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PostPosted: Thu May 22, 2008 1:31 pm 
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This used to be a pet thread (:roll: ) of mine and it got all messed up during the big 2006 crash-transition. So I am resuscitating it, rescuing and compiling FZ auditions tales...

The original link:
http://www.zappa.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=7803

Related:
http://www.zappa.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=5632

http://www.zappa.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=5540

http://www.zappa.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=2922

Let's savage this one, Letter A:

suterb wrote:
Here's the story from Arthur Barrow's website:"I got up the nerve to call Frank on the phone, and I told him that I had learned the melody to Inca Roads by ear from the record to use as a bass exercise. I think he did not believe me at first. He asked if I was familiar with the instrumental melody in the middle of Saint Alfonso. When I said yes, he told me to learn it off the record and then play it for him at an audition in two days. As soon as I got off the phone, I made a reel to reel tape recording of the cut from Apostrophe, slowed it down to half speed so that I could pick out all those fast, funny little notes, and wrote it out and started practicing it. It is not so easy on the bass! My audition was on Wedesday, June 15, 1978, at 4:00 PM. I got to Culver City address early and got to know the a couple of the guys in the road crew a little. They got me set up into the bass amp that was already there, and I started warming up. When Frank came in, I introduced myself and said "here's that melody from Saint Alfonso that you asked me to learn" and then I "whipped it out". Zappa said "Well, you got a few wrong notes in there, but you show promise." He had me stick around for the rest of the day and come back the next. Denny Walley was there, also auditioning. He was very encouraging to me, saying that he could tell Frank liked me and I would likely get the gig. Sure enough, Frank asked me to come back the next day, and after some more playing, hired me on a trial basis - I was to rehearse for one week, and then he would decide if I made the grade. We were to begin right away. The next day, Friday, he brought in some sheet music for a little sight reading test. I must have done pretty well, because after a couple of hours, he took me aside, smiled broadly, shook my hand and said "You don't have to wait until the end of the week - you're hired. You are one of the best bass players I've ever played with." I was so thrilled I remember feeling like I could have jumped 30 feet into the air!"

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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 4:48 am 
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Andre Lewis:

Question: How did you get the call from Zappa?
I had a group called "Maxayn". Also during this period, I was recording Johnny Guitar Watson's recordings and we were very good friends as well. I went to Guitar Center on Sunset Blvd one day to pick up some bass strings. They had a promotion where you buy one set and you get one free. And somehow, I had to leave my number with the salesperson or they had it from my account; anyway, evidently Marty Perillis, who was at that time Franks road manager (I'll have stories about him later) went to the Guitar Center and asked if they had anyone they could recommend for keyboardists, as Frank was holding auditions the next day. Marty called me and asked if I would like to audition. This might answer one of your other questions; I knew of Frank and had listened to some of his music but I was not particulary a Mothers fan so I was somewhere probably inbetween being a fan and just playing a gig. I agreed to auditon in a couple days.
When I went to the audition there were probably 5-6 other guys there that Frank listened to and I thought I had no chance because these guys could read flyspecks! I was surprised tho when Frank found out that I was the keyboard player for Johnny Guitar Watson and had a memory and ear which subsidized not being able to read music that well. He immediately took a liking to me and we were both Sagistarians. Frank asked me if I sang, I sang "Sunny" and after the rehearshal/audition he asked me to come back tomorrow. My impression at the time was that he was a guy who knew what he wanted, like myself. and if it was a little 'odd' or away from the norm or what everyone else accepted or liked, it made him no difference. He saw his picture and he was the painter.
The first gig was to be a 40-piece orchestra concert at Royce Hall before we started the Mothers tour. He was rehearsing for this and forming the new band at the same time. I didn't think I would be playing on this gig because the music was all read and I was just starting to get adjusted. But he asked me to play the gig anyway, my only duty on the gig was to accompany him on the organ during his solos. He would conduct the orchestra and when he reached for his guitar to play, I would come from behind the curtain and accompany him on the B3. I will elaborate more on these things later."

http://www.united-mutations.com/l/andre_lewis.htm

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PostPosted: Sun May 25, 2008 6:19 am 
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Good thread! I'll be checking those others out later.

Not sure if this has been posted or not but it's a great interview. Gives a nice insight into what Frank's relationship with band members was like later in his life and also has an interesting take on the reason for Frank's stance on drugs.

http://www.afka.net/allan_zavod_interview.htm

Here's the audition part:

AR: I read on your homepage that during your vacation you got a call from Zappa for an audition. How did that happen?

AZ: His name was Chase. He was the road manager for Jean Luc Ponty when I first joined Jean Luc Ponty. They had a few managers but he was the first one. I was out of Ponty for eight years and I hadn't seen Chase for maybe six years. And I don't know how he found me, but I was in Arizona, I'd just come back from the Grand Canyon, with my father. My father came to visit me in the US; he said we'd go for a holiday. My girlfriend lived in Phoenix, Arizona. So my father and I went to Phoenix, put our bags down, took the car and went to the Grand Canyon, just the two of us. Then we got back, got into bed, we were tired after three or four days of traveling and the phone rang.

