The Mamas And The Papas

 The Mamas And The Papas

 Cass Elliot – circa 1967

 “We both knew people sometimes change / And lovers sometimes rearrange” – ‘Look Through My Window’ (John Phillips)

Michelle Phillips is dumbfounded.  It is June 1966 and she has been given a letter signed by John Phillips, Denny Doherty and Cass Elliot, her three colleagues in American folk rock vocal group The Mamas And The Papas.  She is advised that her “services would no longer be required.”  Michelle’s dismissal proves to be temporary; she is back with the group in August 1966.  However the story behind the incident is crucial to the rise and fall of the fortunes of The Mamas And The Papas.

The story begins with John Phillips (30 August 1935 – 18 March 2001).  He is born in Parris Island, South Carolina, U.S.A.  John’s father is an officer in the United States Marine Corps.  John’s mother is a Native American of the Cherokee tribe.  John Phillips is raised in Alexandria, Virginia.  He has ‘a chaotic home life with a difficult childhood and adolescence.’  The boy seems headed for a dead end.  John Phillips dallies with The Del Ray Locals, his first brush with being in a band.  His parents send him to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland.  While this may have helped young John straighten up, what really saves him is music.

As John Phillips becomes a professional musician in 1957, he marries for the first time.  Susan Adams, a Baltimore socialite, bears him two children, a son named Jeffrey (born 1958) and a daughter named Laura a.k.a. McKenzie (born 10 November 1959).  John Phillips’ musical career ranges ‘from pop to soft jazz and finally [to] folk music.’  In 1957, the same year he marries Susan Adams, John Phillips moves to New York’s Greenwich Village.

Folk music is perhaps at its commercial apex in the early 1960s.  Bob Dylan is the most famous figure in the field but, at the time, Dylan is comparatively unknown and championed only by the cognoscenti.  To the average listener, folk music means clean-cut harmony groups like The Kingston Trio, playing acoustic guitars and singing traditional songs passed down from previous generations.

So it is that John Phillips’ first forays into folk are with three-piece harmony groups.  The first of these is The Smoothies.  This combo is abandoned for The Journeymen, another trio, consisting of John Phillips, Dick Weissman and Scott McKenzie.

Holly Michelle Gilliam (born 6 April 1944) enters the story at this point.  She is born in Long Beach, California.  She is the daughter of Gardner Burnett Gilliam, a merchant marine, and Joyce Leon (nee Poole), an accountant.  Michelle – or Michy (pronounced Mitchy) as she is sometimes called – moves to New York City in 1962, hoping to use her good looks to become a model.  The 18 year old Michelle meets 27 year old John Phillips.

In 1962 John Phillips divorces his wife, Susan.  As his marriage comes to an end, so does The Journeymen.

On 31 December 1962 John Phillips marries Michelle Gilliam.

John relaunches The Journeymen as The New Journeymen.  The other members are Marshall Brickman and John’s new wife, Michelle.  “He announced to me one day that he wanted me to join the new group,” Michelle recalls.  John’s reasoning is that it will allow Michelle to accompany him on tours and it will reduce travelling costs for them both.  A pretty face probably won’t hurt their commercial fortunes either.  The only problem Michelle foresees is that “not one of us could sing a note…on our own.  We needed a singer.”

Cass Elliot (born Ellen Naomi Cohen, 19 September 1941 – 29 July 1974) will, eventually, be one of those who rectify this deficiency.  She is born in Baltimore, Maryland.  Her father owns a delicatessen.  Ellen Cohen is a plus-sized girl, but she also has a plus-sized voice.

Pursuing her interest in singing, the young woman begins performing in New York’s off-Broadway theatre scene under the name of Cassandra Elliot.  After a stint in a touring production of ‘The Music Man’, Cass Elliot becomes part of New York’s folk music community.  She begins working with Tim Rose, coincidentally a former associate of John Phillips’ earlier project, The Smoothies.  With the addition of James Hendricks, a folk musician hailing from Nebraska, they become The Triumvirate.  Elliot, Rose and Hendricks change their act’s name to The Big 3.  They find a regular gig at New York club The Bitter End and go on to release two albums – ‘The Big 3’ (1963) and ‘Live At The Recording Studio’ (1964) – a handful of singles and lend their vocals to a couple of television commercials.  The Big 3 exist from 1963 to 1964.  In 1963 Cass Elliot marries James Hendricks, but it is just a formality to enable Hendricks to avoid being drafted to serve in the U.S. army.

