daughter Mackenzie Phillips and Elaine "Spanky" McFarlane (of the group Spanky and Our Gang). After some initial success, Doherty dropped out of the band in 1987 because he was discontented with John’s drug abuse. The band continued to prosper and John's old friend Scott McKenzie replaced Denny until 1991 when John Phillips began to show signs of liver failure and became very ill. Mackenzie Phillips also continued to struggle with drug abuse and was permanently replaced by Laurie Beebe, former vocalist of re-formed group The Buckinghams in 1991. John Phillips dropped out of the group after a liver transplant in 1992 and Doherty reclaimed his original position with McKenzie replacing John on the front line until the breakup of the band in 1994. Throughout the rest of his life, Phillips toured with various versions of the group playing smaller venues, reunion shows, and television specials. He died of heart failure on March 18, 2001.
His final album, Phillips 66, was released posthumously in August 2001. John's version of The Mamas & the Papas' story is told in the PBS television special, Straight Shooter: The True Story of John Phillips and The Mamas and the Papas.
Denny Doherty released a few solo LPs and singles after the breakup of the Mamas and the Papas, however none charted. Of note are 1971's Whatcha Gonna Do? and 1974's Waiting For A Song. The latter LP went unreleased in the U.S. and featured both Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliot on background. The recordings would be Elliot's last as she died in London shortly after the record was made, but the album did feature a solo hit with a rendition of the standard "You'll Never Know" on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1974 however, after which Denny went on to host a popular variety show in Canada.
In response to Straight Shooter: The True Story of John Phillips and The Mamas and the Papas, Denny produced his own stage musical Dream a Little Dream (the nearly true story of The Mamas and The Papas). It featured music from the group and focused on his relationship with Mama Cass. It was, he said, to "set the record straight".
Denny Doherty died on January 19, 2007, at his home in Mississauga, Ontario, from kidney failure following surgery on an abdominal aneurysm.
After appearing in the 1973 movie Dillinger and following the unsuccessful release of a 1977 album, Victim of Romance, Michelle Phillips went on to a successful acting career, appearing in Bloodline (1979), The Man with Bogart's Face a 1980 Sam Spade tribute/spoof, American Anthem (1986) and Let It Ride in 1989.
As the last surviving original member of The Mamas and The Papas, and the copyright owner for the song "California Dreamin", Michelle was a major contributor to the 2005 PBS Television Special California Dreamin': The Songs of The Mamas and the Papas.
Their first successful single, "California Dreamin'", was re-released in the UK and peaked at number nine in 1997.
John's eldest daughter from his first marriage, Mackenzie Phillips, had a successful career as an actress in the mid-1970s, having first appeared in George Lucas's hit film American Graffiti (1973) and then in the successful television series One Day at a Time, but found her success so overshadowed by her problems with drug addiction—habits that she had shared with her father—that by 1979 her career had effectively ended because of her inability to work. It was not until the 1990s and 2000s that she would rebuild her career, mostly with guest-starring roles on a string of popular television dramas. John's and Michelle's daughter, Chynna, would go on to form the band Wilson Phillips along with Carnie Wilson and Wendy Wilson (the daughters of Beach Boy Brian Wilson), with whom she has been friends since infancy.
John's youngest daughter, Bijou Phillips, is an actress and model.
In 1986, the three surviving members of The Mamas and the Papas, John Phillips, Denny Doherty and Michelle Phillips were featured in The Beach Boys music video California Dreaming from the album Made in the U.S.A..
The Mamas and the Papas were inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998, the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000 and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2009. Much press was given to their Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction, as the members of the group, especially John Phillips, had publicly stated their dislike for each other. At the 1998 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony the 3 surviving members accepted the award, with Cass Elliot's daughter accepting for her. Michelle Phillips created a memorable moment after all had accepted their awards returning to the podium saying, "I know that Cass is sitting on that big full moon tonight, looking down on these proceedings, wearing a size six Thierry Mugler dress, and thanking you all very, very much." The audience then burst into applause. The group then performed "California Dreamin'".