How did this man find me? It's eight o'clock at night and he says: Frank's looking for a keyboard player and I know you're the guy. You're the guy, you're the right person! Get to L.A.! Here's Frank's number. So I called Frank. He gets on the phone right away. He knew who I was because I'd been with Jean Luc Ponty, he'd followed my career. I didn't know that. So he gets to the phone and he says: Can you come now to L.A.?

In those days (it was in '84) the airlines only flew till 7.30, now they fly in each hour. I was an eight hour drive away from L.A. so I said: I can't fly but I have a car, I'm gonna get there for two o'clock, why don't we do it tomorrow? He said: no, no, come now. OK, then.

Nine o'clock I'm on the road with my father, we're driving and about twelve o'clock we're still not there, so I called Frank again and I said : Look, I wanna be good for the audition, I'd be so tired, maybe we'd do it tomorrow. No, come now, you have to come now. Don't worry if you're tired, I understand. So I get into car and I said to my father: Dad, I have to get some sleep, you have to drive. My father had never driven in America. So, he's driving on the freeways of L.A. and I'm sleeping, I got a one hour sleep, which was good.

We got there three o'clock in the morning, Frank was there, the whole band was there because they said this guy must be good, if the boss is stayin', we're gonna stay, we're gonna check this guy out. Some of them knew me anyway. I had my father with me so it looked good, you know, good family upbringing, Frank was a big family man.

And he puts the most impossible music – Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch – can't read it, he was making a joke. I tried. He took the music and said I can see you can read and then he said: we'll play. So we just played a couple of chords. I was playing with everything I've got and he liked that. I could see they were all smiling and he was looking and smiling at his band so I got more confident and then he played and I accompanied him. Then he stops the band and he says: Excuse me, he says, can you hear me? Very rude. He was just testing – can I take his personality, will I fit into his band? He's already made up his mind, but he wanted to test me, checking out my vibe. So I said nicely, yes I can hear you very well. He says you're playing too many notes. So I played beautifully. So now he knew he could give me orders and that I could understand them and that I was strong, so he could rely on me to give him information. He wanted me to give him ideas, too. Frank Zappa was very strong but he always looked for others too around him for ideas. He wanted to bring out the best in everybody and sometimes on the tour I'd play something and he'd say listen to this idea or some other. He would always go for the challenge.

Anyway, so we played and he said: OK, we'd like to have you. The only time in the whole history of Frank Zappa ever did he give the job on the spot right away, except for me and George Duke. Normally he would say we'll call you or we'll let you know. He was looking for something. I know what he was looking for. He needed someone who was classically trained and jazz trained, good rock deal, someone who would be able to be new at something, research it and get it. The keyboarders at Frank Zappa's band were very important, especially me. I had to anchor the band. The strong harmony, pulling it together was very important and you had to be able to accompany. The last keyboard player who played – Tommy Mars – couldn't accompany very well. He was great, he knew all the material but he couldn't accompany very well. Frank used to say when I solo, don't play. But with me, because I was jazz trained – I'd been with Woody Herman, Glen Miller, Maynard Ferguson, Jean Luc Ponty – I studied and taught at Berkley, so I knew my stuff. We'd have a terrific relationship. Nothing bad to say about Tommy, he was a fantastic musician, but they wanted something different this time.

AR: Allan, as you said, Tommy knew the material. You were a new member, how could you know all the material?

AZ: I didn't, but I managed to learn four two-hour shows, like eight hours of music, in a year. Every night on tour I'd go to my hotel room and then next day whatever I'd learned we'd rehearse. We never had a sound check, it was always rehearsal. Sure you tried the instruments, but we rehearsed for two hours every day before the gig. And if I the rehearsal went well, that night it would be on the list. See, every night we'd play a different program, different order and different things. We always had a meeting before the show and he would say: This is what we'll play. So we never knew what we'd gonna play. It was always up to me, whatever I could learn, they would play, it was a lot of pressure.

AR: But sometimes you had even two shows a day.

AZ: Yeah, I'll tell you the truth, it took me a while to get used to the band. Everybody has to get used to it. George [Duke], too. You have to go through a process, where you understand, where you can fit in. It doesn't happen right away, because the music is very difficult. The band I'm playing with now, I fit in right away, because I'm experienced. Once I'd played with Frank Zappa, I could do anything. I was invited to Australia to do a film, big movie score, starring James Coburn. I said: sure. I'd never done it, I wasn't scared or anything after Frank. I went to Australia, had this Melbourne Symphony Orchestra and they wanted a big band, it went very well. I'm not afraid because of Frank, that's what Frank did for us, he gave us confidence.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 09, 2010 1:55 pm 
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Steve Vai
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6cplMM3d_Q

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 2:06 pm 
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podcast with ralph humphrey:
herman wrote:
a pretty cool interview with some tidbits on fz of course http://idhitthatpodcast.podomatic.com/e ... 5_34-08_00

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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:36 pm 
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Chad Wackerman:

In 1981 a bass player friend of mine, Kevin Brandon, called me and said, "I just spent yesterday at Frank Zappa's house auditioning for his band. Here's his number, Frank's looking for a bass player and drummer".