The other singer who will come to work with John and Michelle Phillips and Cass Elliot is Denny Doherty (29 November 1941 – 19 January 2007).  Denny Doherty is born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.  Denny begins his singing career in Canada with The Colonials in the early 1960s, an outfit that later change their name to The Halifax Three.

In 1963 Denny Doherty relocates to the United States.  He gets together with fellow Canadian émigré, Zal Yanovsky, New York folk singer John Sebastian, and Cass Elliot and James Hendricks from The Big 3.  During this formative period, on 9 February 1964 Cass Elliot, like many other Americans, tunes in ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ on television.  The guests are a British band.  Denny Doherty: “Cass saw John Lennon and The Beatles and said, ‘We have to do this.’”  In other words, this bunch of folk musicians wants to become a rock ‘n’ roll band.  Calling themselves The Mugwumps, what they achieve is a rudimentary form of folk rock, a blend of the two genres.  ‘Doherty and Elliot, who were pretty impressive on their own, made a dazzling pair of voices together.’  The Mugwumps exist from May 1964 to November 1964.  John Sebastian and Zal Yanovsky go off to form The Lovin’ Spoonful, a band that practices a more developed form of folk rock.

The Lovin’ Spoonful is not the only folk rock act.  They are springing up everywhere.  It seems that many folk artists, like Cass Elliot, are galvanised by the advent of The Beatles into including some measure of rock in their songs.  In Los Angeles, California, Roger McGuinn, Gene Clark and some associates form The Byrds in 1964 and release their first recordings in 1965.  Similarly, New York folkie Barry McGuire moves to the west coast and has a hit single in 1965 with ‘Eve Of Destruction’.

The New Journeymen have been struggling along through 1963 and 1964 without really getting anywhere.  By late 1964 Marshall Brickman has departed and John and Michelle Phillips take on Denny Doherty, now at liberty with The Mugwumps’ cessation.  As Michelle had insisted, they needed a ‘singer’ and Denny fills the requirement.  He also transmits a love for The Beatles, a concept Cass Elliot had fostered in him.  John Phillips recalls Denny playing him The Beatles’ first (American) album [‘Meet The Beatles’ (1964)].  “Denny sat me down and said ‘I want you to write a lot of songs like those songs.’”

Rock music is not the only source of inspiration for The New Journeymen.  Michelle Phillips says, “Our pot dealer [marijuana supplier] said ‘I have something new’ – L.S.D. 25.”  Just after the musicians have taken the mind-expanding drug, there is a knock at the door.  Michelle answers it just as the effects of the L.S.D. kick in.  Standing there is Cass Elliot in an angora sweater and flamboyant attire.  Denny Doherty’s friend is invited in.  “It was that night The Mamas And The Papas were formed, not musically, but as an idea,” Denny claims.

Since The Mugwumps broke up, Cass Elliot has been singing jazz in Washington, D.C.  Denny Doherty brings John and Michelle Phillips to see Cass sing.  John Phillips has some reservations about Cass because of ‘her sheer size, as well as her strong personality and (supposedly) her voice.’

While the jury is out about Cass Elliot, Michelle Phillips has other concerns.  “I wanted a vacation.”  As a California native, Michelle pleads, “Can’t we go someplace warm?”  Using a credit card issued in the name of The New Journeymen, John Phillips uses money they don’t really have to finance a trip to the Virgin Islands.  The vacationers soon have another companion.  Cass Elliot turns up.  She takes a job as a waitress at the holiday resort where she serves beer and sings fourth harmony with her friends.  John Phillips is still trying to come to terms with the mere idea of Cass.  “John had the sound of a trio in his head,” Denny Doherty claims.  “My recollection is the opposite,” counters Michelle Phillips.  “They wanted Cass in the group, but she was reluctant.”  Self-conscious about her size, Cass feels uncomfortable about appearing on stage next to the slim Michelle.

