[Candy, Frank, Carl, Bobby.]
Dad told us that he got another job.
This news was actually welcomed [...]. Packing up and leaving Lancaster was a breeze compared to all the other times. [...] The even better news was that we were moving back to Claremont, California.
Dad's new job was working again for Convair, the defense contractor that he had worked for when we first moved to Claremont.
Around the end of 1958, we moved to a house on Saint Augustine Street in Claremont, California, and that's where Dad had his first major heart attack.
In the spring of 1959, the Zappa clan again [...] moved to Claremont, California.
September 1958-June 1962
Chris Darrow attended Claremont High School, 1601 North Indian Hill Boulevard, Claremont, San Gabriel Mountains, San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles County, CA. By the way, one of Chris' classmates was Bobby Zappa, Frank Zappa's little brother.
December 1958/January 1959
Chris Darrow saw one of his music idols, Ritchie Valens, play at the Rainbow Gardens, 150 East Monterey, Pomona, San Gabriel Valley, Los Angeles County, California, just a month or so before his death. By the way, the opening act were Jan & Dean, and the house band were Manuel and The Renegades or The Mixtures.
"I saw Ritchie Valens a month before his death in Pomona," reflected Darrow, "at the Rainbow Gardens, an all-wooden building, with a low ceiling that was just south of the YMCA in Pomona, California," he remembers. "It later was to burn to the ground. I was from a mixed race white and Hispanic neighborhood in Claremont, called Arbol Verde. My best friend Roger Palos, was Mexican, and he and I were both learning to play guitar and we would sing together a lot. The songs that we learned that were not from the folk music genre, were popular songs mainly by Elvis Presley, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, and Ritchie Valens. For some reason our favorite song of Ritchie's was not 'La Bamba' or 'Oh, Donna' but 'Hi-Tone.' We just loved that song.
"I was 15 and in the ninth grade and was not allowed to go out many places by myself at night. [...] Since I wasn't driving yet, it took a lot for my folks to let me go into the dark part of Pomona to see a rock and roll show in late 1958 or early '59. My parents weren't square but my mom always worried about me.
"I went alone to the concert, as it was kind of a pilgrimage for me. Since I really identified with the Mexican culture and wasn't afraid, I couldn't wait to see one of my main men, Ritchie Valens. After all he was only 17 and not much older than Roger and me. I wore my bright, red corduroy coat with silver buttons that my Grandma Darrow had made for me that Christmas. I also wore white bucks, white pants and red argyle socks. I looked sharp!
"I'm not sure who the house band was, but it could have been Manual and the Renegades, or the Mixtures," Darrow ponders, "'cause they both used to be regulars at the Rainbow Gardens. I was very excited and hadn't been to too many concerts before this. I listened to a lot of radio at the time and because of the heavy Mexican influence in my life, I got turned on to KDAY with DJ Art Laboe, who would broadcast live from Scribner's Drive-In, and Ol' HH -Hunter Hancock- who had a great show called 'Harlem Matinee.'
"These were the guys that the Mexicans listened to on the radio. I was also into KFWB, with Al Jarvis, Bill Balance and Ted Quillan, and Dick Hugg 'Huggy Boy' on KGFJ. He was on so late at night that I would have to listen to him under the covers of my bed in my room. So what is now called Doo-Wop was big with me, as well as the white-dominated music so prevalent on major radio stations of the time. The Oldies but Goodies albums by Laboe on Original Sound were right up my alley.
"I was really into dancing at the time and had a chance to dance a few numbers with some strangers at the show. The opening act for Ritchie was Jan and Dean; possibly really Jan & Arnie. In those days no one had their own bands and acts would use house bands as their own. Either the band didn't like Jan and Dean or they just didn't care. Before they could get through the first song, which sounded awful, Jan stopped, ran off the stage followed by Dean, and plowed through the locked stage door and out into the night. Jan just kicked it open like some thug in a movie. I was so shocked and dumbstruck by this. They never came back.
"After the commotion died down and it was time for Ritchie to come on," marvels Darrow. "He whirled in, probably from some other gig earlier that night, and I went right up next to the edge of the stage. He was a pretty big guy and loomed on-stage with a graceful power. He was not overtly hard core in his presentation but was very soulful and I ate it up. There was a tenderness and sweetness about him, even as he rocked. The house band knew his stuff and did a great job on the songs. He did 'La Bamba' and 'Oh, Donna' and even played my favorite song, 'Hi-Tone.'
"The house band played on to people doing the Stomp and I was awarded a prize for being one of the five best- dressed guys of the night. A perfect end to a perfect evening.