I first thought that it would be pointless, that I wouldn't get the gig. It wasn't until I spoke with Jim Cox who said I had to go and audition, because I'd get a funny story out of it. I thought it over and realized that I had nothing to lose. I called Frank and spoke to him, telling him that I was a drummer who lived in L.A. and was interested in auditioning for the band. He said "Do you read"? I told him I did, then he said "Are you a good reader or are you a phenomenal reader?". Not knowing quite what to say, I told him I had experience in percussion ensemble music, big band, session work etc, but I hadn't seen his notation, although the reputation of his music was that it was complicated stuff. He gave me his address and asked if could I be there in an hour.



I packed up my drums and drove up to Frank's house. I was let in the gate and the first person I saw and met was Steve Vai. Steve introduced me to the other core members of that tour - Ed Mann and Tommy Mars. I heard a couple of quick drum auditions, then it was my turn. The pieces he auditioned on were Alien Orifice, Drowning Witch (the classical interlude part). Mo and Herb's Vacation- (which is arguably the most difficult drum part of his compositions).

After somehow getting through the music - (all of the drums were written classical style, bass drum, snare, 4 toms, ride, crash, hi hat, china cymbal, 3 roto toms castanets, cowbell). All of the drums had their own respective lines written on the staff. Some rhythms were comprised of polyrhythms nested in other polyrhythms, and all of the music was beautifully copied.

The next stage of the audition was playing in odd time signatures. We played in 21/16 and 19/8. The other guys in the band were extremely solid on this stuff, and we played these grooves for a long period of time.

Frank then had me play in just about every style imaginable; heavy metal, swing, funk, New Orleans style rock (he called it a Delta groove), a Weather Report type feel, Latin styles, Swing Reggae, Straight Reggae, Ska, punk...Then it was combining an odd time and a Ska feel or a Reggae feel...

After this Frank put on his guitar and played various rock feels, solos, riffs and we began to improvise off of certain feels. This ended day one of my audition. Frank had me return for the next two days for more playing - I got to take home some of the music and we basically just did lots and lots of playing.

At the end of the third day, I went home and got a call that night from Frank saying that he just had a meeting with the band , and they had decided to offer me the gig. This meant 3 months of rehearsal 5 to 6 days a week, 8 hours a day. Frank had about 80 songs that we were to memorize, and arrangements changed regularly. The tour was 3 months in the US and Europe. He then asked me if I was interested in the gig! (I answered yes of course). I was to go to his house the next morning to pick up a stack of music and entire albums to start memorizing, as rehearsals started in 2 weeks. He then said that I got the gig because he liked my feel.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:37 pm 
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Adrian Belew:

“I was playing in a little Nashville club called Fanny’s, and I had just begun sneaking noises into the cover songs we did,” recalls the affable Adrian Belew. “All of a sudden, you’d hear the sound of a car horn, and you’d wonder where it was coming from. Ironically, the place is now a parking lot! Frank Zappa played a show in town one night, and he was looking to check out a local band after his gig, as he often did. Frank learned from the chauffer that his favorite band was playing at Fanny’s, so Frank showed up with a large entourage that included Terry Bozzio. It was obvious to everyone that Frank Zappa was there.

“It was a special night and I lit up—playing and singing my best. Our band did covers by Stevie Wonder, Steely Dan, and other stuff like that. Forty minutes into the set, while we were playing ‘Gimmie Shelter,’ Frank reached up, shook my hand, and said, ‘Hey, do you want to audition for my band? I’ll get your name from the chauffer and I’ll call you.’ It generated a big buzz with the local musicians at the time, but then nothing happened for six months. About the point where I’d forgotten about it, he called me for the audition.

“Frank gave me a list of difficult songs from several different records, and his instructions were, ‘Figure out how to play and sing this the best you can, however you can.’ The music was pretty complicated for a guy who was just playing in a bar band. I had never played in odd time signatures, and I didn’t read music, whereas the rest of the Frank’s band did. And I was so poor at the time that I didn’t even buy the records. I borrowed them from my friends, because I didn’t know if it was going to work out anyway.

“The audition was pretty brutal, and I didn’t do very well. It was like the chaos of a movie set with people moving pianos around and so on. And there’s little me standing in the middle of a room with a Pignose amplifier and a Stratocaster trying to sing and play lots of Frank Zappa songs. I was so nervous. I remember doing ‘Andy,’ and ‘Wind Up Working in a Gas Station.’ I thought I did poorly, and I had nowhere to go. I had just flown in, and was driven to his house, so I sat there all day watching everyone else. I watched some really tough auditions, especially for keyboard players and percussionists. I didn’t see any other guitar players, but I was later told that he auditioned 50 guitar players.

