The Mothers of Invention were an American rock band from California that served as the backing musicians for Frank Zappa. Their work is marked by the use of sonic experimentation, innovative album art, and elaborate live shows.

Originally an R&B band called The Soul Giants, the band's original lineup included Ray Collins, David Coronado, Ray Hunt, Roy Estrada and Jimmy Carl Black. Zappa was asked to take over as the band's guitarist following a fight between Collins and Coronado, the band's original saxophonist/leader. Zappa insisted that the band perform his original material, changing its name on Mothers Day to The Mothers (which for legal liability reasons was morphed by record executive decision into The Mothers of Invention), and leading the band to substantial popular commercial success. Originally formed in 1964, the band first became popular playing in California's underground music scene in the late 1960s. Under Zappa's helm, the band was signed to jazz label Verve Records as part of the label's diversification plans, and released The Mothers of Invention's début album Freak Out! (1966), featuring a lineup including Zappa, Collins, Black, Estrada and Elliot Ingber.

Under Zappa's leadership and a changing lineup, the band released a series of critically acclaimed albums, including Absolutely Free, We're Only in It for the Money and Uncle Meat, before being disbanded with Zappa's departure in 1969. In 1970, Zappa formed a new version of The Mothers that included Ian Underwood, Jeff Simmons, George Duke, Aynsley Dunbar and singers Mark Volman and Howard Kaylan (formerly of The Turtles, but who for contractual reasons were credited in this band as The Phlorescent Leech & Eddie). Later adding another ex-Turtle, bassist Jim Pons, this lineup endured through 1971, when Zappa was injured by an audience member during a concert appearance.

Zappa focused on big-band and orchestral music while recovering from his injuries, and later formed the Mothers' final lineup in 1973, which included drummer Ralph Humphrey, trumpeter Sal Marquez, keyboardist/vocalist George Duke, trombonist Tom Fowler, bassist Bruce Fowler, and percussionists Ruth Underwood & Ian Underwood. The final album using the Mothers as a backing band, Bongo Fury (1975), featured guitarist Denny Walley and drummer Terry Bozzio, who continued to play for Zappa on non-Mothers releases.

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Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1966 Freak Out! The Mothers of Invention 4.15 6
1967 Absolutely Free The Mothers of Invention 3.5 4
1968 We’re Only in It for the Money The Mothers of Invention 3.75 7
1968 Cruising With Ruben & The Jets Ruben & The Jets 3.5 5
1969 Uncle Meat The Mothers of Invention 4.35 7
1970 Burnt Weeny Sandwich The Mothers of Invention 5
1970 Weasels Ripped My Flesh The Mothers of Invention 4.65 6
1972 The Grand Wazoo The Mothers 4.5 6
1973 Over‐Nite Sensation The Mothers 4.25 6
1975 One Size Fits All Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention 4.35 6
1992 Playground Psychotics The Mothers of Invention 4

Album + Compilation

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1969 Mothermania: The Best of The Mothers The Mothers of Invention 5 2
1969 The $&%£§*+ of the Mothers The Mothers of Invention 1
1975 Transparency The Mothers of Invention 1
1991 ’Tis the Season to Be Jelly The Mothers of Invention 3
2012 Mothermania The Mothers of Invention 1

Album + Live

Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1971 Fillmore East, June 1971 The Mothers 3.5 5
1972 Just Another Band From L.A. The Mothers 4 4
1974 Roxy & Elsewhere Zappa / Mothers 5 8
1975 Bongo Fury Frank Zappa / Captain Beefheart / The Mothers 3 5
1991 The Ark The Mothers of Invention 4
2011 Carnegie Hall Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention 4 1


Year Title Artist RatingReleases
1969 My Guitar / Dog Breath The Mothers of Invention 1
1971 Tears Began to Fall The Mothers of Invention 2
2012 Big Leg Emma The Mothers of Invention 1

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