"I read somewhere that Frank Zappa saw Ritchie in Pomona, so he was probably there, too. A month after the gig I was at school and heard about the deaths of Ritchie, Buddy and the Big Bopper. I was crushed and went off by myself and cried like a baby. It was the first time I remember crying for someone who had died. Ritchie Valens and Buddy Holly were like gods to me at the time and could do no wrong. It was one of the great losses in rock and roll history. It wasn't too long before we lost Eddie Cochran in a car accident. That event also caused bodily injury to another unsung hero, the great, Gene Vincent. Later in my life I had a chance to meet Gene and had the honor of playing on one of his last albums."
Claremont: Frank Zappa, 1959. First edition. Loose Sheets. Very Good. Interesting Zappa archive including a four-page typed "beat" poem entitled L. A. Nite Piece along with three Typed SIGNED Letters to publisher Grover Haynes discussing the piece and its publication. Zappa specifically wanted this published under the pseudonym Vincent Beldon. The poem was eventually published in an obscure little poetry magazine.
233 W. Oak Park Dr., Claremont / 6 mo.
We lived [on Oak Park Drive] in 1959. Frank lived there briefly and moved out that same year. We also lived in the house next to it in 1952.
Roger Nichols (September 22, 1944-April 9, 2011) [...] was born in Oakland, California. His father was an U.S. Air Force B-47 pilot; as a result the Nichols family lived in various spots in the U.S. for the first eleven years of his life. In 1957 his family settled in Cucamonga, California, where Nichols attended High School. One of his classmates was Frank Zappa; Zappa would drop by Nichols' house to "play guitar, and we would do multiple passes of guitars and bounce them together" on Nichols' first recording device, a reel-to-reel tape deck using quarter inch tape.
Roger Nichols graduated from Upland High School in 1962. [...] As a freshman at Upland High, Nichols started experimenting with recorders because he did not like the sound of stereos.
"I hated the clicks and pops," he said. "I hated that part. It got in the way of the music. I thought, if I recorded my own stuff then I'd have copies without all the clicks and pops."
Nichols built a tape recorder and started recording with friends, such as musician Frank Zappa.
"My mother knew his dad, and before Frank Zappa was famous, he would come over to my house and we would record guitars, just to see what it sounded like," Nichols said.
Row 1: S. Roshay; D. Roshay; S. Skilling; B. Strutton; J. Black; C. Richardson; E. Weinsberg; W. Fogg. Row 2: J. Kovar; C. Clark; B. Coltrin; B. Waite; E. Loeb; D. Herring; B. Montgomery; M. Seapy; B. Moley; C. Hertz; C. Welland; J. Tibbals; S. Dundas; L. Martin. 3rd Row: R. Perkins; B. Minnich; B. Bentley; B. Rockloff; B. Palos; V. Jackman; R. Huff; F. Hungerford; Mr. Denes; P. Scott; G. Lawrence; F. Zappa; T. Hodges; D. Barber.
In talking to over 30 people that remembered Frank, a gentleman named Armando Bustos ('59) contacted me and told me his friend Bob Palos had mentioned that "Frank played drums next to him on trumpet during their senior year." [...] It turns out that when the Zappas moved back to Claremont in 1959, Frank would visit Claremont High Band and Art classrooms. Armando Bustos saw him frequently enough, that he thought he was attending school. Richard Martinez ('59) confirmed to me that Frank would visit his Art class.
I wondered at the time if Frank was auditing the class or just visiting. Chris Denes told me that his father George Denes was not that worried about the rules, so he could have let Frank sit in on the class. George Denes was mentioned to me frequently when Frank's classmates in the band talked about memories of Frank being involved in music during '53-'54. I believe George was quite a mentor to Frank because I heard other stories (Vic Mortensen for example) about Frank visiting the campus after the Zappas moved from Claremont the first time. In fact, Chris Denes told me that Frank called George years later and wanted to use the Claremont Orchestra for the soundtrack to The World's Greatest Sinner, but George declined, so Pomona was used instead and recorded at Chaffey College.
I knew Frank from that time period when I first knew Bobby. I remember Frank putting on puppet shows for the neighbourhood kids.
1/59—2/59—Anita Warren Mus., 215 W. "G." St.—door to door sales—Ontario, Calif.
Hello dear family:
The is the only paper in the house so—
I'm getting lucky—I walked four inches off my feet today in downtown L.A. and for this ordeal I got what looks like a good promise of a job—I'm very hopeful—it's at Wallich's Music City at 7th and Hope St. downtown. It pays $1.25 per hr., 9 hrs. a day—selling R&B records—it looks good now, but I'm supposed to get a call tomorrow night for sure on it. I did my laundry (had it done actually) and now I have clothes.