The quartet spends ‘several months in 1966’ on the beach.  As well as practicing their harmonies and their drug-assisted ‘mind-expanding capabilities’, their personal relationships are defined.   “Denny [Doherty] and I had started this big flirtation,” Michelle Phillips explains, “and Cass [Elliot] was in love with Denny, that was why she was in the group.  John [Phillips] and Denny were best friends, Cass and I were best friends…We [Denny and Michelle] started an affair…” in late 1965.

Eventually the money runs out and it is time to go back to the U.S.A.  Still the outsider, Cass Elliot goes to California while the other three return to New York.  “I think she was so disheartened,” Michelle Phillips observes of Cass.  “I begged them to go to California.”  Cass has crashed at the home of Barry McGuire, the ‘Eve Of Destruction’ singer, whom Cass knows from his days on the New York folk scene.  Soon McGuire has three more houseguests: Denny Doherty, John and Michelle Phillips.  To try to recompense their host, they offer him a song for his next album and undertake to provide backing vocals.

Having finally decided to incorporate Cass Elliot in their group, The New Journeymen resolve to adopt a new designation for the quartet.  The Magic Circle is considered, but inspiration strikes when John Phillips is watching a television documentary about The Hell’s Angels.  The motorcyclists say they refer to their women as ‘mamas’.  Since Phillips’ quartet has two women and two men, they agree to become The Mamas And The Papas.

In the recording studio, Barry McGuire introduces The Mamas And The Papas to producer Lou Adler.  He listens to them as they work through the harmonies for the song they have brought along.  Adler pulls them aside and tells them the song is too good to give away and instructs them to record it themselves.  Thus Barry McGuire misses out on putting his name to ‘California Dreamin’’.  Adler auditions the quartet and after hearing demos of ‘Monday, Monday’, ‘Go Where You Wanna Go’ and ‘I Saw Her Again’, is even more impressed.  The producer wants to sign them to his Dunhill Records label.  John Phillips responds, “Lou, what we want is a steady stream of money from your office to our house.  We don’t have a house yet, and if we did, we couldn’t get there because we don’t have a car.”  So the group get the house, the car and, presumably, the ‘steady stream of money’.

John Phillips is the main songwriter in The Mamas And The Papas.  The songwriting contributions of the group run in virtually the reverse order to their vocal contributions.  That is, John Phillips is the main songwriter with Michelle Phillips and Denny Doherty having some co-writing credits with John, while Cass Elliot has none.  But then, John is the least of the singers and Cass is perhaps the main voice, so it evens out.  John is the only one of the group to regularly play an instrument in the performances, strumming on his trusty guitar.  John is the main architect of the group’s sound.

Michelle Phillips is the group’s female sex symbol.  The one ‘most girls over 13 wanted to be like and most guys over 16, in John Phillips’ words, “wanted to do”.’  While Michelle provides a lot of harmony vocals, she is rarely the lead.  By contrast, Denny Doherty is one of the lead vocalists and since the songs are primarily written from a male perspective (i.e. that of John Phillips), Denny is often in the spotlight.  He is described as possessing ‘an alluring voice that makes women’s hearts flutter.’

Cass Elliot is the most distinctive of the group.  Her image and voice are larger than life.  If Cass had reservations earlier about being compared to Michelle Phillips and found wanting, those doubts faded fast.  “You’ve never seen a girl pull out a pen faster than Cass Elliot,” laughs Michelle, recalling the eagerness of her fame-hungry friend to sign a recording contract.  “Once Cass became a star she wasn’t afraid of anyone, especially not me,” Michelle asserts.