A musical theatre work of The Mamas and Papas story, is being developed in Australia, for performance in 2011.
Dream a Little Dream: The Nearly True Story of The Mamas & The Papas, by Denny Doherty and Paul Ledoux, a world premier musical at the Phoenix Theatre 2007/2012.
The Mamas & The Papas recordings were originally released on ABC Dunhill Records. In 1973, executives at ABC Dunhill (Jay Lasker is generally blamed) decided to discard all the multi-track recordings and mono masters in order to save storage space. Fellow labelmates Three Dog Night suffered the same loss as The Mamas & The Papas where their original recordings are lost, except for the stereo album masters. As a result, re-issues on CD are remastered from the album masters (usually second or third generation tape) which results in lesser sound quality than that of other catalogs from the era. 
Year Album Label & number (U.S.) U.S. Billboard U.S. Cashbox UK 1966 If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears Dunhill D 50006 (Mono)/DS 50006 (Stereo) 1 2 - 1966 The Mamas & the Papas Dunhill D 50010/DS 50010 4 5 3 1967 The Mamas and the Papas Deliver Dunhill D 50014/DS 50014 2 1 4 1968 The Papas & The Mamas Dunhill DS 50031 15 10 - 1971 Monterey International Pop Festival Dunhill DS 50100 226 - - 1971 People Like Us Dunhill DSX 50106 84 45 -
Greatest Hits compilations
Year Album Label & number (U.S.) U.S. Billboard U.S. Cashbox UK 1967 Farewell To The First Golden Era Dunhill D 50025/DS 50025 5 5 - 1968 Golden Era, Vol. 2 Dunhill DS 50038 53 41 - 1969 Hits Of Gold Stateside 5007 - - 7 1969 16 Greatest Hits Dunhill DS 50064 61 72 - 1972 Monday, Monday Pickwick SPC-3380 ? ? ? 1973 20 Golden Hits Dunhill DSX 50145 186 161 - 1998 Greatest Hits MCA Records 11740 ? ? 30
- Many other greatest hits packages have been released world-wide since the group's split.
Year Title Label & number (U.S.) Chart positions Album (Both sides from the same album except B-side titles where indicated) Billboard Hot 100 Cashbox UK 1965 "Go Where You Wanna Go"
B-side: "Somebody Groovy"
Dunhill 4018 - - - If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears "California Dreamin'"
B-side: "Somebody Groovy"
Dunhill 4020 4 4 23; 9 (1997 re-release) 1966 "Monday, Monday"
B-side: "Got A Feeling"
Dunhill 4026 1 1 3 "I Saw Her Again"
B-side: "Even If I Could"
Dunhill 4031 5 6 11 The Mamas and the Papas "Words of Love" / Dunhill 4057 5 6 47 "Dancing in the Street" 73 75 - "Look Through My Window"
B-side: "Once Was A Time I Thought" (from The Mamas and the Papas album)
Dunhill 4050 24 14 - Deliver 1967 "Dedicated to the One I Love"
B-side: "Free Advice"
Dunhill 4077 2 2 2 "Creeque Alley"
B-side: "Did You Ever Want To Cry"
Dunhill 4083 5 5 9 "Glad to Be Unhappy"
B-side: "Hey Girl" (Billboard Bubbled Under charts #134)
Dunhill 4107 26 23 - non-album single "Dancing Bear"
B-side: "John's Music Box" (from the Deliver album)
Dunhill 4113 51 36 - The Mamas and the Papas "Twelve Thirty"
B-side: "Straight Shooter" (Billboard Bubbled Under charts #130)
Dunhill 4099 20 15 - Papas & The Mamas 1968 "Safe In My Garden"
B-side: "Too Late"
Dunhill 4125 43 - "Dream a Little Dream of Me"
B-side: "Midnight Voyage"
Dunhill 4145 12 10 11 "For The Love Of Ivy"
B-side: "Strange Young Girls" (from The Mamas and the Papas album)
Dunhill 4150 81 59 - "Do You Wanna Dance"
B-side: "My Girl" (from the Deliver album)
Dunhill 4171 76 43 - If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears 1972 "Step Out"
B-side: "Shooting Star"
Dunhill 4301 81 - - People Like Us
- 1 "Dancing in the Street" was backed with "Words of Love" in the UK as a double A-side.
