The Mothers was the name of several different Zappa bands (and even more permutations of those different bands), loosely defined by the syntactual derivations, The Muthers, The Mothers, The Mothers Of Invention, MOI, or Mothers, to be found below. The name Mother reportedly means "motherfucker" as applied to a musician's slang term for any musician who could really play well; i.e. "Man, that cat's a motherfucker!".
The Muthers was a pick-up band that FZ employed to play bar gigs in the SoCal desert from late '62 through '64, that coincided with his playing the last incarnation of The Blackouts, Joe Perrino & The Mellotones, and The Soul Giants. Ostensibly, these gigs helped finance some of the work being done at this time at Pal Studio, and then Studio Z. With FZ the only constant, the best known variation of this band included Paul Woods: bass / Les Papp: drums, but could also include Vic Mortenson: drums / Alex Snouffer: guitar / Al Surratt: drums. A brief snippet of the first 3 is on The Mystery Disc.
Once the Soul Giants started playing FZ's compositions, they needed a more appropriate name. The Blackouts was used, as was Captain Glasspack & The Magic Mufflers. They eventually settled on The Mothers. (Legend has it this was on "Mothers Day", May 10, 1964). There were some personnel changes before they recorded their first album:
2) Add Alice Stuart: guitar, vocals to the above.
3) Replace Stuart with Henry Vestine: guitar.
5) Replace Guercio with Collins / Mann with Elliot Ingber: guitar.
6) Add Denny Bruce: drums.
7) Subtract Bruce.
On March 1, 1966 The Mothers signed a two-year, five-album, record deal with Verve/MGM (who had the band change their name to The Mothers Of Invention because they considered the name, commercially, too provocative without the appendage) and they started recording their first album.
The (Original) Mothers Of Invention
1) The Mothers Of Invention (1) that recorded Freak Out! = Jimmy Carl Black: drums / Ray Collins: vocals / Roy Estrada: bass / Elliot Ingber: guitar / Frank Zappa: guitar / (Van Dyke Parks, and Del Kacher "passed through" at this time.)
2) Add Billy Mundi: drums.
5) Replace Billy Mundi with Arthur Tripp /add Ray Collins and Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood for the MOI (4) that recorded Cruising With Ruben & The Jets and Uncle Meat (some with Billy Mundi before he left).
6) Subtract Ray Collins / add Lowell George and Buzz Gardner for the MOI (5) that recorded Burnt Weeny Sandwich and Weasels Ripped My Flesh. Hot Rats was a side project that held FZ, Underwood, George, and several "guests": Ron Selico / Shuggy Otis / Captain Beefheart / Don "Sugarcane" Harris / John Guerin / Max Bennett / Paul Humphrey / Jean-Luc Ponty
7) Subtract Lowell George. The MOI (6) that FZ "disbanded" = Zappa / Roy Estrada / Jimmy Carl Black / Arthur Tripp / Ian Underwood / Don Preston / Bunk Gardner / Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood / Buzz Gardner.
The (Vaudeville) Mothers Of Invention
FZ put together some pick-up bands through the Winter of '69/'70, and a "Mothers Reunion" package for the Spring, before assembling this line-up. (He had help from Max Bennett / Ed Greene / Ian Underwood / Aynsley Dunbar / Don "Sugarcane" Harris / Ray Collins / Jeff Simmons / Billy Mundi / Don Preston / Jim "Motorhead" Sherwood. Many of these assisted in the recording of Chunga's Revenge.)
1) The (Vaudeville) Mothers Of Invention = Howard Kaylan: vocals / Mark Volman: vocals / George Duke: keyboards, trombone / Ian Underwood: keyboards, alto sax / Jeff Simmons: bass, vocals / Aynsley Dunbar: drums. (FZ did make a brief stop in Europe late July/early August, where he reportedly played with Jean-Luc Ponty: violin / Alby Cullaz: bass / Aldo Roman: drums.) This line up recorded Chunga's Revenge, Freaks & Motherfuckers, Tengo Na Minchia Tanta, Disconnected Synapses.
4) Replace Bob Harris I with Don Preston. This Band recorded Just Another Band From L.A. and Swiss Cheese/Fire! (BTB). FZ never disbanded this MOI, but proceedings were drastically interrupted after he was seriously injured when pushed from the stage in London by a demented fan.
From this point on, the "Bands" that contributed to particular "albums" become more and more convoluted - only releases dominated by a particular line-up will be listed. For more information, see the Discography section.
The (Wazoo) Mothers of Invention
While recovering from the injuries sustained at the London concert Zappa mounted two studio projects: Waka/Jawaka and The Grand Wazoo (please see their respective entries for personnel). Besides FZ, the only consistant member from both recordings and the tours that ensued, was Tony Duran: slide guitar. And though FZ never used the term "Mothers" to title these bands, we do so here for CC's sake. The touring bands for this era, the Grand, and the Petit, Wazoo were comprised of:
GW = Jerry Kessler: cello / Dave Parlato: bass / Jim Gordon: drums / Tom Raney: percussion / Ruth Underwood: percussion / Ian Underwood: synthesizer / Bruce Fowler: trombone / Malcolm McNabb: trumpet / Tom Malone: tuba / Earle Dumler: oboe / Glenn Ferris: trombone / Sal Marquez: trumpet / Ken Shroyer: trombone / Mike Altschul: piccolo, bass clarinet / Joanne McNabb: bassoon / Jay Migliori: flute, saxophone, clarinet / Ray Reed: saxophone, clarinet / Charles Owens: saxophone, clarinet;
The (DiscReet) Mothers of Invention
Simultaneous with his work with the aforementioned large bands, FZ started to piece together some work for later release, that would fall under the DiscReet label. Besides members of the 'new' Mothers he would soon form, and some of the players from the 'Wazoo' bands, assistance for these recordings was provided by Jack Bruce: bass / Erroneous (Alex Dmochowski): bass / Aynsley Dunbar: drums.
1) The first (DiscReet) Mothers = Jean-Luc Ponty: violin / George Duke: keyboards, vocals / Sal Marquez: trumpet, vocals / Ian Underwood: alto sax / Bruce Fowler: trombone / Ruth Underwood: percussion / Tom Fowler: bass / Ralph Humphrey: drums. This band, for the most part, recorded Over-Nite Sensation & Apostrophe (').
2) Replace Jean-Luc Ponty and Sal Marquez with Napoleon Murphy Brock: tenor sax, vocals, flute / subtract Ian Underwood / add Chester Thompson: drums. Add, and subtract, Jeff Simmons: guitar, vocals and Don Preston: keyboards. This band, for the most part, recorded Roxy & Elsewhere, One Size Fits All, & You Can't Do That On Stage Anymore Vol. 2.
The above is affectionately known as the "Roxy" era band, and was one of the most stable line-ups FZ employed since his Original The Mothers Of Invention.