Grand Wazoo—Tony Esparza
Informants: Javier Marcote & Charles Ulrich
Zappa: I have a perfect right to call every one of those bands the Mothers for this reason—what they're playing is Mothers' music and Mothers' music can only be played by people who have stayed together long enough to be able to express it as a group. If I write a piece and hand it to an orchestra it's not Mothers music. Or if I write a piece and hand it to a group of studio musicians I'll get perhaps a note accurate performance. But it won't be Mothers' music unless I get an individual sum-total craziness of everyone in the group, and you can't extract that unless the group has worked together for a long time, has been together on the road and has had a chance for all the personalities of the people in the group to blend to a point where they can feel comfortable being weird in a performance situation.
David [N. Pepperell]: But does that apply to the Grand Wazoo album? Wasn't that a studio group?
Zappa: Well, to this extent. Two tracks were using 17 pieces but the basic rhythm section that was being used were all guys who had been in the Mothers before.
CLETUS immediately calls his service. Instructors are given for BEN-HUR BARRETT to contract the whole army (if Motown will let him take any outside jobs, this being perhaps the most outside job he could get).
Ben Barrett the #1 working contractor, was a strong guy and I forgot yes he was once a boxer turned cellist—I knew he was a string player, which somehow didn't fit the personality, he was a very tough guy. [...]
Ben Barrett called me up to work for Motown one time, I said "sorry I can't, I'm already booked on a double-film call—have them change the date" and then he had the nerve to even ASK ME to CANCEL the double-date film call I already had—cancel a film call to work for him at Motown, and he threatened me if I didn't do it—I still said no.
He did that to a couple of others too at that same time, and you know what we did? We canceled on HIM! Any call Ben Barrett put out for days after that, we (Tommy, me and another, think it could have been Earl or more certainly Paul Humphrey who was doing a lot of Motown by then) told him:
"SORRY WE CAN'T DO IT, WE'RE WORKING ALREADY, WE CAN'T WORK FOR YOU" whether we were busy or not. He got the picture that he couldn't "threaten us at all!" Also, I had called the Motown offices directly and told them what Ben did, and they changed their date then to get me...totally over Ben's head. He never did that again, and was very mellow about it afterwards, so all was OK then.
It was funny to us, we were working so much it didn't matter to us, but it did to him. If a contractor couldn't consistently "get the #1 studio musicians" at all when producers, arrangers specifically asked for us.
[...] Ben, as well as being the finest in his job as musician contractor and picking the finest musicians, was also a great golfer by the way. He got Berry Gordy into the all-white golf association he belonged to, breaking the color barrier back then. Soon after, Ben got all Gordy's Motown accounts for that was when the announcement of "Motown moving to LA" came (right after someone ratted to the Union about all our cash dates). Motown had to use his recording license since they were busted for hiring us for the past "cash" non-union dates, and so we worked for Ben and his "Motown account."
I thought of making a movie from "Wazoo" but unfortunately the plot was too thin to do a full-length feature. I thought of doing a short, but with the cast of thousands and the immense settings that "Wazoo" would need to be done properly, it would be impossible to finance it as a short.
PARAMOUNT STUDIOS, Hollywood
KERRY McNABB (who is not related to the other McNabbs)
special technical assistance:
On THE GRAND WAZOO from the GW album the Big Swifty quote is at 3:26
I actually only recorded at one session with him, the rest of the time, I was just hangin' out. It was the funny "Fee-Fah" vocal on 'Cleetis Alreetis Alrightis". It was very quick and painless . . . it was all fun!
I recorded Cleetus with a pretty complete track.
Q. I was wondering about the beginning to "Eat that Question." Is that wholly improvised?
FZ. That's completely improvised.
Q. That's really nice.
FZ. That's all George's improvisation.
Actually, that was a badly recorded [guitar] solo. It's pretty hard to really stretch out when you are confined to a wheelchair which I still was from the accident when I recorded that.
Research, compilation and maintenance by Román García Albertos