- 2 "California Dreamin'" was re-released in the UK in 1997.
Awards and nominations
Year Type Award Result 1967 Grammy Awards Record of the Year ("Monday, Monday") Nominated Best Performance by a Vocal Group ("Monday, Monday") Nominated Best Contemporary (R&R) Group Performance, Vocal or Instrumental ("Monday, Monday") Won Best Contemporary (R&R) Recording ("Monday, Monday") Nominated 2001 Grammy Hall of Fame Award ("California Dreamin'") Won
- ^ 
- ^ A line from the song Creeque Alley
- ^ Fiegel, Eddi. "Mother of invention". The Independent. 5 May 2005.
- ^ a b c "US Folk Rock". Rock Family Trees. 1999.
- ^ Dream a Little Dream, page 11 from Doherty's website
- ^ "There´s no way to know who sang on what, because we both sang on all the parts, and it was up to Bones and Lou and John (Phillips) what was on the final mix. And they had a lot to chose from! When you listen to the second album... listen to it... because I swear I don´t have any idea who´s singing on it." Michelle Phillips in: Matthew Greenwald, Go Where You Wanna Go, New York 2002, p. 142
- ^ "Denny Doherty obituary"
- ^ "Dream a Little Dream", page 15 from Denny Doherty's website
- ^ http://www.casselliot.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=475
- ^ a b c Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 345. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
- The Official Cass Elliot site
- "Dream a Little Dream" - The History of The Mamas & the Papas as remembered by Denny Doherty
- The John E A Phillips Appreciation Group on Facebook
- Text of Interview with Scott McKenzie and John Phillips
- The Mamas & the Papas interviewed on the Pop Chronicles (1969).
- 'The Mamas and The Papas' Vocal Group Hall of Fame Page
- creequealley.com - Analysis of the lyrics of Creeque Alley
Studio albums CompilationsFarewell to the First Golden Era (1967) • Golden Era, Vol. 2 (1968) • Hits of Gold (1969) • 16 Greatest Hits (1969) • 20 Golden Hits (1973) • Greatest Hits (1998) Singles"Go Where You Wanna Go" (1965) • "California Dreamin'" (1965) • "Monday, Monday" (1966) • "I Saw Her Again" (1966) • "Words of Love" (1966) • "Dancing in the Street" (1966) • "Look Through My Window" (1966) • "Dedicated to the One I Love" (1967) • "Creeque Alley" (1967) • "My Girl" (1967) • "Glad to Be Unhappy" (1967) • "Dancing Bear" (1967) • "Twelve Thirty" (1967) • "Safe In My Garden" (1968) • "Dream a Little Dream of Me" (1968) • "For the Love of Ivy" (1968) • "Do You Wanna Dance" (1968) • "Step Out" (1972) Albums Collaborations Compilations Live Singles"Dream a Little Dream of Me" · "California Earthquake" · "Move in a Little Closer, Baby" · "It's Getting Better" · "Make Your Own Kind of Music" · "New World Coming" · "A Song That Never Comes" · "The Good Times Are Coming" · "Don't Let the Good Life Pass You By" Related ArticlesThe Mamas & the Papas Chynna Phillips · Carnie Wilson · Wendy Wilson Studio albums Compilation albumsGreatest Hits (2000) Singles Related topics Book:Wilson Phillips • Category:Wilson Phillips • Portal:Music
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