The first single for The Mamas And The Papas is ‘Go Where You Wanna Go’ in 1965.  This is a folky number with a rattling tambourine offset by a big string section.  Did John Phillips suspect his wife’s dalliance with Denny Doherty and purposefully have her sing the line “You don’t understand that a girl like me can’t love just one man”?

Next is ‘California Dreamin’’ (US no. 4, UK no. 9) in 1966.  This is the song that was nearly given away to Barry McGuire.  Officially, the song is written by John Phillips, but this is clearly based on his wife’s longing for the warmer weather of her home state.  Michelle Phillips remembers John waking her up to help him finish the song back when they were still living in New York.  “All the leaves are brown / And the sky is grey,” sings Denny Doherty.  This, their finest song, resolves “I’d be safe and warm / If I was in L.A. [Los Angeles, California] / California dreamin’ / On such a winter’s day.”  Bud Shank plays the flute solo that blows through the jangling melody like a chill wind.  “We were driving up Laurel Canyon [in Los Angeles]…and it came on [the radio],” says a delighted Michelle as she remembers their breakthrough.

The first album by The Mamas And The Papas is ‘If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears’ (1966) (US no. 1, UK no. 3).  It is released in March.  It includes both ‘Go Where You Wanna Go’ and ‘California Dreamin’’.  The group’s next single, ‘Monday, Monday’ (US no. 1, UK no. 3) tops the charts in May 1966.  In the process, it becomes the first song by ‘a fully sexually integrated group (two girls, two guys)’ to achieve that status.  A barrelling group vocal harmony gives way to a mournful observation that “Monday morning couldn’t guarantee / That Monday evening you would still be here with me.”  Denny Doherty again provides the lead vocal.  Lou Adler’s production work is always sumptuous, matching the group’s luxuriant harmonies with equally indulgent instrumentation.  Although John Phillips is a great songwriter, he has some difficulty in keeping the group supplied with material.  Accordingly, their albums contain a number of cover versions.  For instance, the group’s love for The Beatles is shown in a cover version of the British act’s song from 1964, ‘I Call Your Name’.  However it is given an inventive arrangement, with Cass Elliot on lead vocals, which makes it sound like it comes from the 1920s.  The Mamas And The Papas will do a series of such vaudeville-style performances.  A tropical feel is imparted to ‘Do You Wanna Dance’, Denny Doherty’s take on a 1958 Bobby Freeman song.  Denny also sings ‘Spanish Harlem’, the 1960 Ben E. King hit, featuring a xylophone and shuffling percussion.  Amongst the session players on the album are drummer Hal Blaine and guitarists P.F. Sloan and Glen Campbell, the latter of whom would go on to a career of his own in country pop.  ‘If You Can Believe Your Eyes And Ears’ is the best of the original albums in The Mamas And The Papas catalogue.

Before their next album, The Mamas And The Papas go through some high drama.  The ‘big flirtation’ between Michelle Phillips and Denny Doherty grows into something more.  “It started with my affair with Dennis, then John [Phillips] and I separated and I had an affair with Gene Clark,” Michelle Phillips says.  Gene Clark was the vocalist with fellow folk rockers The Byrds, but left that band in early 1966.  In June 1966, Michelle’s activities alienate her from her colleagues.  “They sent me a very rude little letter,” she says.  “I had been fired by my husband, my lover and my best friend.  John said ‘I made you what you are, Michelle, and I can take it all away’.”  Jill Gibson, the girlfriend of producer Lou Adler, is hired to replace Michelle.  “I said ‘Please don’t go without me’,” Michelle adds.  John’s response is “I’m sorry, Michelle.  You just made it impossible.”  Eventually, in August 1966, Michelle Phillips is allowed to return.  “I was out for about two and a half months,” Michelle notes, so perhaps her exile is from early June to late August 1966.  “I could not get back in the group unless I went back with John.  I did not particularly want to do that,” but she does, and acknowledges that, subsequently, “We did have two very happy years.”

