The Mamas & the Papas: Wikis


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The Mamas & The Papas

Background information
Origin New York City, United States
Genres Folk rock, Psychedelic rock, Sunshine pop
Years active 1965–1968
Labels Dunhill
John Phillips (1935-2001)
Denny Doherty (1940-2007)
Michelle Phillips (born 1944)
Cass Elliot (1941-1974)
Scott McKenzie (born 1939)
Jill Gibson (born 1942)

The Mamas & the Papas (credited as The Mama's and the Papa's on the debut album cover) were an American vocal group of the 1960s. 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"[1] and blend his writing with the new "beat" sound in an unprecedented mode. On the other hand, The Mamas & the Papas were riven by internal frictions almost from the start which inevitably made them short-lived as a working band. This, as well as other heavily discussed issues like "Who sang and who was edited out from what final mix?" has contributed to the group's myth even forty years later.




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 image.[2] The band shortly moved to the United States Virgin Islands, and after running out of money, Michelle Phillips gambled back enough money for them to return to New York.[3] After a short period of going under the name The Magic Circle, the group renamed themselves The Mamas and the Papas[3] before signing a five-album contract with Dunhill Records.

Early commercial success

The band's first single, "Go Where You Wanna Go", was released in 1965 and failed to chart. However, the second single, "California Dreamin'", was released in late 1965 and quickly peaked at number four in the US, while in the UK, it was less successful, peaking 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 first and only number one album on the Billboard 200. In the UK, the album peaked at number three and remains the group's highest charting album there. The third and final single from their debut was "Monday, Monday", which became the band's only number one hit in the US. The song brought the band international success when it peaked at number three in the UK.

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 kicking Michelle out of 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, England. Who sang on the second album is a disputed fact, and further confused by using Jill Gibson to dub over an unknown amount of vocals in 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 doesn't 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.[4]

The Mamas and the Papas album cover (1966).

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". Paul McCartney, however, was 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.[5]

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.[3] 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.[6]

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. 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 TV appearance together on the Ed Sullivan Show in August 1967, where they performed some of their most popular songs. During a conversation with Sullivan, they revealed that they would be taking a long vacation but would return. While recording their fourth album, The Mamas and the Papas decided to take a trip in October 1967 to Europe to spark their creativity. While in England at a party thrown by Dunhill Records, their record label, Cass Elliot was talking to Mick Jagger. John approached them and 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 US. 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 US.

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 US.

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 TV 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." After about a year apart, the band regrouped and released their final album People Like Us in 1971. 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.


Cass Elliot

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". Her last three albums (released in 1972 and 1973 for RCA) did not enter the charts and did not contain any single to hit the charts. She had many successful appearances on American variety shows, including the highly popular Carol Burnett Show. She also starred in two U.S. prime-time network TV 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. Cass also appeared on the CBS game show Match Game in 1973.

While on tour with her solo act, Elliot died of a heart attack on July 29, 1974. She had just performed for two sold-out weeks to audiences at the London Palladium in the UK. The night before she died, she had called Michelle in L.A. to tell her how thrilled she was about getting standing ovations. Michelle Phillips says that Cass Elliot "died a very happy woman." She died in the same London flat in which Keith Moon of The Who would later die. Her former band mates and Lou Adler all attended her funeral in Los Angeles.

John Phillips

John Phillips continued to write songs for solo efforts and other acts. Perhaps his best-known effort was as co-author of the Beach Boys' #1 hit "Kokomo".

In the 1980s, John reunited with Denny Doherty and formed The New Mamas and The Papas, with his daughter Mackenzie Phillips and Spanky McFarlane (of the group Spanky and Our Gang). After some initial success, Denny dropped out when John slipped back into drugs. John did eventually get the group back together, without Denny but with his old friend Scott McKenzie. He eventually dropped the "New" from their name and appeared as simply The Mamas and The Papas. Throughout the rest of his life, Phillips toured with various versions of the group playing smaller venues, reunion shows, and TV specials.

John's version of The Mamas and The Papas story is told in the American PBS (Public Broadcasting System) TV special, Straight Shooter: The True Story of John Phillips and The Mamas and the Papas.

After surviving a liver transplant in the 1990s, he died of heart failure on March 18, 2001.

His final album, Phillips 66, was released posthumously in August 2001.

In September of 2009, John's daughter Mackenzie told Oprah Winfrey on the eve of her 1979 wedding she was raped by her father while in a drug induced blackout. After that, the two had a "consensual", incestuous relationship lasting ten years. During the same interview, Mackenzie revealed she was also seduced by Mick Jagger when she was eighteen. All statements made by Mackenzie coincided with the release of a tell-all book High on Arrival.

