I first saw Jimmy Carl Black playing drums for Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention at the 1969 Atlantic City Pop Festival. He was born James Carl Inkanish, Jr on February 1, 1938 in El Paso, TX. In the late '90s I used my friendship with Don Preston to get to know Jimmy. He was very much just like the character he played in Frank's band and the movie 200 Motels. He died on November 1, 2008 at the age of 70 in Germany where he lived. Here is one - of the following three - interviews we did together.
Steve: Frank has been quoted as saying that many of the original Mothers of Invention fans seemed to have dropped out when he went with other players in the 70's and 80's, and, conversely, many of the younger fans of his later works didn't fully appreciate the earlier, classic MOI albums. Therefore, I wonder what the fan reaction has been to your touring these past 30 years with the many bands you have formed and/or played with? What have your audiences been like?
Jimmy: The fans have been very nice to me and I might say that all those fans that Frank said went away is not so. There are many old fans that come to see me play and a lot of his younger fans that have gotten into the old recordings of the M.O.I. They want to see where it all started from and are very cool people, in my opinion. Even when I play with my blues band, The Farrell/Black Band, there are a lot of M.O.I. fans that come out to see me play.
What drum set are you touring with? Do you still have any of your vintage drums that you used on the MOI recordings?
I play Fibes Drums since I`m an endorser of the new Fibes Drum Company My drums are wood shell and sound really great. The new Fibes are owned by a dear friend of mine in Austin, Texas, named Tommy Robertson. When he bought the rights to the name Fibes he asked me if I would play them in Eroupe. I like them MUCHO. And, yes, I still have my original set of Gretch drums that I used on all the recordings of the M.O.I. I bought that set of drums in 1958 -- new off the showroom floor for 450 dollars, including cymbals and cases. You can`t even get a cheap set of drums for that anymore.
Steve: Long-time fans first knew your personality by your repeated cheerful greeting "I'm Jimmy Carl Black, and I'm the Indian of the group" on "We're Only in it for the Money." Was everyone in the group fully behind Frank's bold move to parody Sgt. Pepper's and "the summer of love?" Did anyone feel like this might backfire?
Jimmy: First of all; Frank was the BOSS. We didn`t question any of his motives or decisions at the time. I, personally, didn`t think about whether (the parody) would backfire or not. After putting out FREAK OUT and "Absolutely Free" I didn`t think that the "Money" album was that much farther out than the previous albums.
Steve: Did you personally feel -- at the time -- like you were participating in what would become one the greatest recorded works of that era?
Jimmy: I had no idea that "We're Only In It For The Money" would be considered a classic piece of musical history and I don't think Frank did either.
Steve: How long did it take to record?
Jimmy: It took off and on, probably six months. It was recorded and mixed in two or three places from New York City and then LA.
Steve: Obviously from my past questions, one of my favorite MOI albums is "Money." What is your favorite?
Jimmy: For the record; my favorite M.O.I. record is "Cruisin`with Ruben and the Jets" Ray Collins has always been one of my favorite singers in the world. I like "Uncle Meat" musically for it's adventurous direction. Hell, man, I like them all.
Steve: I've read about how Frank would hold long rehearsals for his later bands? Did he do that with the Mothers?
Jimmy: I think that the old Mothers started that trend of rehearsing long hours. We went as long as the later bands did except we didn't get paid for it like they did. We did it because we thought we were the best band in the world. Maybe we weren't as popular as other bands, but certainly, musically, we were the best and most expermintal band in the world. (Exception is Capt. Beefheart and the Magic Band, but more on that subject later).
Steve: How did the group resolve conflicts? Did you personally feel that Frank was a genius when he was hired to join the group?
Jimmy: Like I said before; Frank was the BOSS and was not open to anything that was not from his head. There were no arguments about music because if you did, he would show you where the door was. Period. As far as me knowing if Frank was a genius -- in those days, I thought Einstein was the only genius around. Hell, man, I`m from Texas and the only thing we had down there was "Good Ol' Boys". Since then, I have come to believe that he really was a musical genius.
Steve: Where was the inside cover shot done for the "Money" album. Jimi Hendrix joined you for the album picture. Do you remember how he felt, or what his attitude was toward the Mothers in dresses, and the photo experience?