‘The Mamas And The Papas’ (1966) (US no. 4, UK no. 24) is the title of the group’s second album, released in August.  ‘I Saw Her Again’ (US no. 5, UK no. 11) is co-written by John Phillips and Denny Doherty.  This is a swinging number with backing vocals of “dit, dit, dit”: “I saw her again last night / To string her along’s just not right / If I couldn’t I wouldn’t / But what can I do? / I’m lonely too.”  “I had to really come in smiling,” explains Michelle Phillips, “because I was on probation.  She co-writes ‘Trip, Stumble And Fall’ with John.  It is Denny Doherty who supplies the lead vocal and the underlying menace of the lyrics is apparent: “You’re gonna trip, stumble and fall / And though I know you’re having a ball / You better listen my friend / This is the end / Someone’s gonna make you crawl / You’re gonna stumble and fall.”  ‘Words Of Love’ (US no. 5, UK no. 47) is another vaudeville arrangement.  Cass Elliot’s big vocal warns “Words of love / So soft and tender / Won’t win a girl’s heart anymore.”  As for cover versions, this disc boasts a version of ‘Dancing In The Street’ (US no. 73), originally recorded by Martha And The Vandellas in 1964.  It’s funkier than the usual fare for The Mamas And The Papas.  As the song fades, the group improvises various place names including some from the quartet’s history: Nova Scotia (Denny’s birthplace) and Alexandria, Virginia (where John was raised).  With this album, The Mamas And The Papas recordings begin to feature the ace group of session musicians collectively known as The Wrecking Crew: Eric Hord (guitar), Larry Knechtel (keyboards), Joe Osborne (bass) and Hal Blaine (drums).

‘Deliver’ (1967) (US no. 2, UK no. 4) arrives in February.  ‘Look Through My Window’ (US no. 24) is, musically, a close relative of ‘Monday, Monday’, enhanced by a soaring string section.  The lovelorn ‘Dedicated To The One I Love’ (US no. 2, UK no. 2) is the next single.  This is a cover version of a song first committed to vinyl by The 5 Royales in 1959.  ‘Creeque Alley’ (US no. 5, UK no. 9) is co-written by John and Michelle Phillips and is a humorous history of The Mamas And The Papas.  It begins with the line “John and Michy were getting kinda itchy / Just to leave the folk music behind” and goes on to cite [John] Sebastian, Zal [Yanovksy], The Mugwumps, [Roger] McGuinn, [Barry] McGuire and The [Lovin’] Spoonful.  Each verse’s account of hard times end with the words “And no one’s getting fat, except Mama Cass”, only to change in the end, after success to “Everyone’s getting fat, except Mama Cass.”  It’s a warm and witty piece of self-mythology.  Denny Doherty hazards a light and airy version of ‘My Girl’, first recorded by The Temptations in 1965.  A more original and divergent arrangement is given to ‘Twist And Shout’, the Isley Brothers belter from 1962 [also covered by The Beatles in 1963].  The Mamas And The Papas slow the frantic pace right down to a dreamy sashay.

Titling their third album ‘Deliver’ is a bit of a pun because the pregnant Cass Elliot is about to deliver a child.  Her daughter, Owen Vanessa Elliot, is born on 26 April 1967.  The child is born out of wedlock and her father is never publicly identified.

John Phillips gives away one of his best compositions to Scott McKenzie, his old confederate from the original Journeymen.  ‘San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)’ is a hit in May 1967 and encapsulates the hippie era.

The Mamas And The Papas appear at the Monterey Pop Festival held over 16-18 June 1967.  This is the first major pop festival.  It is organised by John Phillips and producer Lou Adler.  Among the many other acts on the bill are The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and The Byrds.

Michelle Phillips states that, “The last time we ever played was in August 1967.  So the band was only in existence for two and a half years.”  This may be true so far as it goes, but the band release more recordings.

On 7 October 1967 Cass Elliot is jailed overnight in London, England, after a dispute over a hotel bill.

Cass Elliot finally gets around to having her marriage to James Hendricks annulled in 1968.

John and Michelle Phillips have a daughter, Chynna (pronounced ‘China’) on 12 February 1968.  However this only leads to John and Michelle splitting up again, this time for good.  The Mamas And The Papas are also a thing of the past, though another album, previously recorded, is still to be released.