Wallich's Music City 4th & Hope St. L.A.
Salesman; record merch; 7th & Hope St.; July 2/59
Frank V. Zappa
Frank Zappa is 18. He goes to Los Angeles to seek his fortune. He gets a job selling records, is asked by one of his former high school teachers, now producing films, to become the youngest person ever to score a motion picture (Andre Previn did it at 20). But the movie's leading lady has a miscarriage. Production is halted.
"I always felt my parents had a boring life," [FZ] explains. "They spent most of it watching TV. I wanted to entertain myself, so I steered myself in the other direction." As a consequence, between ages 18 and 21 Frank was alternately kicked out of the house and kept in "protective custody," as he puts it. "My father was afraid the neighbors would see me, but afraid if I moved out I might do something worse."
In Claremont, the friction between Dad and Frank was growing and was becoming unbearable. [...] Frank thought about moving out, but Mom said she needed him to stay on and help with me and Carl. [...] The day Frank finally did move out, Mom cried and cried.
[...] Not that contact with Frank was lost when he moved out. He called Mom one day and said he was starving, and asked if she could send him some money. Mom put Bobby on a bus with a care package of toiletries, clothes, some food and about $50, which in those days was a good amount.
Frank split home and went to live in the big city—Los Angeles. He found a rancid little apartment in Echo Park where he tried to make a living writing movie music. He managed to complete a score for his old English teacher, Don Cerveris, who'd written a cheesy low-budget western, Run Home Slow. Tim Sullivan, the producer, had some production difficulties—the leading lady had a miscarriage on the third day of shooting. Sullivan went into debt and the production was scratched for a few years while he tried to recoup. In the meantime, Frank developed stomach problems.
I adored my brother Frank. When he moved out to live in Los Angeles, mom was inconsolable. She cried like I'd never seen.
Don [Cerveris] got tired of being a teacher and quit—he wanted to be a screenwriter. In 1959, he wrote the screenplay for a super-cheap cowboy movie called Run Home Slow, and helped me get my first film scoring job on it.
Frank Zappa is 18. He goes to Los Angeles to seek his fortune. He gets a job selling records, is asked by one of his former high school teachers, now producing films, to become the youngest person ever to score a motion picture (Andre Previn did it at 20). But the movie's leading lady has a miscarriage. Production is halted.
In the spring of 1959, the Zappa family moved again, this time to Claremont, east of Pasadena. Frank used the opportunity to get his own apartment in the Echo Park district of Hollywood, between the Hollywood Freeway and the Dodgers Stadium. [...]
Some time earlier, Don Cerveris, Frank's English teacher at Antelope Valley had left to try his luck as a scriptwriter in Hollywood. They had kept in touch and now Cerveris convinced Tim Sullivan, producer of his low-budget Western, Run Home Slow, to hire Frank to write the music score. Unfortunately, the leading lady had a miscarriage on the third day of shooting and the production was shelved until Sullivan could raise more money. [...]
In the meantime, Frank was nurturing the stomach ulcers he'd had since he was sixteen. Heeding the advice of the failed film project, he moved back to Claremont.
Antelope Valley High School
Chaffey Junior College (6 weeks)
Musical training—two months of harmony at Chaffey Junior College in 1959
I had gone to Antelope Valley Junior College in Lancaster and Chaffey Junior College in Alta Loma for the express purpose of meeting girls. [...] At Chaffey, I met Kay Sherman. We dropped out of school, started living together and got married.
Back home again, Frank enrolled at [Chaffey] Junior College in Alta Loma, California, where he picked up another harmony course, taught by a Miss [Joyce] Holly, which included required keyboard practice. He also picked up his first wife, Kay. "We shacked up for a little while and then dropped out of school . . . actually I did one semester of school with the summer vacation in between." He went back in the fall, stayed for a few weeks, then quit again.
He enrolled for a harmony course, with required keyboard practice, taught by Miss Holly at Chaffey Junior College in Alta Loma. He also sat in, unsanctioned, on a composition course taught by Mr Kohn at the Pomona College nearby.
After [graduation] my father wanted me to go to college. I said no, I was interested in music, I didn't want to go to college. So I hung out at home for a while, but there was nobody to talk to, everybody else being at college, so I finally decided I should go too. That was very ugly. I stayed for a year. In the meantime I had shacked up with this girl and married her. We stayed married for five years during which time I held a number of jobs
I got out of Hight School and drifted around for a little while. Then I decided well I'm not getting any pussy because everybody I knew went back to college so I went to college and it was ridiculous. I went back to the same harmony course [as the one at Antelope Valley Junior College] and I had an extension of the same bull-shit that I had before and I quit school and I started writing, and just kept on going.