“At the end of the day, when it all calmed down and people were finally leaving, I finally got my time to speak to Frank again. I said simply this: ‘Frank, I don’t think I did so well. I imagined this would have happened differently. I thought you and I would sit somewhere quiet, and I would play and sing the songs for you. And he said, ‘OK, then let’s do that.’

“We went upstairs to his living room, and we sat on his purple couch. I placed my Pignose amplifier face down on the couch so I could get a little bit of sustain, and I auditioned all over again. At the end of it, he reached out his hand and said, ‘You got the job.’ We shook hands, and that was an absolute turning point in my life.”


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:37 pm 
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Ray White:

"I'd never heard of Zappa in 1976," he recalls. "But one day a guy asked me to come to his house in the San Francisco projects and listen to this record. He put on 'Montana' and I thought, the guy who wrote this has to be the craziest white boy on the face of the planet. A week later, purely by coincidence, I was invited to audition with Frank. I walked in wearing my clogs, white beach pants, dashiki, and an afro about the size of Manhattan. He thought I was a Black Panther. I think I got the gig because I didn't know who he was."


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:38 pm 
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Lisa Popeil:

When I first auditioned for Frank in 1981, he tried to stump me with rhythms no musician has ever seen before. As I sight-read the music, I found that I had to move my body in a certain way to feel what 11 over 7 over the barline would feel like and Frank remarked on my "turgid flux"! What a way with words he had.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:38 pm 
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Ike Willis:

"Frank came to do a show and a couple of my friends were on the concert committee," says Willis with a laugh from his home in Portland, Ore. "I got them to get me on the local crew as a humper, so I could schlep equipment and take notes. I'd been playing professionally since I was 9, and I wanted to learn. We met at the sound check. We wound up talking for an hour about everything but music, and found that we had a lot in common. He took me back to his dressing room while he warmed up, and then he handed me his guitar and said, 'Do you play?' So he made me play. So we start singing, and after awhile he stopped me and said, 'Well, well.' "

Zappa told Willis that he held yearly auditions and that he was going to be looking for a new frontman, being tired of filling the role himself. Zappa told Willis that he liked his voice and his playing, and was impressed by his ability to pick up music quickly.

"I gave him my vital statistics, and he said 'I'll call you after the tour is over,' " says Willis. "That was the start of the Sheik Yerbouti tour. I was in summer school catching up on my credits to graduate out of summer school, and he called me in my dorm. He said, 'I'm back, get your ass out here. Your ticket will be ready on Friday. I can't wait to see you again. I couldn't stop thinking about your vocals, and I think you've got a legitimate shot.' So I figured, what the hell? I'm dreaming all of this anyway. I flew out and went to the old Desilu studios, where they shot the Lucy shows and The Untouchables, and he had the whole thing set up. There was this whole line of people against the wall, waiting to audition. He handed me a stack of words and said, 'Sing the ones you know, help me audition these people, and we'll get to you later.' I had to call my mom and dad and tell them, 'Uh, I seem to be a member of Frank Zappa's band.' I was about to go to law school, and carry on the proud Willis name. My brother was already one of the top black architects in the country. But my mom had been a Jazz singer, so she very much understood."


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:39 pm 
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Jim Pons:

I had known Frank previous to my joining his band, so there was no formal audition. I was almost kind of like a friend of the family by then. (I had known Gail Zappa before they were married.) He called me from London when his bass player, Jeff Simmons, quit during the filming of "200 Motels." He never discussed with me his ideas about his "new" group or what he was trying to do. He just offered me a job. I had plenty of reservations. I enjoyed and had always appreciated his music before, but it was extremely difficult and complicated stuff compared to what I was used to.... a lot to ask of someone who had taught himself to play just a few years before. It was very intimidating. And more so because my parts were always written out for me and I couldn't read music. I had to take it to Ian Underwood who would play it for me on the piano until I learned it. I never knew for sure whether or not Frank knew that's how I was learning my parts. I think he probably did. I was able to do it though, so it never seemed to be a problem. I was happy to be working again and proud that I was considered accomplished enough to play with Zappa, but it wasn't the kind of music I enjoyed playing. It was more like a job than either of the first two bands, but it was a very good one.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:39 pm 
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Tommy Mars:

I can distinctly remember that i knew that frank was gonna put me through the most stringent musical maze that i had ever confronted in my life. i remember him arranging or writing a piece, I can't remember which, and all it had on it was, "slowly." and on the first page was a really beautiful set of chord changes and that was no sweat so i read through that. then all of a sudden, there were these rhythmic modulations and conceptualizations that i hadn't seen since I was in college.