‘Papas And Mamas’ (1968) (US no. 15), issued in February, is the fourth album for The Mamas And The Papas.  ‘Twelve Thirty (Young Girls Are Coming To The Canyon)’ (US no. 20) is an ode to the joys of living in Los Angeles – Laurel Canyon, specifically.  Its lyrics are like a revisitation of ‘California Dreamin’’: “I used to live in New York City / Everything there was dark and dirty.”  Denny Doherty introduces Mama Cass to sing a version of the 1931 Ozzie Nelson hit ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me’ (US no. 12, UK no. 11) as a jazz age warble.  ‘For The Love Of Ivy’ (US no. 81) is co-written by John Phillips and Denny Doherty.  The acoustic verses slow down for the more stately refrains.  “I never thought I’d try / For the love of Ivy,” admit the lyrics.

“The only one who had a terrible experience was John,” observes Michelle Phillips in reference to her ex-husband.

John Phillips marries actress Genevieve Waite on 31 January 1972.  He has two children with her: a son, Tamerlane (born 1971) and a daughter, Bijou (born 1 April 1980).  “John, after the group, got into hard drugs,” claims Michelle Phillips.  ‘John…spent most of the 1970s coping with various drug problems.’  McKenzie Phillips, John’s daughter by Susan Adams, is raped by her father in 1979 when she is 19 ‘while both are under the influence of narcotics.’  They go on to share a ten-year incestuous relationship.  McKenzie Phillips only discloses these details in September 2009.  John Phillips is arrested on 20 April 1981 for possession of cocaine but the five-year jail sentence he receives is suspended after thirty days on condition that he perform two hundred and fifty hours of community service.

In March 1982 John Phillips begins touring with a new version of The Mamas And The Papas.  Joining him is Denny Doherty; John’s daughter, McKenzie Phillips; and Elaine ‘Spanky’ McFarlane, formerly of 1960s folk pop act Spanky And Our Gang.  In 1987 Denny Doherty bows out to be replaced by Scott McKenzie, John’s old buddy from The Journeymen and ‘San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Some Flowers In Your Hair)’.  In 1991 McKenzie Phillips exits and Lauren Beebe Lewis joins the line-up.  John Phillips himself quits in 1992 and Denny Doherty returns.  In 1993 both Lauren Beebe Lewis and ‘Spanky’ McFarlane leave and Lisa Breccia and Deb Lyons take over.  Thereafter, ‘varying line-ups’ continue to fly the flag ‘until at least 1997.’

John Phillips and Genevieve Waite divorce in 1985.  Phillips writes an autobiography, ‘Papa John’ (1986) and has a liver transplant in 1992.  He marries again in 1995 to a woman named Farnaz, who remains his spouse until John Phillips dies of heart failure on 18 March 2001.

After the dissolution of The Mamas And The Papas, Michelle Phillips devotes more time to an acting career than music.  She appears in films and on television.  She is probably best known for the TV show ‘Knot’s Landing’ (1979-1993), a spin-off from ‘Dallas’, in which she played the role of Anne Matheson.  Michelle Phillips also remarries – a number of times.  She weds: (1) Hollywood actor Dennis Hopper, who she divorces after eight days (31 October 1970 – 8 November 1970); (2) Radio executive Robert Burch (21 May 1978 – 1980); (3) Grainger Hines, with whom she has two sons, Austin (born 1982) and Aaron, as well as a stepson, Gray Hines; and (4) Steven Zax, who she marries in 2000.  Like her first ex-husband, John Phillips, Michelle Phillips writes a book: ‘California Dreamin’: The Music, the Madness, the Magic’ (1986).