I had a theory in college, I tried to get a grant when I was going to junior college to do research on the effect of parallel fifths on the teen-age mind. I had a theory that parallel fifths are forbidden in harmony books as being unpleasant and sounding bad but when you listen to the things that are accepted in harmony books they are so emasculated—you know—there are no balls to Mozart, I don't think. There are no parallel fifths in it—you got down at the bottom the guts type appeal. I was thinking of the chanting that was done in the Catacombs the sort of modal chanting that tended to keep minority groups together under pressure. [...] Well anyway all I wanted was 700 lousy dollars to live on while I was doing my research and they said well first you have to get a degree in sociology and I said well fuck this, so I dropped out of college.
I approached some people while I was attending [Chaffey] Jr. College in Ontario, California, about doing research into the relationship between parallel fifths and teen-age hysteria. And the guy said, "What, you out of your mind? You don't have a degree." And I said, "Look, I'm still young enough where I can talk to kids, you know, and I can find things out and it might mean something later on." "You crazy? What do you think this would cost?" And I said, "Oh it won't cost but about 700 dollars. Just enough for me to eat for a few months while I was, you know, doing the work. Get myself a tape recorder. Goin' out. Ask people a few questions." He said, "Look, why don't you go through school, get yourself a few degrees, and then maybe you can get a grant from a foundation and go out and find out about that stuff." And that's when I quit school.
I had a harmony course. They showed you how to harmonize old time music, you know. They showed you all the ins and outs and whys and wherefores of how all those old guys used to harmonize their tunes. Most of which I could not identify with. It's very difficult for me to see how harmonizing a chorale would come in handy later on, in my teen-age career. I can still apply a little of that rudimentary nonsense that they show you in school but, whenever I do, you know, I always think that I'm getting my mind locked into a system that is outdated.
The Spring Concert featured the Chamber orchestra which included, Dennis Molchan, Helen Blanchard, Keith Guthrie, Charles Miller, Richard Sarrick, Marilyn Bowers, Norma Tudor, Kit Evans, Marilyn Gaddis, Sandra Shaddle, Madeline Bruno, Richard Chrystie, Diane Magdaleno, Karen Hobbs, Karen Eldridge, Harold Collins, Ken Calhoun, AI Surratt, and Frank Zappa.
I studied music with Joyce Shannon (the same music teacher Frank Zappa had at Chaffey College).
My father Douglas McClellan taught Frank Zappa art at Chaffey in Cucamonga in 1959—Zappa was there for only a semester—My father gave him a D (which floored me as I was a huge fan later) because he said he didn't try hard enough and used a "scrafitti" style on blank movie film—The Ludens commercial Frank worked on looked like an extension of this foray into abstract film work. I am surprised they did not mention Chaffey on the show!
George Goad was nice enough to share this historic picture. He is on congas and Frank Zappa is to the right with guitar. Valhalla Coffee House, 1959, Pomona, CA.
During the time [Doug] Rost and [Wayne] Leavitt knew Zappa, he lived at three addresses near downtown Ontario: first off D Street, then on West G Street, then at 625 N. Euclid Ave.
[...] Zappa met Kay Sherman at Chaffey College. They married and she got a job at First Trust Bank in Ontario.
"A very fun, friendly girl," Leavitt said.
FZ was 19 years old in 1960, but the voting age was 21 at that time.
Union: You've been telling people to register to vote a lot lately, and even as far back as the Live at the Fillmore album, you put that on the cover. Yet you have said that the first and last time you voted was for Kennedy. Why is that?
FZ: See, if I've got something that I feel I really can exercise freedom of choice on, rather than the difference between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, then I'm personally gonna go out there and vote. [...]
Union: So are you still registered, but you just haven't voted?
FZ: At the time I was registered to vote for Kennedy, I was living in a different town. I am not registered as a voter in Los Angeles, and one of the reasons for that is they require that you put on public record your home address. And that is a slight problem for me.
You've seen all these different Presidents come and go during your career and sung about some of them. Were there any that you liked?
I still have a warm spot in my heart for Harry Truman—he had something special—and I liked Kennedy, but all the rest of them were a disaster.