Jimmy: Some place on Fifth Ave. in New York City. I think the photographer was Faye Dunaway`s husband at the time. I don`t know how Jimi felt about the whole thing. I think it was good publicity for him. I know I didn`t like that dress 'cause it didn't fit but I thought it was a great picture. We weren`t the first band to do a picture in drag; The Rolling Stones were. If it was good enough for them then it had to be good enough for us.
Steve: I believe that you have reported that you had a chance to share the bill with Jimi Hendrix. Did you ever actually play with him on stage?
Jimmy: We played a bunch of times with Jimi in the 60's. He jammed with the Mothers at NYC's Garrick Theater a few times before he made it at Monterey Festival. Hell, nobody knew who he was at that time in the states. He was big in England. We all became good friends and I am still in touch with Noel Redding (original bass player with the Jimi Hendrix Experience).
Steve: Of the many great performers you have known, or played with during your career, which ones have had the greatest influence on you? Which ones did you like the most?
Steve: What is your preference? Performing live, or studio work?
Jimmy: I really like playing live and don't mind being on the road, if it's with the right band. I do like creating in the studio and enjoy the end results.
Steve: Your hilarious scenes in the 200 Motels movie ("Lonesome Cowboy Burt") are, in my view, the highlights of that movie. Did you think at the time that this might be a beginning of a stage or movie career? Did you try out for anything?
Jimmy: I was hoping for it to be possibly a movie career as I still would like to see that happen. I enjoyed making 200 Motels and did try out for a few things when I lived in LA, but nothing ever happened. I'm still hoping though. If any producers or agents read this - I`m available.
Steve: When 200 Motels was filmed, the original MOI had disbanded. How did you feel about participating in that movie while knowing that Frank was taking his band -- and recording career -- to a different place, and that you would not be included?
Jimmy: I was hired as an actor for that movie and didn`t care who was playing with Frank. I had a good time with the people in the movie. I had my band, Geronimo Black, going and was thinking that the movie could help promote it. And it did.
Steve: Did you get a chance to talk with Ringo Starr about drumming during the filming of 200 Motels?
Jimmy: Ringo was one of the nicest people I have ever had the privilege of working with. We didn`t discuss drum playing much at all, except that I told him how big a fan I was of what his drumming contributed to the Beatles. They are still my all time favorite band.
Steve: What has been your worst professional experience?
Jimmy: That is a whole chapter of a book and I will address it at a later date. OK? I`d just soon forget about it altogether.
Steve: Of all the Zappa compositions, what is your personal favorite?
Jimmy: I have several, but "Brown Shoes Don't Make It" comes to mind.
Steve: Of all the recorded drumming you did on the many Mothers albums, what do you feel is your best drumming work?
Jimmy: All of it. Because I gave everything I had on all of them.
Your web page, www.jimmycarlblack.com/ is really nice. Do you do any of the web work yourself?
Jimmy: No, my webmaster lives in Munich and is a very dear friend of mine. He is doing a great job on the site and it is constantly being updated and always will. I use Windows; `98 second edition and it works very good for me. You know, I just started on the computer about nine months ago and am fascinated with the possibilities. I don`t know what I would do without it now.
What's your personal life like these days?
Jimmy: I got married about three years ago again to a wonderful German woman. Her name is Monika and she is beautiful. She is one of the biggest women Zappa fans I have ever met in my life. She has all the albums of Frank`s and when we first met, she had been looking at my picture on LP`s for 25 years. She says she`s been in love with my picture for that long. AMAZING. My home is my castle and there is a lot of stuff around to remind me of the old days -thanks to Miss Monika. Every morning I go into my living room and the first thing I look at is the picture of Frank sitting on the toilet. I am also a sculptor of soapstone for relaxation and have had exibitions of my art work.. I have sold quite a few pieces. I have a section -which is almost ready for expansion soon on my website - under Art Works. I have six children living mostly in Texas. Three sons, Gary (41), Darrell (39), and Geronimo (32) and three daughters, Kim (36), Gina (34) and Gabby (24) and eleven grand kids I have two step kids Tommy and Melleni from Monika. My three sons are planning to record a CD hopefully at the end of this year. They`re very talented musicians in their own right. We`ll call the band "The Brothers of Intention."