I was on the verge of it, but it wasn't jelling immediately because i had been playing cole porter and gershwin tunes for years. frank had a toothache that day and i could sense that i was sinking lower and lower. then he wanted to see how i memorized. he played me a tape and said, "okay, here's four measures; play it back. here's eight measures." and my life raft was getting a bigger and bigger leak in it. finally, he said, "okay, let's hear your voice. sing something to me." i must know thousands of songs with lyrics, but i couldn't think of one song that i could do all the way through. so i told him, "frank, i can't think of anything so i'm going to improvise something."

So i just started playing the piano and singing. i have a style of scatting that is very definitely my own and it's coordinated very basically and organically with what i'm playing on the piano. it totally knocked frank out. he called gail, his wife, downstairs and said, "listen to this guy blow." and that saved me. my reading was only adequate for what he wanted but the improv saved me, i'm sure. then we talked a lot and he said, "i guess you won't have to work many holiday inns any more.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:40 pm 
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Warren Cucurullo:

"I was really a great fan of Zappa’s,I first heard him around 1969-’70, at the time of Hot Rats. I was pretty young then, but I was interested in the sound of the guitar player. He reminded me of Eastern music -- Ravi Shankar. I always liked that music. I bought all of his records, and when Overnight Sensation came out, I couldn’t believe the stuff he was doing on record. That’s when I started to go see him play all the time -- fourteen or fifteen shows a tour. I got to meet him in ‘76 when Terry Bozzio was his drummer. I played some tapes for him that I made with my brother, a drummer, in our basement. I wrote a vamp and played solos over it -- a lot of spontaneous jamming -- and he liked them."

Two years later, Cuccurullo played Zappa another tape, and Zappa said, "You’re ready for this band."

"I thought I would have a few months to practice," remembers Cuccurullo, "since he was going to Europe on tour. I was hoping to practice my reading and playing when a few nights later Frank called and asked me to come to Los Angeles the next morning to audition. So I had no time to practice. I passed the audition and went to Europe two weeks later.

Warren was a green kid when Zappa found him. "Zappa picked me up from Canarsie, from Brooklyn, and threw me into the world of rock," Cuccurullo states. "I was never in the studio before. I was instantly part of an eleven piece band with four guitarists. I was immediately exposed to his empire, seeing all of his equipment and how he ran things on the business side. We practiced. I made myself ready for the road. I made sure I was in perfect health. I didn’t drink or eat any bad foods. I had my vitamins. One of the things Zappa noticed about me is how I fit into his band -- the amount of enthusiasm toward his music that I had. That’s something he always looks for in a musician, besides technical capabilities. I was into everything he’d ever done! I knew all the parts and even the different arrangements, live and studio. I was well versed in his music and fit right in. I really enjoyed playing with frank because he’s a very friendly, down-to-earth guy once you get to know him. This breaks the barrier of what some people might see in him. I never had any strange conceptions about him, but a lot of people do."

On the one European tour Warren made, Frank Zappa was basically churning out his hits, but with some improvisation. "Frank called it the human jukebox," Cuccurullo laughs. "We played the four most popular songs from each album, segueing one into another. The kids loved it. I had a few solos, and we did some jamming." (Hear it on Shut Up ‘N Play Yer Guitar, etc).

"I could actually feel what Frank was playing when I listened to him," he continues. "I could just hear it and play it. A lot of times he would sing me lines, and then I would play them. I was really in tune with what he was playing. But, then again, I could do different things that were more me, and I could play those lines without even thinking of Frank because I was thinking the same way as him. What I learned was that I shouldn’t sound too much like him, because I was prone to playing like him. He lays everything on the line: ‘here are the parts and you have to play everything right.’ He likes people who learn fast. He draws things form you, you try to pick ‘em up as fast as possible, Usually it’s instant."

Zappa’s old policy was to hire musicians for one whole year. After the European tour, Zappa and Cuccurullo recorded Joe’s Garage and Tinsel Town Rebellion, but then, uncharacteristically, Frank decided not to go back on the road. While still drawing his last few months of pay, Cuccurullo hung out with the Bozzios in Los Angeles (Zappa had discovered Dale Bozzio’s voice and featured her on Joe’s Garage."

People always used to see us around town, Warren says about their threesome. The three loved to dress outrageously. "They thought we were a band. So we thought we should become a band. After a week of playing together, Frank called me and said he wanted to tour again. I was completely torn up and didn’t know which way to go. Because I was really involved with Terry and Dale and felt good about it. Since I hadn’t toured with Frank that much, I was thinking of doing this tour and coming back to Terry and Dale. I went to one last rehearsal with them, and then I realized that there was no way I could stop playing with them. I went to see Frank, and I was in really in a bad state at the time. I knew that playing with Terry and Dale is what I wanted to do, however long it took. We thought it would only take a couple of months. It took Missing Persons over two years to break out. I explained it to Frank, who said it was going to be real hard, and he wished me all the luck in the world."