The Biltmore [Hotel] was the very place where I had been dragged every day for a week by my parents to volunteer working at the national Democratic convention. That year, JFK (that's John Fitzgerald Kennedy) had been nominated as the candidate for President. [...]
Back in that warm summer of a distant time, a pink lemonade kind of season, Frank Zappa and my sister knew each other at college and he'd visit our home often.
Anyway, that same summer Frank actively participated with my family and neighbors in getting out the vote back then when JFK (Jack Kennedy) was nominated to run for the Presidency on the Democratic ticket. [...]
We worked for months in our spare time hitting the precincts. I was too young to register voters, but Frank and my sister did. [...]
We continued on to the last minute, right up to election day all the way up to moments before the polls closed, we all went door to door to remind registered Democrats to vote. [...] It all worked out for the absolute best! For the first time in the history of California, a voting precinct reported a 100% turn out (who cares if it was only for one party, it was for the right one!) and Frank Zappa helped it happen.
This is a screenshot from minute 0:00:28 approximately on Uncle Meat (1989), with the colors inverted. The name "Ramblers" is on the bass drum in what looks like FZ's own handlettering:
[From left to right, probably: Doug Rost, guitar; FZ, guitar; Al Surratt, drums; Joe Perrino; Kenny Burgan, sax]
F. V. ZAPPA
422 West "E" St.
ELWOOD JUNIOR MADEO
#11 Lincoln Avenue
Deadwood, South Dakota
DEADWOOD, S DAK
9 30 AM
[...] 22 [...]
OCT 1 1960
DROP A LINE
P.S. I just
STARTED UP A
NEW R&B BAND
(called The RAMBLERS)
Thanks to Javier Marcote for the identifications.
On December 28, 1960 at the age of 20, Frank Zappa married the 21-year old Kay Sherman in San Bernardino County.
Frank [...] finally decided to go to Chaffey Junior College [...]. It was there that he met his first wife, Kay Sherman.
Things moved fast. The two of them definitely had a strong attraction for each other, and soon they had dropped out of college, moved into a house on "G" Street in Ontario, and, eventually, gotten married. Mom had to sign for Frank because he was only 20.
Before they got married Dad refused to go visit the two of them.
The pair dropped out of college and lived together for a while before getting married and moving into a house at 314 West G Street.
I was married to Frank before Gail [...]. We met at Chaffey College and Frank used to make these drawings and we hung them on the walls of our small apartment. I have photos of some of them that show he signed them F. Z. and sometimes Zappa. I still have one of his paintings he did when I told him I loved the idea of living in a tree house without walls. He did it in india ink and washed with shades of blue watercolor of an open (no walls) structure with grass mats and is very tropical. One painting I don't have a photo of is one of a base player playing a stand-up base. Very few lines but just enough to get the whole feeling of this base player's mood. It was a masterpiece. Don't know what ever happened to this painting. [...] He was a painter, composer and musician. He would create his music with india ink and wipe the excess pen ink on his jeans. One leg of his jeans had hundreds of black ink stains on it. His compositions for orchestra were beautiful where he wrote pieces for every instrument. And he loved cats! At one point in the early sixties, we had 4 cats and 3 gave birth to 5 kittens each. We had 19 cats of which we found homes for 8 pairs and kept the rest. It was joyous. Another side of Frank that nobody knows about. He is missed.
Well, if your wife has a good brain and a good job, and all you can do is get a job in a gas station, I'd send her out to work, too. But I'd make sure she knew who was boss when she got home. I was supported for two years by my first wife. It was an uncomfortable sort of feeling knowing that somebody else was bringing in the money, but I didn't have much choice. With the kind of line of work I was in, I just couldn't get any work. We needed some way to exist. So she was a secretary and brought home the bacon. Meanwhile, I was a lonely composer who couldn't get anything recorded or sold. I kept on writing.
[Kay] was his first wife. She worked at a bank in Ontario. And I attended a couple of parties at that apartment, which was upstairs—just a couple of blocks from a music store, which I don't think is there anymore, but Frank used to hang there.
Yes, I remember Kay. But I'm sure I haven't talked to her in fifty or sixty years—probably since she and Frank got divorced.
I didn't get my first [electric guitar] until I was 21, when I rented a Telecaster from a music store.
I rented a Telecaster from a music store in Ontario, California.
There was a music store not far from my house, and I rented this Telecaster for $15 a month. Eventually I had to give it back, because I couldn't make the repayments on it.
I guess it was around four or five years [after the first guitar in Lancaster] that I actually got an electric guitar. There was a music store not far from my house and I rented this Telecaster for $15 a month. Eventually, I had to give it back because I couldn't make the payments on it any more.
