Singing Live with My Musical Idol Frank Zappa

Proof of my musical idolatry could be found on the back of my car for many years. Believe it or not, when I moved here in 1983, nobody had this vanity plate, so I proclaimed my love for FZ’s amazing music for all to see.

For most of you, this story probably won’t mean all that much because you aren’t likely to be familiar with my musical idol, Frank Zappa.  For those of you who don’t know who he is, I’ll offer my opinion that he was one of the greatest musical minds of the 20th century.  In his 30-year musical career he released about 70 albums in every possible musical style known to mankind.  He was known as a “rock” musician because he played a mean-ass guitar, but any given album (or even song!) could contain musical elements of rock, blues, jazz, classical, avant-garde noise, and a bunch of stuff nobody ever thought of trying before.  Lyrically, Frank was know for his sarcasm and satire, but an equal amount of his work was strictly instrumental.  He composed music for and led bands from your typical 5-piece rock bands to a 110-piece symphony orchestra and everything in between.  I discovered Zappa in 1980 and to this day own about 40 pieces of his vinyl.  Yes, I’m a true fan, so what follows was a HUUUUUUGE deal to me.

I moved to Arizona in 1983 and I was lucky enough to attend a Zappa show at the Celebrity Theater in 1984.  I fact, there were two shows that night, and I attended both of them, fortunately for me!  I took my girlfriend Cindy to the first show, drove her home, and went back to the theater to the second show by myself. Because I had only bought a single ticket, I was able to get an awesome seat in the second row on the end of a row with only about 5 seats total.  If you’ve ever been to the Celebrity Theater you know that the stage is only about 2-3 feet high, so I was basically standing right next to the stage.  Best $15 I ever spent!

Frank and the band were playing a song called “You Are What You Is,” and there was a background vocal track opposite Frank’s lead vocal in the third verse that nobody in his band was singing.  There weren’t any actual words—(my line was “ma-ma-ooh-ma-ma-mao”) and Frank saw me singing this background vocal part and he jumped off the stage and stood next to me at the end of my 2nd row seat and gave me a look like, “You’re up, man!”  I was standing right next to Frank and he whipped the mic back and forth between us so we could trade lines into his mic.  We sang the second verse together, and then he jumped jumped back onto the stage.  If you’re curious about the song itself, check out the link below. Like many Frank tunes, it expresses its message in what would be considered a rather “politically incorrect” way by today’s standards. But that’s just another reason I love Frank! Google “Frank Zappa ‘You Are What You Is'” if you’re curious to hear the song. I can’t seem to get the YouTube link to insert, but I’m working on it!

Damn—I wish we had cell phone cams in those days, but all I’ve got is these lousy ticket stubs and my distant memory—Hahahaha!!! But as an amazing, unexpected life experience to be grateful for–I’ll take it!!!

“You Are What You Is” video if I did this correctly. I am definitely not a techie!!!

frank zappa – you are what you is (1981) video – YouTube

4 thoughts on “Singing Live with My Musical Idol Frank Zappa”

  1. As you know, I too LOVE Frank. I must have heard this story, esp. the night Dylan & I “missed” our connecting flight from Mx. to Mke & you guys stayed up listening to Zappa- yet, I really can’t say I recall it.
    How Lucky for you!! It is too bad that there isn’t a video of your night with Frank, but, I can picture it- you write these stories so well.

    JLMF

    1. Thanks so much for reading it, Patti! Yeah, we didn’t have cell phone video cameras in those days (and you still don’t–Hahahaha!!!)

      JLMF indeed!!!

  2. I think it was 1992 when I met you at a reggae band audition. We laughed about some zappa quotes. Indulged in other reggaelike activities. We’ve been friends ever since. JLMF. I don’t know much my brother. I do know that when I meet up with you, either here or in some new reality. That it will take less than a wink and a nod to for us to understand all the Things I currently cant find words for.. Its all love.

  3. JLMF indeed, my old friend, Dave! I still remember meeting you for the first time at Grantman’s house for the audition. You always had the best intuitive ear of anyone I ever played with. And you could actually write awesome songs! Not many people can do that. It is indeed all love and between us it’s JLMF love–Hahahahaha!!!

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