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This whole monstruousity was originally conveived February through March 2001 by the members of The Big Note - a Frank Zappa YahooGroup. After an arduous gestation period, this site was birthed on April 11 2001. True to the essence of collaborative effort, these people are held responsible.
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My First Time To See FZ
My first time to see FZ was at the Cowtown Ballroom in Kansas City, Oct 23, 1971 (late show), with Flo & Eddie. I was 16 years old. I started playing guitar in 1964 as a response to The British Invasion/Beatles (like probably half the adolescent American male population); my family were (are) all musicians, so I received a lot of support. I didn't hear any FZ albums until around 1968, but by 1970 I was pretty heavily into him.
My second Zappa show was on Friday, Dec 1, 1972 in Wichita, KS, at the Century II Convention Center; Steely Dan was the opener. FZ walked with a serious limp at that time, still recovering from being pushed from a stage in London by a demented fan. I got in free to the show because a trumpet player friend of mine knew Earl Dumler, the woodwind player in the Petit Wazoo band that night (Earl is originally from Russell, KS - home of Bob Dole).
My 3rd time of seeing FZ live was in October 14, 1975, in Kansas City at the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall. Frank was dressed all in white, with a white fringe top thingy. The band did a lot of choreography during the show and it was an odd sight to see FZ prancing about. A friend of mine from Corpus Christi/Austin named Coy Featherston got a gig with FZ around that time - running stage lighting.
My next FZ show was in Wichita at Henry Levitt Arena on April 11, 1980. Craig Steward sat in with them that night. Dave Logeman was the drummer. Before the show, we got to hang out with FZ in his dressing room, thanks to Craig. By this time, Craig and I had been in several bands together. So, thanks to Craig, we got to ask Zappa lots of questions about the Ayatollah, the origins of the Phi Krappa Zappa poster, the gold guitar strings on his Les Paul Custom, etc... Frank told us he could have made a fortune off of the rights to that poster if he had owned them. I made a joke that he could always do another poster - standing at a sink while flossing. He also commented that the Ayatollah wouldn't have been such an asshole if he had received the proper amount of blowjobs like any normal guy. After the show, we went to pick up Ray White and Ike Willis at their hotel room. We hung out with them there and then all went to Craig's home and sat around talking all night.
Before I left Wichita in Sept 1980 to move to LA, I got Jimmy Carl Black's phone number in Albuquerque from a local Wichita record store owner named Steve King (who told me that Jimmy worked at an Albuquerque record store). I called JCB at work at a record store called Sound Warehouse. We had a nice conversation that covered how he had been stationed in Wichita before he moved to LA and joined up with FZ, how I am also part Cherokee, and why I was moving to LA - which was to make it musician / songwriter. I asked him if he would autograph all of my Mothers albums when I drove through Albuquerque. He said he would, if in exchange, I would write him a song for his new album.
In 1981, Jimmy invited me to the house where he was staying in the Hollywood Hills - he was in town for a show at The Roxy that week with The Grandmothers. We had kept in contact over the past year. The Grandmothers show was later that evening. Earlier that day, Jimmy went up to Frank's house where FZ recorded a new song called "Falling In Love Is A Stupid Habit" for Jimmy on a little ghetto blaster. When Jimmy got back to his house, he called me over and he let me make a copy of that song from his master copy. I still have that tape too - a simple recording of Zappa sitting at his Bosendorfer grand piano, singing it into the mic of a boom box.
Later that same year, Craig Steward took me up to Frank's house on Woodrow Wilson in Laurel Canyon. I got to hang out with Frank that night, as he and (I think) Bob Stone were mixing a live version of Florentine Pogen. I asked FZ if I could go into the studio area and look around. He said "Sure, fine...just don't step on anything!" I went out and sniffed around at everything - the underground drum booth, the grand piano (played it for a bit too), checked out elaborate Zappa orchestral scores sitting there by the piano, saw a cover of an Italian music magazine with FZ on the cover (wearing a gold dress, his hair in barrettes - tied back, with makeup on - holding a lit cigarette up to the mouth of a Barbie doll). I thought it was funny and told Frank so. Craig and the engineer wanted to see it, so we all walked out into the studio and Zappa showed it to them.
I also saw part of a Zappa show on December 11, 1981 at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium - the same night Lisa Popeil sat in with them to do Teenage Prostitute - my 5th show, for those playing along at home. FZ was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. I got to meet Nicholas Slonimsky backstage, but didn't get to stay long enough to watch him sit in with the band. I had to leave early because I had a gig that was an hour's drive away. I had no choice but to leave: I had 2 little babies to feed at the time, and had to earn a living, but I played with legendary sax player Joe Houston that night, so in a way, it was emotionally worth having to leave early - because Joe is quite a musician.
Also in 1981, I met a composer from Switzerland named Steff Signer. He was very Zappa-influenced. He came to the USA and stayed at my house. We went over to Don Preston's house (I knew Don and Bunk Gardner through Jimmy Carl Black), and hung out all night talking and playing. A few years later, back in Switzerland, Steff recorded an album with Craig Steward, with songs on it that mentioned my name, as well as Jimmy Carl Black. It's pretty rare, and funny too! My name is also in the 'thank you' credits for the 1981/82 Rhino published Zappalog - for helping the German author with lots of info about my specialty at the time - rare FZ/Mothers 45s. I started collecting FZ/Mothers 45s in 1979 and by 1981, people were contacting me about them. The guys from the "Mother People" fan magazine were letting other collectors around the world know all of the amazing 45s I had collected and found from digging through countless junk stores.