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:41 pm 
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Vinnie C:

I had always been a big fan of Zappa's and had every record. In fact, I had just bought Live in New York and loved it. It was funny and it was musically great. The irony is that I called the office and bugged the hell out of them, asking if I could bring a tape by. They said, "No tapes," but I dropped one by anyway. I'd go there everyday until one day they called and said, "Alright, Mr. Zappa will listen to you Wednesday night." My heart dropped and I literally sank to the floor. I was so happy, not just at the prospect of a gig, but because it was him!

I just went in there with the attitude that I was going to shoot
my shot and was not going to get real uptight because it was Frank Zappa. I would just go for it. This was it and I was going to put it all forward. I went there and was watching these people audition. The average time they lasted was like 15 seconds.

It seems as though they just couldn't go through with what Frank wanted out of a musician. Frank would put this music in front of you that was ridiculously difficult, like equally on par with 20th Century compositional kind of stuff, and rhythmically it was incredible. These guys would sit there and they could play grooves but they couldn't read or vice versa. He looks for a special combination of elements in a person and I guess they weren't there.

I auditioned on Bozzio's drums. I had never played on two base drums, but I said, "Screw it--I'm going for it!" He put this thing in front of me, "Pedro's Dowry," and it was the melodic part that I had to sight read in unison with the marimba. So I sight read a little bit of that. I just had to concentrate on it completely, and to my surprise, I didn't make any mistakes. He was about to give me "The Black Page." I had tried my hand at transcribing it, so I had it memorized and before he gave me the music, I started playing it. I go about two-thirds through it and I guess he heard enough because he said, "Okay, yes, you can read." Then he started playing this thing in 21/16 and he wanted me to play along. I grasped it; it was all subdivided in threes and twos. Then he told me to take a solo, so I played on it.
Then he came back in and played and said, "Okay, that's enough of that." He started throwing tune after tune and we went through about four tunes. The whole thing lasted about fifteen minutes, which was like a record. Then he pulled me aside and asked me when I could start. I turned white and said, "Anytime." And that was it. That bailed me out of my whole living and financial situation."


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:41 pm 
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Peter Wolf:

he first played me some tapes from the zappa in new york album and checked out my reactions, i guess. then he whipped some music in front of me to sight-read and i stumbled through it. first of all, i am not an excellent sight-reader, and then of course frank's stuff is unbelievable to sight-read. that's part of his trip, i guess; he gets pleasure to a certain extent to give a player something he can't pull off. you have to practice that stuff, you can't just do it. then he said, "play me something." i took a piano solo. patrick o'hearn was there and he whipped out his acoustic bass and we started playing, just acoustic piano and acoustic bass. finally, frank said, "well, what do you think, pat, you want to play with this guy?" and pat said, "yeah." so frank turned around and said, "you're hired." that was it.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:42 pm 
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Terry Bozzio: (credit to Idiot Bastard)

idiot bastard: could you tell me a little bit about how you came to audition for frank?

bozzio : well, basically i heard from eddie henderson who i was playing with at the time that george duke had said that zappa was looking for someone; never heard his music...3 days before the audition, i decided to buy a couple of albums roxy & apostrophe, didn't sleep for the next 3 days, flew myself down to l.a. , went to zappa's warehouse you know, he had a big huge stage, sound and light equipment i'd never seen before...most difficult music i'd ever seen spread all over the stage, there was about 50 drummers around

there were 2 ludwig octaplus sets set up & 1 drummer would set 1 kit up while the other one would audition & they were going back and forth, dropping like flies so i thought i'd never get this gig, so i asked some friends if they'd heard about a weather report audition, because i heard that they were looking for a drummer and i knew i wasn't gonna get this gig & they said, well frank's drummer left

ib: chester thompson?

bozzio:yeah, to join them...so that made me even more discouraged but i thought, well i paid the money to come down here, i owe it to myself to try; the one thing i'd noticed was a lot of the drummers were sort of flaunting their chops, i thought the least i could do was go up there and listen and try and play with the guy so i did the best i could; sight-reading a very difficult piece, memorising a very difficult piece, jamming with a very odd time signature like 19 and then playing a blues shuffle

at the end of that, frank said 'you sound great, i'd like to hear you after i hear the rest of these guys again' & i turned to his road manager, his road manager turns to the 20 or so guys that were hanging around, and they're all shaking their heads, and the road manager turns around and says, 'that's it, nobody else wants to play after terry' so frank turns to me and says 'looks like you've got the gig if you want it' so i was completely blown away.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:43 pm 
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Eddie Jobson:

"Black Napkins"was my audition track. I went on tour with Zappa when I was still with Roxy Music. Frank flew me to Canada, and I went around with him on tour in Canada after Roxy tour. I used to play in the dressing room with Frank and Norma Bell, saxophone player. One night I was playing in the dressing room little bit. I think it was Montreal...no, it was Hamilton, Ontario. He just said, "I want you to come on the stage tonight."from the dressing room. I was just like traveling around with him, but he wanted me to play on the stage.
I was completely unprepared and had no idea of what was going on the stage. It was like 5 minutes before the concert started. So I had to go on the stage with the violin. He played this "Black Napkins,"which he wrote on this tour, and that was my audition in front of 10,000 people. He pointed me, and I had to do solo over "Black Napkins."Then he did something else, and he sent the keyboard player off the stage, put me on the keyboard, and he did some other songs. I forget what we did....and again that was like part of my audition. He just pointed like solo, you know.