Do you hear from any of the former MOI members who are NOT touring with you?
Jimmy: I am in contact with Billy Mundi quite often and Moterhead Sherwood also. Once in a while I talk to Roy Estrada and Art Tripp. I haven`t seen or spoken to Ray Collins in at least 10 years so I don`t even know if he`s alive. I hope so. I don`t think they are playing music anymore. I know they`re playing with themselves - cause they're ex-mothers. You know how perverted we all were.
Do you still get nice royalties from the Mother's recordings?
Jimmy: Shit NO. We never got anything out of the recordings. I'm still as broke as I was when I was with the Mothers. That is why I hope your readers will buy some of my products for sale on my website --so maybe I can at least semi-retire.
Did you think that Frank accurately portrayed the story of the Mothers in his book, The Real Frank Zappa?
I don`t know how Frank presented the old Mothers, since I never read the book. There might be some opinions on what he said, but I -- or anyone else -- could not make any corrections to anything Frank did.
Did you get a chance to talk with Frank before he died? If not, then what would you have liked to have said to him?
No, I wasn`t allowed to talk to Frank before he died. I was in Eroupe at the time and hadn`t been in the states in 2 years before he passed on. There were troubles with Mrs. Zappa, so no contact was made. I would have told him that I appreciated his friendship through the years and that I had learned a lot from him. I really loved Frank like you do a brother.
Part Two: April, 3, 2000
Steve: In 1973 --Following the breakup of your post - Mothers of Invention band, Geronimo Black -- you moved back to your home town of Anthony, Texas and worked in a donut factory. How did you handle the disappointment of what must have felt like a major failure in your musical career?
Jimmy: To me, it wasn't a disappointment to leave the smog and the hustle and bustle (and I'm a poet and don`t know it) of Los Angeles. I certainly didn't stop playing music just because I wasn't in LA. I was pretty fed-up with the politics of the music business and still am. They don't even like -- or know -- what good music is even if it bit them in the ass. All they care about is how you look and how much money you can make for them. Listen to the radio or watch MTV for a perfect example of what I'm talking about here. Besides that, I was raising five kids and I thought that my small home town (in Texas) was a better environment for them to grow up in -- and I was right. Sometimes family must come before career.
Steve: When you are touring - or doing interviews - do you sometimes get a bit weary of the constant questions about Frank Zappa and your relationship with his career?
Jimmy: Not normally, but when some guy shows up with a shopping bag full of records and CD`s and wants me to sign every one plus fifteen pieces of blank paper I wonder what the hell is he doing with all of that? I think he`s selling them and since I am getting no royalities for the recordings, it irriates me a little. Hell, he didn`t even offer to cut me in on the pie. Most people are really cool and I really don`t mind talking to them and answering their questions. It`s the so called EXPERTS that say things to me that we did, or Frank did, that are absolutely not true and they will argue with me saying that I`m wrong. Hell, man, I was there and I should know what I`m talking about on that particular subject. I usually say I gotta go do something when I encounter a fanatic like that. They think they know everything and they don`t know shit.
Steve: In the early 80's you moved to Austin, Texas and started a painting company with England's Arthur ("Crazy World of") Brown, and called it "The Gentlmen of Color." How did this come about? Why was Arthur Brown in Texas, and what kind of painting jobs did you actually do?
Jimmy: I had pretty much raised my kids and my first wife and I were divorced, so I began, in ernest, to start my musical career again. Going for the big record deal and all of that. Austin was starting to be a big music capital when I moved there and the chances to get something going was there. I had met Arthur in the 60`s when I was with the Mothers and had become good friends. He had moved to Austin because his wife was from there. I couldn't make a full time living (doing music), as most musicians in town couldn't, so I started painting houses. I went to work with a guy named Matt Fuller, who was a Mothers fan, and low and behold, Arthur was working for him also. We worked together for about six months and decided to strike out on our own. So "the Gentlemen of Colour" was started. We would paint anything that didn't move - but mostly houses. We painted a shit load of them -- and sometimes people who knew who we were from the old days -- would have us sign the house after the job was done. AMAZING.