Cass Elliot is perhaps the most successful of the former members of The Mamas And The Papas.  She records under the name of Mama Cass.  The highlights could be a pair of singles she releases in 1969: ‘It’s Getting Better’ (US no. 30, UK no. 8) and ‘Make Your Own Kind Of Music’ (US no. 36).  Both are written by the team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, professional songwriters best known for their work in New York’s Brill Building stable of composers.  Cass marries journalist Donald van Wiedenman in 1971, but they divorce later the same year after only a few months of marriage.  On 29 July 1974 Cass Elliot dies in London, England.  ‘A post-mortem the next day shows that she died as a result of choking on a sandwich while in bed and from inhaling her own vomit.’  This verdict is quickly amended to show heart failure as the cause of death and this is fully accepted.  “I was shocked, but not surprised,” claims Michelle Phillips, “because she was terribly overweight.”

Denny Doherty marries Linda Woodward in 1970 and this short-lived union produces a daughter, Jessica.  Denny’s second wife, Jeanette, stays with him for twenty years (1978 – 1998) and they have two children, Emberley (born 1981) and John (born 1983).  As previously mentioned, Denny Doherty is involved with John Phillips’ latter-day touring version of The Mamas And The Papas (1982 – 1987, 1992 – 1997?).  Denny also crafts an autobiographical stage musical version of the story of The Mamas And The Papas, ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me’, which debuts in 2003.  Denny Doherty dies from an abdominal aortic aneurysm on 19 January 2007.

The success of The Mamas And The Papas largely stemmed from the interrelationships of John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty.  Paradoxically, the downfall of The Mamas And The Papas can also be attributed to the interrelationships of John Phillips, Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty.  What made them great also doomed them.  It is the songs they created that are their legacy and the credit for those rests mainly with John Phillips.  The Mamas And The Papas were ‘one of the first aggregations to make the freewheeling, California hippie image commercially acceptable, with a series of records that combined strong, memorable melodies with soaring vocal harmonies and a distinctive folk rock sound.’  ‘The leading California-based vocal group of the 1960s, The Mamas And The Papas epitomised the ethos of the mid-to-late 1960s pop culture: live free, play free and love free.’


  1. as at 6 May 2013
  2. ‘Rock Family Trees – California Dreamin’’ (UK BBC television program) – Narrator – John Peel, Consultant – Pete Frame (4 September 1998)
  3., ‘The Mamas And The Papas’ by Bruce Eder as at 6 May 2013
  4. – John Phillips as at 7 June 2013
  5. Notable names database – – as at 7 June 2013
  6. ‘People’ magazine ( (17 June 1996)
  7. ‘The Illustrated New Musical Express Encyclopedia of Rock’ by Nick Logan, Bob Woffinden (Salamander Books, 1978) p. 144
  8. ‘Friday On My Mind’ by Ed Nimmervoll (Five Mile Press, 2004) p. 68
  9. ‘The Beatles Conquer America’ by Dezo Hoffman (Virgin Books Ltd, 1984) p. 31
  10. John Phillips interview from 1972? (posted on You Tube 24 September 2009)
  11. ‘The Mamas And The Papas – All-Time Greatest Hits’ – Sleeve notes by Ritchie Yorke (MCA Records Inc, 1992) p. 2, 3
  12. ‘Regis Philben’s Lifestyles’ (US television program) Michelle Phillips interview conducted by Regis Philbens (1986)
  13. ‘Rolling Stone Rock Almanac’ by the Editors of ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (Papermac, 1984) p. 56, 116, 130, 131, 135, 230, 325, 328
  14. ‘The 500 Greatest Albums Of All Time’ – ‘Rolling Stone’ magazine (February 2004) p. 48
  15. ‘Billboard’ magazine – for the years in which The Temptations and Martha And The Vandellas songs were originally hits. Quoted in ‘The Rolling Stone Illustrated History Of Rock ‘N’ Roll’, ‘Motown’ (Plexus Publishing, 1992), p. 290
  16. ‘The Illustrated Rock Handbook’ edited by Roxanne Streeter, Ray Bonds (Salamander Books, 1983) p. 109, 136
  17. as at 15 September 2014

Song lyrics copyright Universal Music Publishing Group with the exception of ‘Twelve Thirty’ (copyright unavailable)

Last revised 17 September 2014


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