I was playing this guy's keyboard, and I didn't even know how it worked. I tried to read the knobs and expressive devices because he had a synthesizer that I didn't even know...old Roland synthesizer, and it had a Hammond organ on it. I was just trying to read the synthesizer.

Art Rock: On the stage?


Jobson: On the stage! This is my live audition, and next night I think I played againwith him in Montreal. So even though I played on that track then, this particular recording was from different recordings from live concerts with Terry, and Frank
overdubbed it in the studio. So I ended up I am not on it. That's just what happened.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:43 pm 
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Bob Harris:

I was finishing up a tour with Warren Zevon, and we were back home in LA doing a 7-night stand at the Roxy that became the live album called ‘Stand in the Fire’. Mark Pinske (a long-time friend, band mate, matchmaker of Suzannah and I, and probably the one guy who knows more about Frank than just about anybody) called in the middle of the week and asked if I'd be into coming up to Frank's place to do some falsetto parts that Ike and Ray weren't comfortable doing – you know, fear of hernia. So I went up there (Thana waited in the car), walked in, Frank stuck out his hand and we shook on it. Frank had the coolest way of extending his hand for a handshake: just right out there in front – and what's really stuck with me through the years is that it was the same handshake for everyone. How many times have I seen, and probably done the same thing where, depending on how well you know someone etc., that it's a different kind of handshake. Frank would engage you from the start; you always started with a clean slate with Frank. He told Mark to play some of a track and told me that he wanted some doowappy kind of falsetto stuff in-between the melody. I said, “OK,” then he said “OK, there's a mike out there – go do it.” Some people strengthen you, some people the opposite – Frank was a joy from the start. In the short time that it took, he knew when to push, when to lay back and give you a little time to think. Frank was a fun amplifier. So we finished with what I learned during the recording of it, was called ‘Fine Girl’ – that was my audition.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:44 pm 
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David Logeman:

the fz audition was incredible. "do you have big ears? can you read? can you play rock?". that was what he wanted. first question involved the band playing a groove in 7/8-3/16 and then fz handing you the sticks and saying--play! wow! the reading was tough, but i had played alot of rock. he asked me back 4 times and after 54 guys, hired me, much to my surprise. the tours were a gas. private plane in europe. rotating venues with led zepplin, the rolling stones, and bob marley with frank out selling all of them. a fun us tour with alot of friends and family coming to see me. my background was in classical, rock and jazz. schooling was at university of illinois, interlochen arts academy, and berklee college of music. yawyi was recorded after one of the tours with no live tracks. tinseltown rebellion had both a studio cut that i was on as well as a live cut or two. i am all over the shut up and play your guitar series, as well as a few "best of" packages. i did work on some tracks that have not been released as well as a live album in philadelphia that was to come out on the you can't do that on stage anymore series. perhaps it might still be released by rycodisk. the other pieces you mention were just impromptu jams that frank turned into tunes. he gave me a lot of freedom within a certain context. he wanted to do a rock album like he used to do. overnight sensation was my favorite album and the stuff i did with him is close to that. my parting with fusion was mere economics. my goal has always been to play as many types of music as possible while being able to play live and record to make enough money to pay my bills. thank god, that is what i have been blessed with. frank's zurich intro was his form of humor based on the fact that i did not do drugs. even though i am a christian, i have never been in a christian band as of yet. yes, i did stay in touch with him. he felt bad about letting vinnie back in the band and gave me alot of cash to ease his conscience. i was cool about it and he appreciated that. i went on to do alot of tv work for the next 8 years after that, but i did miss playing with him. he was great. nothing to add at the moment as i am being quite busy with all the different projects that i am involved with. sorry that i can't give you more detail, but so much happened the year and a half that i was with frank. it was the highlight of my career, but not the most fun or rewarding thing that i have ever done. i do thank god for the opportunity because it was a miracle that it all came about---no doubt about it.......