Steve: Is the R&B album you made with Arthur at that time, Brown Black and Blue, available for sale on your web site?
Jimmy: Yes, the album is now in CD format and I might say, it's a classic. It can indeed be bought on my website and if people, who were fans of Arthur`s voice, haven't heard it then you're missing something great. He is one of my favorite vocalists in the world. Since Arthur moved backed to England, I'm in touch with him quite often. We plan to do another CD in the near future.
Steve: You had mentioned earlier in the interview that Janis Joplin was a good friend of yours back in the 60's. Did you ever run across Jim Morrison in your musical adventures? If so, what kind of guy was he like to hang out with?
Yes, but I never hung out with him. Robbie Kreuger and John Densmore were my pals. I don`t know much about him except he really liked to drink heavily.
Steve: In the early 90's you moved to Europe and formed a duo with Eugene Chadbourne and recorded two works, "Locked in a Dutch Coffee Shop" and a Capt Beefheart tribute called "Pachuco Cadaver." What was Capt. Beefhart's reaction to the tribute album?. Did you try and get him to be involved in any way?
Jimmy: I don`t know if he had any reaction at all to the "Pachuco Cadaver" CD. No, we didn`t try to get him involved because he`s very ill and can`t do anything anymore. At least that is what I`ve heard. There is a beautiful video put out by the BBC in England that is the story of the good Capt.and a short film by David Lynch where the Capt. is not even speaking well anymore much less singing.
Steve: If you listen to the very early recordings of Capt. Beefhart on Frank's release of "The Lost Episodes" it seems that his originality -- especially with lyrics -- was inspirational to both Zappa and the Mothers. Why exactly did you admire him so much?
Jimmy: To tell you the truth, I haven`t heard "The Lost Episodes" but I know that Capt. Beefheart is the most avant gard poet of the last century. In my opinion, Lenny Bruce was more of an influence on Zappa`s satirical lyric's than anyone that I know of. I am extremely fond of Don (the Capt.) because I got the privilage of being in the Magic Band for a short period of time in 1975. I think he had one of the best voices I have ever heard. People say that I come close to his sound -- and maybe it`s true since I admired it so much.
Steve: Do you think Capt. Beefhart missed the music after he abandoned it?
Jimmy: I think he might miss everything he used to do but I don`t know that for a fact. His wife is probably the only one that does. A sweet lady.
Steve: Tell us more about your art. What are the themes? I would imagine there are many Mothers fans who would love to have a sculpture by Jimmy Carl Black.
Jimmy: I really don't have a theme when I start a sculpture. The rock guides me to the final sculpture. I think that is true for many creative sculpture artists. I have done over three hundred sculptures over the last five years and I have to admit that the sculpture of the Indian head was done by my son, Geronimo. I will have many more on the website shortly that will be for sale if anyone is into art. Of course, I would be very happy if the fans started buying my art. It would make me feel that creative art has a chance in this crazy world that we all live in.
Steve: What did your parents think of your career as a "Mother?"
Jimmy: My mother, who passed away about six months ago, used to buy all the Mothers albums because she thought it would help me. She would put it on and after the first three or four seconds she would take it off and put the record away. She had a mint collection of the Mothers. My step-dad used to say to me "when you gonna get a haircut?"
Steve: Do you recall the largest venue - or largest single audience - you played with the Mothers? Would it be one of the pop festivals in the late 60's, or somewhere else?
Jimmy: I think it would be where you saw us play; The Atlantic City Pop Festival in 1969. There were a lot of people there. The biggest audience I ever played was with Capt. Beefheart at the Knebworth Pop Festival, England in 1975. There were 250,000 people there and it was a awsome feeling and sight. It was like looking out at a river of color. You couldn`t see anybody`s face, just a blur. What a feeling, let me tell ya.
Steve: The Mothers used to perform this piece called "Dead Air" where nothing was played for a very long time, and then Frank would respond with something like "It brings out the hostility in you, doesn't it?" What did you think of all that?
Jimmy: A lovely piece of music. It's where every one in the band could smoke a cigrette or drink a beer. I always looked forward to that song.