Denny Doherty

Denny Doherty had a solo hit on the Adult Contemporary chart in 1974 with a rendition of the standard "You'll Never Know", and 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."

In the 1990s, Denny was the producer and host of a popular children's TV show in Canada, Theodore Tugboat — a kind of Thomas the Tank Engine for vessels in the Halifax Harbour.

Denny Doherty died on January 19, 2007, at his home in Mississauga, Ontario, from kidney failure following surgery on an abdominal aneurysm.

Michelle Phillips

After the unsuccessful release of an album in 1977, Victim of Romance, Michelle Phillips went on to a successful acting career, appearing in the 1973 movie Dillinger, 1979's Bloodline, the 1980 Sam Spade tribute/spoof, The Man with Bogart's Face, American Anthem in 1986 and Let It Ride in 1989.

She also had a successful run in television drama, including Knots Landing and Beverly Hills, 90210.

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 TV 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 due to her inability to work. It wasn't until the 1990s and 2000s that she would rebuild her career, mostly with guest starring roles on a string of popular television dramas.

John 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's 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 and into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2000. 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'".



Year Album Label & number (U.S.) U.S. Billboard U.S. Cashbox UK[citation needed]
1966 If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears Dunhill D 50006 (Mono)/DS 50006 (Stereo) 1 2 1
1966 The Mamas & the Papas Dunhill D 50010/DS 50010 4 5 3
1967 Deliver Dunhill D 50014/DS 50014 2 1 1
1968 The Papas & The Mamas Dunhill DS 50031 15 10 2
1971 People Like Us Dunhill DSX 50106 84 45 8

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 1
1968 Golden Era, Vol. 2 Dunhill DS 50038 53 41 42
1969 Hits Of Gold Stateside 5007 - - 7
1969 16 Greatest Hits Dunhill DS 50064 61 72 2
1973 20 Golden Hits Dunhill DSX 50145 186 161 6
  • 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 U.K
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
23; 9 (1997 re-release)
1966 "Monday, Monday"
B-side: "Got A Feeling"
Dunhill 4026
"I Saw Her Again"
B-side: "Even If I Could"
Dunhill 4031
The Mamas and the Papas
"Words of Love" /
Dunhill 4057
"Dancing in the Street"
"Look Through My Window"
B-side: "Once Was A Time I Thought" (from The Mamas and the Papas album)
Dunhill 4050
1967 "Dedicated to the One I Love"
B-side: "Free Advice"
Dunhill 4077
"Creeque Alley"
B-side: "Did You Ever Want To Cry"
Dunhill 4083
"Glad to Be Unhappy"
B-side: "Hey Girl" (Billboard Bubbled Under charts #134)
Dunhill 4107
non-album single
"Dancing Bear"
B-side: "John's Music Box" (from the Deliver album)
Dunhill 4113
The Mamas and the Papas
"Twelve Thirty"
B-side: "Straight Shooter" (Billboard Bubbled Under charts #130)
Dunhill 4099
Papas & The Mamas
1968 "Safe In My Garden"
B-side: "Too Late"
Dunhill 4125
"Dream a Little Dream of Me"
B-side: "Midnight Voyage"
Dunhill 4145
"For The Love Of Ivy"
B-side: "Strange Young Girls" (from The Mamas and the Papas album)
Dunhill 4150
"Do You Wanna Dance"
B-side: "My Girl" (from the Deliver album)
Dunhill 4171
If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears
1972 "Step Out"
B-side: "Shooting Star"
Dunhill 4301
People Like Us


  1. ^ A line from the song Creeque Alley
  2. ^ Fiegel, Eddi. "Mother of invention". The Independent. 5 May 2005
  3. ^ a b c "US Folk Rock". Rock Family Trees. 1999.
  4. ^ "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
  5. ^ "Denny Doherty obituary"
  6. ^ "Dream a Little Dream", page 15 from Denny Doherty's website

External links

Simple English

The Mamas & The Papas
Origin New York City, United States
Genres Folk rock, Psychedelic pop, Sunshine pop
Years active 1965–1968
Labels Dunhill
John Phillips
Denny Doherty
Michelle Phillips
Cass Elliot
Scott McKenzie
Jill Gibson

The Mamas & The Papas were a vocal group of the 1960s. The group recorded and performed from 1965 to 1968 with a short reunion in 1971, releasing five albums and ten hit singles. They have sold nearly 40 million records worldwide.

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