The Mamas and the Papas

With “Dream A Little Dream”, the nearly true story of The Mamas and Papas now playing at the Grand Theatre in London, I have been thinking about The Mamas and The Papas’ influence on me.

As a little kid in the sixties, I listened to the Big 8, CKLW Radio in Windsor, and while they played lots of Motown music, they must have been promoters of The Mamas and The Papas.  I think I know all the lyrics to all their most popular songs.  And they certainly had a lot of hits in a short time.  They were only together from 1965 to 1968 (and apparently tried a reunion in 1971), yet they sold nearly 40 million records.  Certainly, anyone of the boomer generation will know “California Dreamin”, “Monday, Monday”, “I Saw Her Again”, “Words of Love”, “Dancing in the Street”, “Dedicated to the One I Love”, and of course, “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”  Their song “Creeque Alley” was the autobiographical story of how the four got together and made the move from folk to pop-rock music.

The original Mamas and Papas consisted of John Phillips (1935–2001), Denny Doherty (1940–2007), Cass Elliot (1941–1974), and Michelle Phillips (b. 1944). John and Michelle were married at the time.  The Canadian connection was Denny Doherty, born in Halifax.  He started out with bands playing in the Halifax area, and then met Cass Elliot.  After that they hooked up with John and Michelle Phillips.

In the mid-80s, John Phillips tried a revival with The “New” Mamas and The Papas. They toured North America and we actually saw them on stage at Huron Countmamas and papas memorabiliary Playhouse in Grand Bend, in 1984 or 1987, I believe.  They were handing out photos, and I happened to have kept mine.  It’s John Phillips, Spanky McFarlane (of Spanky and our Gang filling in for the late Mama Cass), Mackenzie Phillips (of One Day at a Time filling in for her step-mother Michelle Phillips), and Scott Mackenzie (filling in for Denny Doherty).

Elaine “Spanky” McFarlane had a string of hits, including “Like to Get to Know You” and “Sunday will Never Be the Same”.  Mackenzie Phillips had fame and fortune with the television sit-com, but that led to the all-too-usual child star drug problems.  In 2009, she came out with a shocking memoire revealing an incestuous relationship with her father.  Scott Mackenzie was the long-time friend of John Phillips and was a singer-songwriter himself.  He is best known for the 1967 hit “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”.  Doherty had toured with them for a while, but apparently had moved on by the time they arrived in Grand Bend.  In the 90s, Denny Doherty was on the CBC-TV children’s show Theodore Tugboat.


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