Steve: It's been noted that Frank travelled separately from the later groups he toured with, staying in separate hotels, etc. When he travelled with the Mothers in the early years, was he always composing on tour? Do you recall specific times or places, for example, where he wrote any of his most famous pieces?
Jimmy: When he toured with the Mothers, Frank stayed in a different hotel than we did. The Mothers were into sex, drugs (not heavy drugs) and rock n' roll. He didn`t like it at all so better to stay away from us. That was OK with us -- since we were having a lot more fun than he was, I'm sure. He wrote "Brown Shoes Don`t Make It" and "Call any Vegetables" while we were in Honolulu in 1966 before "Freak Out" came out. I think a lot of the Mothers stuff that we recorded was written while we were on the road.
Steve: So given the groupies, sex, and drugs during the 60's music scene, was it possible to tour with a group like the Mothers and maintain any kind of normal, healthy, or semi-moral lifestyle?
Jimmy: Hell no. It was a wild time - a time that I don't miss anymore. But then again, I'm 62 years old now and I think that lifestyle would probably put me where Frank's at now.
Steve: Have you visited the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame yet? If so, what did you think of it?
Jimmy: No I haven`t visited it, yet. My drum sticks are in the "Hall of Fame." I know that.
Steve: Do you think the original Mothers of Invention should also be inducted into the Rock Hall? And not just Frank? Do you think that will ever happen?
Jimmy: Yes, I do. I can understand why they put Frank in. It`s because he had just died. We (The Mothers Of Invention) were nominated, I think in 1993, but we didn`t make it. We never had any hits on the radio. In fact, we didn`t even get played on the radio. I suppose it`s possible but I`m not gonna hold my breath. I don`t think Beefheart will get there either because they don`t want creative musicians in their little building. Hell, get my drum sticks outta there.
Steve: How did you hook up as lead singer with the Liverpool band, The Muffin Men? What songs do you do with this group, and what is it like playing in England these days? What's the music scene like?
Jimmy:; Rod Gilliard, the leader of the Muffins, has been a big fan of the M.O.I. since "Freak Out" came out and in 1993 they opened up quite a few gigs for the Grandmothers first tour in Europe. I got to know them and used to set in on the last song of their set. I sang "Willie the Pimp" and then recorded it on "Say Cheese and Thanks" CD in 1993. When my second wife died in 1995, I was in pretty bad shape over that and the Muffin Men really saved me. They asked me to go on a tour of Germany with them as a guest vocalist and second drummer. I`ve done every tour with them since then and will always be with them as long as they're together. They are very dear friends of mine and I really have fun on the road with those English WANKERS. In fact, I leave on the 10th of April for a two week tour of England with them. There are a lot of Mothers fans in England -- so touring over there is great with the audiences. The money is shit but - what the hell - you can`t have all the cake and expect to eat it, too. Watch MTV and you can see what the music scene is like in England. The Spice Girls? Not a lot of creativity in the commercial area. There are still great musicians in England, but not a lot being heard that much.?
Steve: Your main band for the past five years has been The Farrell & Black Band. Would you describe what the group sounds like?
Jimmy: It is a very good blues band that play a lot of original songs. On our first CD "Cataract Jump" we did one of Frank's tunes called "Road Ladies" in a more bluesy way.
Steve: Tell us about your plans to record a work of American Indian music? How would you describe this form of music?
Jimmy: I`ve been writing Indian music for a while. Indian music is about Mother Earth, and mine is no exception. I'm doing it with a rock format and the words are about people living in harmony with Mother Earth. It`s very important to me - and I feel it should be for every living human on this planet.
Steve: Thanks so much for doing these interviews. The final questions are where will you be performing this summer so the folks can come out and support you? What songs - and from which CDs - will you be playing so the older fans can get acquainted with the music before they see you, and, last but not least, any closing message for the people who care a great deal about you?
Jimmy: If you will keep watching my website, the tour list will be on it. Otherwise watch your local newspaper entertainment sections and listen to the radio. We will be performing the songs off our new CD and include songs like Call any Vegetable (in its entirity;) Sleeping in a Jar; Love of my Life; Hungry Freaks, Daddy; Big Leg Emma; Brown Shoes Don't Make It; Mr. Green Genes; Uncle Meat; The Orange County Lumber Truck; Peaches en Regalia; and a host of originals. Encore is usually Lonesome Cowboy Burt and Willie the Pimp. We might even play Little House and Toads of the Short Forrest. There`s a lot of songs the Grannies can do - and will do on occasion. The show is between two and a half to three hours long.