[Frank's] departure freed up household expenses giving our parents a little extra money, which they would need as things got worse for Dad. He lost his job at Convair forcing us to move to another house in the same neighborhood for a lower rent.
Shortly after that move, Dad had a heart attack and remained in the hospital for a week.
[...] We ended up moving one more time while I was still a member of the household.
We moved into an area on the outskirts of the Claremont Colleges complex where mostly Mexican families, day laborers, and college support staff employees lived.
"One day after class in high school, I walked around the corner, took a look at him and said, 'Who—or what—the hell is that?'" remembers Terry [Kirkman]. "Back in 1961, Frank and I had a duo. He was really into Alan Watts, the ethnic folk thing, and blues. We would tease people with bongo drums and make up music on the spot. I was playing clarinet, singing and playing bongos. We didn't really have a 'repertoire,' per se. Club people would call us up and essentially want us to make noise or read some poetry. We also had a very short-lived six-piece band for about three months and we got a gig at the Pomona YMCA."
Terry [Kirkman] states that he "played with Frank Zappa long before the Mothers of Invention was formed. We were partners. Frank and I created things together . . . ethnic folk, Afro-Cuban, blues, sparse (duo) jazz, adaptations of Bach and other classics, etc."
I started out playing a tenor guitar in college back in '56, doing Kingston Trio and Four Freshmen stuff in a quartet that included Terry Kirkman, who wrote most all the songs for The Association. That summer, I got to play in a "front room" jam session with Terry and Frank Zappa. We were all in college at the same time.
I should probably document the Rent A Beatnik story Terry Kirkman told me some time.
We were in college together. And we played local coffeehouses in the late beat movement when, at least in Southern California, all sorts of small towns and the big cities had coffeehouses. And they had never existed before. It was a brand new concept. And people would go play folk music.
Sometimes people would call us up and ask if we'd play at their place at night. They really didn't have any idea what they wanted. And they'd tell us maybe, 'how about blues? How about ethnic folk music?' All they wanted was some music. (laughing)
We would literally learn stuff that very day and go play it that very night. And it might be the only time you ever played that music. It was just walking around being rent-a-guys for a new kind of entertainment that nobody understood what it was they were supposed to be doing . . . but wanted to do. It was just . . . 'I want to have a coffeehouse.'
Did you play with Frank Zappa in a band?
I didn't play in his band, I played with Frank Zappa in college, and then we started playing and singing together in beatnik coffeehouses in what is now euphemistically called the Inland Empire, so, Pomona, Ontario, Riverside, San Bernardino—like that.
Everybody, uh— The big deal was you would open a coffeehouse and people would come but you didn't know what to do with the coffeehouse, because they had never existed before, and it was entirely new to the culture, so we would hire ourselves out as ethnic folk-singers one night, and blues singers the next night, bongo players the next night, and we learned some music in the afternoon and then we'd just wing it from there.
We were actually even once rent-a-beatniks. We were invited to a party to be real live beatniks, down in Laguna Beach for a bunch of doctors and lawyers, who were taking— ill-advisedly taking very serious drugs. We were the rental people and then we watched them vomit a lot.
So this is before Frank had The Mothers Of Invention and he went off on that very special path of his . . .
The only thing that [...] me is people say, "Oh, you played with Frank Zappa in his band." No, I did not. We played together.
[Transcription by Román with corrections from Charles Ulrich.]
A young and then unknown Zappa petitioned [...] Karl Kohn to let him sit in on one of Kohn's 20th-century theory classes.
One used to see Zappa around Pomona College quite regularly. At that time, Zappa was studying composition with Karl Kohn there at Pomona. He was the only student of Kohn's who had the gumption to turn in his composition assignments in ink, not pencil! Very self assured, he was.
According to Karl Kohn, FZ first audited a summer school course on Twentieth-Century Materials. This course (offered through Claremont Graduate School) was taken primarily by school music teachers.
In the fall, FZ audited a similar course taught at Pomona College as part of the regular program for music majors. But he did not complete the course.
Prof. Kohn insists that he did not throw FZ out of the class. Rather, FZ told him that he was moving away and would be unable to complete the semester.
During Zappa's first marriage, his wife helped meet a professor named Professor [Kohn]. Zappa had terrible grades and SAT scores and no money, so he couldn't go to college. His wife and Zappa convinced the professor to let frank audit the class for free. Frank was the only one in the class who always turned his compositions in on time, and he always did them in ink, while everyone else did them in pen.