That FZ 'Singles' expertise was discussed with the head of Rhino, Harold Bronson, who called me personally at home to ask me to provide my extremely clean 45s of some of the DONNA label stuff because they couldn't find the original master tapes. Harold had me take my 45s to a recording studio in Redondo Beach, CA, and there they recorded my 45s onto tape - and that tape resulted in an album released later on Rhino records called "Rare Meat". The original cover for that release looked just like the cover for Over-Nite Sensation, which bugged me. I called Harold and told him to please NOT put my name in the credits for providing the 45s. He asked why and I told him that I had a gut feeling FZ would sue them over the cover. Sure enough, Frank threatened to sue if they didn't change the cover to a not-so-FZ-looking one. Rhino changed the cover and I didn't have to sweat that FZ might have found out I was involved in the project. I'd sure like the credit now though...
Also in 1981, I finally found the ultra rare 45 by Ron Roman called Love Of My Life. One night, a Zappa employee named Gerald Fialka (who was my manager at that time) took me to a Zappa rehearsal at Zoetrope Studio in Hollywood. I met Gerry when I put an ad in an LA newspaper called The Recycler it's a place where millions of people sell things), advertising Jimmy Carl Black 45s of my song called Albuquerque Bound. Fialka saw the ad, and called my number that was listed. He told me how he was an employee of FZ and I told him my story; and we got together and met at FZ's office. I practically lived at FZ's office, hanging out with Gerald and the rest of the office people for the first half of the '80s. During the break at the rehearsal at Zoetrope, I walked up to Frank with a copy of the Ron Roman 45, and asked him to give me the details/background on this rare little sucker. He told me all the details and I sent the story to the "Mother People" Magazine; they published it a few months later.
In 1982, Gerald financed my first solo record called "The Captain Beefheart Ceremonial Shuffle". I hired Craig Steward to play harmonica. (Craig and I are also pictured on the front cover that you can see here. Notice that the A side is called Revenge Of The Nurds. I did not take this title from the movie. I had never heard of this movie because it didn't come out until 1984 or 85. My record was written and released in 1982. A guy named Rip Rense did a story about the 45 in an LA newspaper called The LA Herald Examiner, which also ran the cover photo. I figure some movie studio writer or producer saw this and got an idea for a movie - it certainly wasn't the other way around.
The engineer of my Nurds 45, Hil Bren Swimmer, was also working for Bob Seger as an engineer at Rumbo Recorders in Canoga Park, CA. (a studio owned by the Captain & Tennille) in late 1982. He called me to see if I wanted to answer phones at the studio that day for some spare pocket change. I did, and got to meet Seger's producer, Jimmy Iovine, at the studio. A few weeks later, Hil Swimmer called me and asked if I'd like to audition for the lead guitar spot with Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band. I asked if the audition was in a couple of weeks. Hil said it was in a couple of months.
My 6th, and last, Zappa show was in July 22, 1984 at The Palace, when FZ played a weeklong stint there in Hollywood. The night I went, George Duke, Johnny Guitar Watson and a few other stars sat in with FZ. This was my very last FZ show. I didn't go backstage at that one. I basically went to the show - hung out with Fialka for a bit and watched the whole show. I never got to meet Duke or Watson. I just remember it was a great show. Frank had on his infamous two-toned tan and dark brown saddle shoes. I was very close to the front of the stage and got to see everything in detail. Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads was also standing there near me and we chatted for a bit.
In 1985, right after I had recorded a song with Bob Seger called "Like A Rock", I started a band called Private Parts - named after a song on Steve Vai's Flexible album. I was back living in Wichita at this time. In 1986, we recorded a CD in LA called Dancing The Marmara, which features our version of FZ's "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama".
I used to talk to Steve Vai by phone when he was with Zappa and I was with Bob Seger. We used to talk about guitar design all the time and one day I told him about how I had a guitar built for my Seger tour that finally placed the input jack where I thought it should be - instead of on the bottom like a Les Paul, or on the face in the way of the volume and tone knobs on a Fender Strat, my design was to place it - on the side right beside the rear end by the guitar strap button. Steve was verbally quite enthused about it. Enough so that he used it on his Jem 777 when it first came out.
The very last time I saw Zappa alive was in 1987, at the Wiltern Theater in LA. Frank was in the audience as a fan himself, as was I, for a concert by The Bulgarian Women's Choir. Later that same year, Zappa was rehearsing for his final 1988 tour in Dec. 1987. One of his roadies was also a roadie for CHICAGO. In 1988, that roadie knew I was a serious Zappa fan and he gave me a soundboard tape from a Dec 23, 1987 FZ rehearsal.
Another small FZ connection in my career is when I played lead guitar on Pat Boone's heavy metal CD. Dweezil also played on that CD (Smoke On The Water); I play on (Guns n Roses) Paradise City. It's a very funny CD and Pat is really a nice and funny guy.
There's a lot more to tell, but this has gone on way too long.
Ed. Note: check out more from Dawayne at dawaynebailey.com.