I would like to thank Steve for the opportunity to express my views and stories to all of the beautiful fans out there. Without you guys I might as well get a real job -- except nobody will hire an old fart like me. Maybe I can get a job painting your house. Thanks Dudes and Dudettes. I love you.
Your PAL forever, Jimmy Carl Black "the Indian of the Group".
Part Three: 2003 Interview. Note that this was done primarily through e-mail, so the capitalization is Jimmy's.
Steve: Hi Jimmy . Glad things are still busy for you. The interviews we did in 2000 have been visited a few thousand times, so someone read them. How did the 2000 US tour with the Grandmothers go? Did you see old friends and meet new fans? Was it successful? What was the best and worst shows?
Jimmy: The 2000-year tour with the Grandmothers was -- to put it bluntly --a
trip that I hope I never have to do again as a touring musician. I have never been on a tour that long at one time. It was 66 days long with 6 or 7 days off. We did 42 states in a Winnebago with 7
people on board. Six musicians and a woman driver that also did our merchandising. Everyone except Don quit the band at least once along the way and some quit more than once. We saw Cal Schenkel in
Philly; Adrian Belew in Nashville; Denny Walley in Nashville; Ike Willis and Project Object and Banned From Utopia in Ill.; Roy Estrada and Tom Leavey in LA; Motorhead Sherwood in SF; Billy Mundi in
northern California, and Jeff Simmons in Seattle. We did meet a lot of old and made a lot of new FANS along the way. It was a very successful tour, except financially, with all the fans. There were a
lot of best shows and hardly any worst shows.
Steve: Don Preston told me that the tour bus broke down at some point.
Jimmy: The bus did take a dump between Portland and Seattle on the last leg of the tour.
Steve: How are Don Preston and Bunk Gardner doing? Any news? Upcoming shows?
Jimmy: I guess they are doing OK. I haven’t seen them since the Zappanalle last year. I should say that I am NOT playing with the Grandmothers anymore. I don´t know if they have any shows in the near future. I play with The Muffin Men and have been for the last eight years.
Steve: What were Jeff Simmons and Billy Mundi up to when you saw them?
Jimmy: Jeff Simmons was doing pretty well the last time I saw him in 2000 when the Grannies were on tour. I think he is still writing music and possibly recording but I haven't heard anything of it yet. As for Billy Mundi: He has some pretty serious medical problems now. He is and has been a diabetic for a long time now and about three months ago, while playing the drums a lot, he developed a sore on his foot. The sore wouldn't go away and started spreading up his leg and he has had to have his leg amputated just below the knee. He is recuperating now and is going to have a new leg that he and the doctors are designing so he can continue to play the drums. He's got a lot of guts and is going to whip this thing and start playing again I hope.
Steve: I see that you and Roy Estrada recorded a new CD, "Hamburger Midnight." Is this the first time the original Mothers of Invention rhythm section has gone back in the studio since the band broke up? How did it turn out? And how is Roy these days?
Jimmy: Yes, this is the first recording that the original rhythm section has done since "Weasels Ripped My Flesh". The CD is very good and I hope that people over in the states will buy it. It is on my small label; Inkanish Records; so there is not much promotion on it since I don´t have the money to do it the way it should be done. I don´t even have much distribution on it in the states at present but you can order it from me here in Germany. It´s worth it because it is good. Roy is Roy and I don´t know what more I can say. He is still the best bass player I have ever played with in my 46 years career as a professional musician and one of the best friends I ever had.
[ Note: Roy Estrada is best known for his bass guitar work with Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention and for having been a founding member of Little Feat, playing on their first two albums. He is also a convicted sex offender, having had two criminal convictions for molesting a child in 1994 and 2012, and he is currently incarcerated, ineligible for parole until he is 93 years old.]
Steve: What are your spring/summer touring/recording plans? Any chance you'll return to the states?
Jimmy: I leave on the 22nd of April until the 5th of June for the spring tour of England, Scotland and Ireland with my beloved Muffin Men. When I get back to Germany I have a small reunion tour with The Farrell/Black Band. About the third week of June, I will start my tour with "The Jack and Jim Show" (Eugene Chadbourne and Jimmy Carl Black) in Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden and Norway. I am releasing a new CD on Inkanish Records of my sons from Texas. The band is called "Geronimo Black" because that is my youngest sons name. The original Geronimo Black of the early ´70´s was named after him when he was only 2 years old and so he said to me; Dad, I want my name back for the new band he has with my 43 year old son, James D. Black, who is the drummer. They have been sending me some of the songs in rough mix from the studio and I think the boys are HOT!!! They have a chance to make it if I have anything to do with it. And I Do. I won´t be coming back to the states until Bush is OUT OF OFFICE.
Steve: You played Cavern club with the Muffin Men a few times last year. What's the Cavern club like today?
Jimmy: The Cavern Club is a wonderful venue and we are playing there again on the 4th of June. In the afternoon before the gig, they are putting a brick with my name on it on THE WALL OF FAME, which is outside of the club. It is quite an honor to be there along with The Beatles and a host of greats from England. I may not have made The Hall of Fame but I made The Wall of Fame. It´s an accomplishment for my career.
Steve: How's your wife doing?
Jimmy: My little sweet wife, Frau Black, is doing fine as always. She is the best thing that’s ever happened to me in my life so far. She is "The Love Of My Life" and a big Mothers fan and has been for the last 30 years. That´s how I met her. She had been looking at my picture on album covers for over 20 years and I played in the town we live in 1997 and she grabbed me off the stage and 11 months later we got married.
Steve: Is the big Zappa festival going to happen again this summer? Are you going to be there? How did the German Zappanale 2002 event turn out?
Jimmy: Yes, it starts on the 25-27th of July. I will be playing with The Muffin Men and with The Jack and Jim Show. The 2002 Zappanalle was a blast. I think this one will be great as well. I´m excited for it this year because I will play with the Muffins and with Chadbourne who I always have a total blast with. He´s one of the unsung heroes of the USA and most don´t even know it.
Steve: When did Frank's younger sister, Candy, start singing? What is she like as a person?
Jimmy: She started singing when she was 10 or 12 years old. Candy is one of my wife, Moni and my best friend. She is MUCHO fun to be around and she is extremely talented. She has a new book out called My Brother Was a Mother: A Zappa Family Album that she is promoting at the moment. She does a lot of stuff with Nigey Lennon around the New York area although she lives in California.
Steve: Since we're at war with Iraq as I write this, and you are an ex-military guy, I have to ask what your take is on all of this?
Jimmy: I think that Bush is crazy and a very dangerous man. He stole the presidency and is doing nothing for the American economy and a host of other things. Europeans hate him and unfortunately don´t like Americans much anymore. He has ruined our image over the whole world. I hope everyone wakes up and won't reelect that guy because I think another four years of him and America might become a third world country. I hope this stupid WAR IS OVER WITH SOON. I am opposed to all wars as they don't do anything but kill innocent people that didn't start anything. What has happened to the free press in America?
Steve: If you don't mind some Zappa history questions, I want to pose a few. Immediately after the release of "Freak Out," the record company sent the Mothers off to do concerts in Washington, DC and Dallas, TX to promote the record. I'm wondering what places you played and what kind of audience/reception you got? Do you remember?
Jimmy: That is true. We also played in Windsor, Canada and Detroit, MI. besides Washington and Dallas. We played only TV shows on that little promo tour. The first TV show was in Washington, DC and we played “Who Are The Brain Police” and really freaked out the audience as Carl Franzoni was touring with us. Those kids didn't´t know what to think of us and I remember that the switchboard at the station lit up like a Christmas tree with heavy complaints from irate parents all over the stations viewing area.
Steve: That was a local Washington, DC teen show called "Wing Ding." Over the years I've heard that the Mothers were on that show. I remember seeing the Byrds play live on "Wing Ding" around that same time.
Jimmy: The next stop on the whirlwind tour was in Detroit and Windsor. The Detroit Free Press claimed that “If these Mothers move in next to you, your grass will die” and that about sums up how those people received us. The last stop was in Dallas and Frank was very nervous about that place since JFK had been killed there not too many years before we got there. I remember when we got off the plane and started walking down the corridor of the airport that people just parted in awe as we came toward them like we had the plague or something. I remember that MGM had booked us into a beautiful hotel and Frank was so paranoid that we deaden´t even stay the night there. We left Dallas right after we did the TV show. You have to remember that 1966 was a strange time in the USA as far as long hair and freaky clothes were concerned. The war (LIKE TODAY) was raging like a wild fire. All in all, it was an interesting little promo tour and was the first and last one that MGM sent us on.
Steve: Is it true that Motorhead Sherwood started going together with Joni Mitchell during the time the Mothers played the Garrick Theatre? Do you remember Joni at that time, and, if so, what do you think she really thought of the music back then?
Jimmy: Yeah, that is where we all met Joni. I didn't´t even know she was a musician. I just thought she was a little hippie girl from Canada. When we moved back to California from New York in 1968 she moved to Hollywood with Motor and they had a small house in Laurel Canyon. I think they were together for about a year and a half all total. To tell you the truth, I don´t know what she thought of the music the Mothers were doing as she never said. She either liked it a lot or she really liked Motor a lot because she was always there at the Garrick Theatre listening.
Steve: Did you get to know Lowell George very well when he played on Weasels Ripped My Flesh? Is it true that you named his later band, "Little Feat?"
Jimmy: I actually got to know Lowell way before he joined the Mothers. He had a band called “The Factory” and I used to go up to their house on Lookout Mountain Road in Hollywood and trip out on LSD. We were already trippin´ pals before he joined the Mothers and in fact, he used to room with Roy Estrada and myself. In the One Fifth Avenue hotel in New York in early 1969 we were rooming together when he wrote most of “I’m Willin.´” It has always been one of my favorite songs of his. I have even recorded it a couple of times. The song is on a CD I did with The Jack and Jim Show called “The Early Years” and recently on a CD called “Mercedes Benz” with a band called JCB and the X-tra Combo. Both are available on my web site www.jimmycarlblack.com
Steve: Was 1980, and the You Are What You Is album the last time you recorded with Frank? "Harder Than Your Husband?" was the song, right? What was that like, and how did Frank treat you?
Jimmy: Yes, that is the last studio recording I did with Frank. I actually am on 5 songs from that CD. “Harder Than Your Husband; Teenage Wind; Goblin Girl; The MUDD Club, and I Don´t Wanna Get Drafted”. I had a really good time with Frank at that time and he really treated me GREAT. I even got paid.
Steve: How did Frank tell the Mothers that he was breaking up the group? I've read it was at a dinner.
Jimmy: No, we all just got a phone call from him stating that he had decided to break up the band and your salary has ended as of last week. That is pretty cold in my opinion. The rest of the guys in the band were very pissed off as can be expected as we had just finished a very successful tour. I think that Frank should have made an announcement to the press about stopping the band and done a last farewell tour and then broke up the band. Anyway, that´s the way I would have done it after all the loyalty we had given him through the years of starving for his music.
Steve: For those of us who don't know him, what is Cal Schenkel like? How much thought and discussion went into the album cover art between Cal and Frank?
Jimmy: Cal Schenkel is a great guy and a very talented artist. I am sure that there were many discussions about the artwork for the album covers as they were almost as important as the music was. Frank was very involved in all operations of the band as is very evident in all those early albums.
Steve: I saw a Frank Zappa oli painting up for auction recently. It was done in 1962 and Frank gave it to a band member Did you see much of Frank's own art work?
Jimmy: I never saw Frank doing any paintings but I know that he did. I saw some of his art work at his house. I wish he would have given me one of them. It would probably be worth a lot of money now, not that I would have ever sold it. My own art work now has been in designing CD covers with the computer for my CDs. I am going to do some sculptures this summer as I will be able to work outside. My sweet little wife doesn't like all the dust that they create when I do them. I have about 70 pounds of soapstone in my cellar just waiting and I have been thinking about doing some work. Most all my sculptures are for sale. I just haven't had any interest in them as of now. I did sell a bunch of them about 4 or 5 years ago but I haven't pursued it much.