In the spring of 1961 Frank and Kay went to Pomona College to meet with music professor Karl Kohn. [...] Pomona College is one of the top private schools in the country. [...] Frank Zappa could never have attended Pomona if admission had been based on his high school record or ability to pay.
[...] On Kay's suggestion, she and Frank went to Dr. Kohn's office to ask if he would allow Frank to audit his composition course. They explained that they had no money to pay for the course for credit.
[...] In a lengthy conversation I had with Professor Kohn, he recalled that when Frank and Kay came to his office, Kay did most of the talking.
[...] As it turned out Professor Kohn had already heard about Frank from [his student, Sylvia Brigham, later a music professor at SUNY Buffalo.]
She told Dr. Kohn that she knew a "bright young man who exhibited an unusual talent for composition." [...]
According to Dr. Kohn, that summer Frank sat in on his composition class, he never missed a day. When Frank handed in his compositions they were always written in India ink.
Former employers—Nile Running Greeting Card Co.; Colliers Encyclopedia (door to door)
Let me get this straight. I was not Madison Avenue a go-go. I was national advertising director for a greeting card company in California. I prepared ads. I planned campaigns. I did—was a commercial artist and I did greeting card designs. And that was my involvement with the advertising business.
That was in Claremont. I was doing advertising work for trade magazines relating to those greeting cards. And I was designing greeting cards. And I was making silk-screens for them. That sort of thing. I could have run the place single-handed. My training in school, aside from the music things that I was doing my own, was mainly in art. I supported myself part time from working in commercial art. [...] I really liked it too. I still have a scrap book collection of some of those greeting cards and stuff.
I went to work for a company called Nile Running Greeting Cards. Their line consisted mostly of silk-screened greetings, designed for elderly women who liked flowers. I worked in the silk-screen department and, after a while, wound up designing a few of the floral horrors myself.
If you go to the Running Greeting Card Studio Hall of Fame, they are now located in Morgan Hill, California, you might see some of Frank Zappa's greeting card art. Maybe they have his Valentine card, an S&H Green stamp on the cover and when you opened the card, it said "Redeemable for one kiss."
Nile Running Studio was located at 247 West First St., Claremont.
(This address appears in directories published in 1965 and 1969, but by 1970 they had moved to Upland, which is east of Claremont and west of Cucamonga.)
From telephone interview by Murray Gilkeson with Dennis Running (CHS '60) [son of Nile Running].
Nile Running Greeting Card Studio started out in Minn. Around 1949 the whole business was shipped out to Claremont. It started on Harvard Ave. When College Chevrolet moved out, it moved in on the northeast corner of First St. and Yale. After 12 years in the building they moved it to Upland.
One day Dennis came into work and saw a new worker. Frank Zappa did color separation by hand. You would trace and paint each color on a separate piece of acetate or use photographic means. Silk screen would be used and then passed on to the production department. Frank would also paint designs on paneling. He had great style and his work was admired by Nile Running.
Dennis would also run into Frank down at a certain coffee house in Pomona where music was played. Dennis did work at the Meeting Place in Upland, serving beer. He described himself as a bit of delinquent in high school, who was told to either go into the service or he would be in jail. He was a drummer and into music, but did not join the orchestra or play sports in school. He tried Pomona College for one year. Dennis took over the business around 1964. In the 70's the business was moved over to Paso Robles, CA. It is now in North Carolina where he currently lives.
3.5" x 8.5" original greeting card samples
Fascinating artifacts from the mind of Frank Zappa
This is an original (circa 1966-1972) sample set of two (2) greeting cards stapled together with a typed comment slip inside.
The back of the cards are printed as follows:
CLAREMONT CAL USA
L-1 [and L-2]
Comment slip inside reads as follows:
Cards L-1 and L-2: for Lovers.
Perception on the animal level here. Don't sell model L-1 short, merely because it's kind of stupid. BY ACTUAL PSYCHO-LOGICAL TEST (I conducted it) AMONG YOUNGER NAIVE GIRLS, THIS CARD WORKS WONDERS AND GETS MORE LAUGHS THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN THE LINE! Subconsciously, I suppose, they think they are laughing at some way out gag with a reference to Oedipus Rex.
L-2 is straight "sick humor".
I think it's best that you don't see me anymore . . .so go poke your eyes out right now
If my findings are correct . . . you have a breast cancer
Then came a part-time job writing copy and designing ads for local business, including a few beauties for the First National Bank of Ontario, California.
I also had short stints as a window dresser [...].
[...] a jewelry salesman [...]