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:44 pm 
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NMB:

Yeah, 72. When I saw him, his leg was healed. He was walking okay. Next thing I know, in October, I get a phone call. He says, “Hi, this is Frank Zappa.” I said “Oh, hi. How’re you doing? I remember you.” He says, “Well, I’m at the airport.” And I said, “I don’t really know what that means.” He said “ Well, I just got back from Europe. I just got off the plane. I’m at the airport. You told me to call you, and I’m calling you.” And I said, “Well, yeah. But I didn’t mean for you to call me at the airport – you could have waited until you got home.” He said, “No, it’s important. I want you to come down as soon as you can. Can you come down and make a rehearsal next week?” I said, “Sure, I’m not busy right now – I have no more engagements” So I went down to the audition. He introduced me to everyone: Ruth, Tom Fowler and Bruce Fowler, Jean Luc, George and Ralph Humphrey. He says, “Well, sit down and take a listen.” And they played about ten songs without stopping. Seven or ten – I forget how many because I couldn’t separate them. I didn’t know where one stopped and the next one started because of all the diverse time signatures that he uses in his music. But I knew there were at least seven different songs. The next thing I knew, they’d finished and he came down and says, “What do you think?” And I’m like “Whoa! How did you do that?” It’s quite interesting, you know. Well, he asked me “Do you think you can do it?” I said, “Sure.” Because to me it was the same as a rock opera – it had all the characteristics of a Broadway musical, except it was a little weird. A lot of different time signatures and everything. That was the jazz element – you know, with all the jazz musicians, I could understand that. And I understood that all of the musicians were from the music conservatory, so that made sense too. And I figured I could do this. I said, “This is a real good opportunity for me.” And he says “Sure, let’s do it.” Next thing I know, “Here…” I get a big stack of charts “…this is what you’ll be singing”!


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:45 pm 
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Ed Mann:

we basically jammed - frank played some licks on the guitar and asked me to play them back on the marimba - frank put music to montana up in front of the marimba and asked me to read it - the room was kind of dark with red lites on so i didn't do a very good job but i guess he thought it was ok - we talked for 10 minutes and then frank said - ok - you want to join the band? after i gathered myself up off the floor and managed to get some air into my lungs i gasped - "sure!"


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:46 pm 
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Chester Thompson:

"The tour manager at the time was also from Baltimore, my hometown, and Frank was from Baltimore as well. I had known the tour manager before he ended up working with Frank, and Frank was looking for a second drummer because Ralph Humphrey was already playing in the band (as a drummer), and he wanted to specifically try a two drummer thing. So, I got an audition and he liked the way I played, and that was that."


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:46 pm 
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Albert Wing:

I'd known Frank for quite a long time through Bruce and Tom. Originally I'd auditioned for Frank's group back in '73 or '74. And actually he said that I had the gig.

And I auditioned on the (Bebop) "Tango" and played the (Bebop) "Tango" for him, and nailed that. And he said, "Wow, pretty impressive." Then I waited around for a half hour at the Sunset studios where they were rehearsing. And Frank came back and said "Sorry about telling you you're in the band, but we really can't afford you right now, you know." I don't know what all that was about, but I guess he'd had a meeting with his management, but he'd already had a sax player anyway, Napoleon Murphy Brock. So I guess they were looking for something else cause eventually he got Don Preston and Walt Fowler to do the gig, so I felt it was probably just a combination of a horns thing because if he already had a sax player, why have me, you know?

So anyway, we kept in contact throughout the years until '88. I mean we had meetings and he'd send me literature, this and that saying "I'm thinking about doing these pieces," which I'd always take them and learn the pieces, or try to learn them. Some were so hard, you know what I mean. It was like, "Wow, I think I need a rhythm section on this one". But I got them basically down and I'd try get them as good as I could without sitting there with the band. But nothing really ever happened until late '87, I mean when we started rehearsing. That's when it happened, so you know I was ready (laughs).


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:47 pm 
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Ruth Underwood:

I went to college for seven years and did everything by the books until I met Frank. His Absolutely Free show at the Garrick Theater changed my life. I no longer wanted to be a timpanist at the New York Philarmonic, or a virtuoso marimba soloist. All I ever wanted from that point on was to play Frank's music. One night my brother and I went to the Village Gate to hear Miles Davis. We were standing around waiting for show time and Frank was just walking down Bleecker Street. This was before bodyguards; he was just a guy on his way to work. My brother accosted him and said, "You should hear my sister play! She's a great marimbist!" I was totally embarrassed. Frank turned to me and said, "Fine. Bring your marimba backstage and we'll check ya out." The next thing I knew I was recording Uncle Meat at Apostolic Studios on East 10th Street. I was really active with him in the '70s. It was greatest experience of my life and the most difficult experience of my life. It was educational, and enriching, and also backbreaking, grueling, sometimes lonely, terrifying - it was fucking unbelieveble.


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PostPosted: Tue Nov 17, 2015 4:48 pm 
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Patrick O'Hearn: (told by Terry Bozzio):

Patrick was playing with Joe Henderson at the Lighthouse and I went to see him play one night. He was staying at my house. I brought him home. And he had this big bass in the car. He didn’t want to leave it in the car, so he brought it inside. And that was how Patrick auditioned for Frank. You know, Frank said, “You play that thing?” Patrick said “Yeah!” He goes “Whip it out” And he put him in the studio. Patrick had already played a gig at 2 or 3 in the morning and he had to play ‘The Ocean Is The Ultimate Solution’ as sort of an audition. So he got the gig, and played great bass through it. And Frank put an electric guitar solo on there. It was fun.


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