This was the early '60s, and in a small geography of limited employment opportunity and real financial necessity, Frank wore a suit and white shirt and a tie then nearly every day that he showed prospective customers engagement rings, wedding bands, and cufflinks and crosses at Zale's Jewelers. They sometimes had a few glittering specialty items on display in the windows. Frank would especially laugh about those tiaras. So even though he worked every day, as indeed nearly every one else was forced to do, the wages were low, like nearly everyone else's.
[...] and—the worst one—I sold Collier's Encyclopedias, door to door. [...] I lasted a week.
"The Boogie Men" rehearse Nite Owl for high school weekend job.
F.Z.'s garage, Ontario, California. Al Surratt—Drums, Kenny Burgan—Sax, Doug Rost—Rhythm Guitar, F.Z.—Lead, no bass player because we couldn't afford one.
Name Band For After-Game Student Dance At Y Tonight
A band, Frank Zappa's Boogie Men, will entertain at a Pomona YMCA dance tonight from 10 p.m-12:30 a.m.
The combo will be on hand from 11:15 to 11:45 p.m. The rest of the time music will be provided by recordings.
Students may telephone the "Y" and indicate if they want a number dedicated by the band.
Members of the band are Doug Rost, guitar; Al Surratt, drums; Ken Burgan, tenor sax; Gary Goddard, piano; Terry Kirkman, baritone sax; Tom Son, trumpet; and Frank Zappa, lead guitar.
[Wayne] Leavitt said he knew Zappa, a fellow Chaffey College student, circa 1960-'61. So did his longtime friend Doug Rost, who would soon be visiting from Rohnert Park. We met for lunch in Upland.
Rost has been cited in at least two recent Zappa biographies. To quote from Barry Miles' "Zappa," in a passage about the musician's 1961 activities: "Frank also formed a quartet called the Boogie Men, which consisted of Al Surratt on drums, Kenny Burgan on saxophone, Doug Rost on rhythm guitar and Frank playing lead . . . .The Boogie Men never got a bass player and it is not known if they ever played a paying gig."
Rost, now a computer consultant, and Leavitt were classmates at Chaffey College in the late 1950s. Leavitt did some folk singing. Rost learned guitar by hanging out with experienced players. Zappa drifted into their circle. [...]
As for the Boogie Men, "there were five of us," Rost said.
Terry Kirkman, a multi-instrumentalist from Chino and a friend of Zappa's, was also in the band. [...]
The Boogie Men, who specialized in 12-bar blues and rock, didn't get rich, but they did have paying gigs, Rost said. They played at Chaffey High School and Chaffey College dances and at the L.A. County Fair. Earnings for the five men were split six ways, with the extra share for the person who booked the show.
Besides his documented interest in composer Edgard Varese, Zappa liked folk music too. In his Ontario apartment, he played Alan Lomax field recordings for his Boogie Men bandmates.
"He knew a lot of folk songs, sea chanteys," Rost said. "Who would expect a rock band to be listening to A.L. Lloyd and Ewan MacColl sea chanteys? In all things unusual, he had an interest."
The band didn't continue long. Rost was drafted and that was that.
Zappa moved to Cucamonga, taking over a recording studio and eventually becoming ensnared in a sting operation of questionable merit. Shortly after that he left town for good.
I'm Doug Rost, the second guitar in the Boogie Men.
We played paying gigs at local high schools and junior colleges. There were 5 of us, we split gig proceeds 6 ways. If anyone booked a gig they got 2/6ths and the rest 1/6th each.
We played less than a dozen paying gigs.
Members of the second semester Panther Blacks included [...] Wayne Leavitt [...].
Rhythm & Blues · Rock 'N' Roll
DOUG [ROST], AL [SURRATT], KEN [BURGAN], GARY, TERRY [KIRKMAN]
422 W. "E" Street
The other day I talked with Ken Burgan, who played tenor saxophone with the Boogie Men. [...]
Doug Rost recruited him for the Boogie Men when he (Burgan) was a junior in high school, circa early 1959. He played with them until he went away to college in September 1960. He continued to play occasionally with FZ even after that.
The Boogie Men were a quartet (FZ, Rost, Burgan, Al Surratt) for most of their existence. Later, other musicians were in and out, including a stand-up bass player (whose name he doesn't recall).
Their repertoire was strictly instrumental. It included Joe Houston's "All Night Long", Chuck Higgins's "Pachuko Hop", an R&B version of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture", and an FZ original entitled "Midnight Mover Groover". Later, FZ started writing more elaborate charts and bringing in additional instruments, including Burgan on bass clarinet.
They played at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, as well as school dances.
Informants: Javier MarcoteResearch, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos