To this day, The Mamas and the Papas remain to be one of the most iconic music bands of all time. Unsurprisingly, their Rock n’ Roll lifestyle brought the group a lot of drama and, five decades on, we are discovering even more!
30-Year-Old Secret Revealed
Mackenzie Phillips, the daughter of John Phillips and Susan Adams, grew up in the center of one of the messiest family dramas that Rock n’ Roll had ever seen. Now, she is telling her part of the story.
Cass Choked on a Ham Sandwich?
While being a part of The Mamas & the Papas, Cass Elliot was overweight and had unusual eating habits. At the age of 32, on July 28, 1974, it was reported that Elliot had just performed in a sold-out show in London, and then passed away in her sleep. A rumor started by her doctor was that Elliot died from choking on a ham sandwich. In a strange turn of events, The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon, died four years later in the exact same room and also aged 32.
Mackenzie’s California Nightmare
Daughter of bandleader Papa John, Mackenzie Phillips, continues to live with the weight of The Mamas & the Papas. Mackenzie followed in the footsteps of her famous dad and band members who she considered to be like family and developed a Rock n’ Roll lifestyle. However, according to reports, Mackenzie’s involvement with the band seemed to have severe consequences on her life, and she revealed everything when she wrote her memoir. The daughter of the famous band member also spoke in an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
The band’s formation in itself was a crazy story, and it revolved around a map. One of the band members chose to close their eyes and point to a map one evening when it landed on the Virgin Islands. At this point, The Mamas and the Papas believed it was destiny, and they, together with their families, moved to the Caribbean Islands. During their time in the Caribbean, they drank rum out of coconuts and spent all their money. However, this also inspired their music and their song, “Creeque Alley.”
In Love with John Lennon?
It was no secret that Cass Elliot was a huge admirer of The Beatles musician, John Lennon, and Michelle Phillips remembered the time they met. “He woke her up in the middle of the night,” she said. “In “I Call Your Name,” Cass had this part in the song where she said softly, “John, I love you…” It was alleged that The Beatles ended one evening in Cass’s hotel suite, and John whispered into his admirer’s ear, “Cass, I love you.”
Welcome to the House of Fun
During the height of their career, John and Michelle Phillips showed off their new found wealth by buying a mansion. It was at this new home that the married couple hosted some of the biggest bands of all time, and regular guests included The Rolling Stones and The Beatles. The estate became a playground for music’s most iconic superstars in the sixties, including Keith Richards who became good friends with Phillips. However, soon Richard led him down a very dark path.
Like many musical bands, The Mamas & the Papas certainly had their drama. Most notable, Denny Doherty, from the band the Mugwumps, fell for Michelle shortly after his arrival and the pair struck up an affair. Meanwhile, Phillips was having affairs with other people, and Doherty was, unsurprisingly, enraged when he found out. It was later revealed that Phillips had been having an affair with Byrds founding member Gene Clark, and it was not long until Papa John had enough of Michelle and kicked her out of the band.
Who’s Mama Jill?
After firing his wife from the band, John stumbled across Jill Gibson who later became Michelle’s replacement. The rest of the band were pleased with their new addition, and together they traveled to Europe to meet with producer Lou Adler and produce new music. However, before the changes were made to the band, they had taken their photo for their next album cover which featured Michelle. When they realized they could not superimpose Gibson over Michelle, they had to have a new album cover taken.
It was not long into the band’s tour that Gibson became a fan favorite. In fact, the fans had fallen in love with the band’s new replacement, but the rest of the group did some seem to feel the same. According to Phillips, the band were failing to see eye to eye with Gibson and, for the sake of the band, they replaced Jill by bringing back Michelle! Meanwhile, this was just a small fix that did not help the more significant issues going on at the same time.
Double Break Up
In August 1967, the band performed at the Hollywood Bowl for their final live performance, and this was followed by their album, “The Papas & The Mamas.” The group went on a hiatus and, during this time, John and Michelle decided to part ways from one another, filing for divorce in 1969. The band released their final album, “People Like Us” in 1971, after breaking up that same year. John explained that the band could no longer keep up with the times as the reason for their break-up.
Michelle’s Legal Troubles
Although the band had broken up, this did not stop Michelle from getting into trouble in some shape or form. On December 2, 1987, the musician was pulled over for speeding in the car with her boyfriend at the time, Geoffrey Tozer, and she was caught in possession of illicit substances. Michelle was taken to jail and could only leave on a $500 bond being aid. Regardless of the fact the band had been broken up for many years, Michelle was still living her Rock n’ Roll lifestyle.
TV Drama For Mackenzie
Mackenzie won a major role in the popular TV show, One Day at a Time, where she starred as the rebellious teenager, Julie Cooper. The famous daughter earned a whopping $50,000 per episode, but this was also at the same time she was bringing rock n’ roll back into her life. This did not go down well with producers and Mackenzie took a six-week break from the sitcom. However, the producers felt like no changes had been made, and the actress was eventually fired from the show in 1980.
John Phillips tried his luck at a solo career following the end of the band, but he wasn’t to have much success and went into a troubling path of addiction. It was his third wife, Genevieve Waite, however, who managed to straighten him out when she went into rehab with him. Meanwhile, both Denny Doherty and Mackenzie Phillips followed suit and joined the couple in rehab. Fortunately, all four of them came out clean, until John relapsed several times, resulting in his divorce to Genevieve in 1985.
Sinatra Sent The Mafia
One of John Phillips most famous affairs was with Mia Farrow, who was married to the legendary Frank Sinatra at the time. Shortly after discovering his wife’s affair with the musician, Sinatra divorced the actress, but it was reported that this was after he had contacted the mafia in Chicago. Allegedly, his connections got Sam Giancana to send some of his men to visit Phillips as a way of sending him a warning. Meanwhile, Phillips was not scared at all.
Connected to the Manson Family Case
It was during the height of the band’s success that the famous Manson family murders happened. The Mamas & the Papas were heavily connected to the case, and John Phillips and Cass Elliot even had to go to court. A handful of Elliot’s ex-boyfriends seemed to be supplying the family with illicit substances, and it was reported that Roman Polanski accused Philips of murdering his wife, Sharon Tate. Polanski believed that this was as an act of revenge because the director had an affair with John’s wife, Michelle.
Lou Was The Man
Lou Adler proved to have the most significant impact on The Mamas & the Papas during their time as a band. “Lou really helped us make the transition from folk to rock or from folk to folk-rock,” Michelle Phillips discussed. “Lou was really helpful in guiding us towards a more contemporary sound.” The success of the band was all down to John and Lou’s styles complimenting one another’s and, fortunately, they did. It was then that the band created their iconic sound.
Where It All Began
John Phillips had quite the crazy love life, and this all dated back to 1959 before the formation of the band. He married Susan Adams, his first wife, who came from a wealthy family in Virginia and together they had two children – Jeffery and Laura Mackenzie Phillips. Things between the pair turned sour after he met a young Michelle Gilliam when touring with his band, The Journeymen. It was at this point that a domino effect of drama started to begin.
Michelle Phillips was once asked in an interview if she could remember the first time the band was in the studio together, and she explained – “The first time we all sang together was probably January 9, 1965, at our apartment in the West Village.” She continued, “But I don’t remember it, and since we had never put anything together, I think it was really when we went to the Virgin Islands, the four of us together, that we started to sing together and said, ‘Wow, we’re genius!'”
That Vegas Incident
Cass Elliot was determined to make a solo career for herself, but that dream diminished after one fateful night in Vegas. Cass had been on an intense diet for six months before her night at Caesars Palace in 1968, and she was in a terrible state of health. Meanwhile, she was set to perform in front of a thousand people and, when she got on the stage, she crashed under pressure. Moreover, the crowd proved to be unsympathetic to her current state.
Papa John’s Summer Of Love
During the time of the Vietnam war, when people opposed the US government and the events taking place at the time, people would refer to themselves as flower children and parade in protest around San Francisco. The Summer of Love remains one of the most groundbreaking eras in the history of pop culture, and John Phillips was one of the most influential figures during this time. Phillips wrote the song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).”
They Didn’t Like Other Bands
The Mamas & the Papas were around during a time that many considered to be the most magnificent time in music history. The foursome performed during the same time as bands such as The Beach Boys, The Doors, and Byrds, and people wondered if they would all hang out. We were very insulated. It’s not that we didn’t listen to everybody, but we were insulated from the scene itself,” Michelle admitted. “It was like, we didn’t need anybody else in the picture.”
Mama and Papa’s Millions
There may have been a significant amount of drama that transpired between the band members during their time together, but there was never any denying that they were a huge critical and commercial success. In fact, the band remained to have a long-lasting influence on pop culture after releasing five studio albums in four years, and an impressive 17 hit singles. Six of those hit singles made the Billboard Top Ten, and together they sold around 40 million records internationally.
Denny Regretted Saying No
Denny and Cass may have made for a beautiful harmony, but they did not have the same success when it came to the love department. In later years, Denny admitted that he wished he had said yes when Cass asked him to marry her after initially not taking Cass’s advances seriously, and despite the fact they had both been married twice. Denny had also produced an off-Broadway show about the band’s career and relationships, from his point of view, called Dream a Little Dream.
The New Mamas & The Papas
Papa John decided to create a new version of The Mamas & the Papas in the ’80s, with Phillips and Doherty reprising their roles from the original band. Meanwhile, Mackenzie Phillips, John’s daughter, and Spanky McFarlane took Michelle and Cass’s parts respectively. This new formation of the band only got to work properly when John was released from prison, and together they recreated some of the band’s magic from the past. However, John and Mackenzie could still not fight off their struggles with addiction.
Papa Denny’s Destiny
The Phillps’ were not the only ones struggling, and Denny Doherty also had a tough ride in the years following the band’s breakup. Despite his respectable solo career, he could never match the success he had while in The Mamas & the Papas and suffered from alcoholism for two decades as a result. Doherty eventually got sober and remained that way until his death on January 19, 2007. Doherty’s years of partying caught up with him and he died from an abdominal aortic aneurysm.
Michelle’s Still Standing
Michelle Phillips wrote in her autobiography how grateful she was to have co-written “California Dreaming” because she was still receiving royalties for the song all those years later. According to the songstress, Papa John had woken her up one day to help him finish the hit song. Meanwhile, Michelle managed to have a successful acting career away from the band, having starred in films such as Bloodline, Valentino, and Dillinger, with her latter winning her a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer.
Mackenzie Phillips may have gotten fired from her role on One Day at a Time back in the day but, in 2017, she was given a chance to appear in the show once again for a handful of episodes. While she did not reprise her former role of Julie Cooper Horvath, she did play a character that resembled her current lifestyle. Her new role as Pam Valentine saw the singer and actress become the leader of a female veteran therapy group and, in real life, Mackenzie had become a counselor.
Chynna Rises from the Ashes
Chynna Phillips was the anomaly in her family since she was kept away from the limelight in hope to have a better quality of life than her siblings had. Chynna had a part to play in forming the vocal group Wilson Phillips, which consisted of the daughters from the bands The Mamas & the Papas and The Beach Boys. This new group became hugely successful, selling multiple multi-platinum albums and having three number one singles. Moreover, they were nominated for five Grammy Awards.
Like Father, Like Son
Just as Mackenzie Phillips had followed in a similar footpath to her famous parents, the apple did not fall far from the tree for Denny Doherty’s son, John, who also seemed to follow in his father’s musical footsteps. John Doherty became a musician and was formerly a member of the Canadian punk/ska bank, illScarlett. The group had minor success and was nominated for the 2008 Juno Award for New Group of the Year. John performed in their first ever show on the guitar before becoming an official member of the band.
Papa John’s Last Years
In 1992, Phillips required a liver transplant but had been caught drinking alcohol at the time. When asked on The Howard Stern Show about the incident, Phillips said, “I was just trying to ‘break in’ the new liver.” Less than a decade later, Phillips died of heart failure at the age of 65. He spent his final years living in Palm Springs with his fourth wife, Farnaz and had been inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. His posthumous album, “Phillips 66,” was released after his death.
Sister Bijou Knew The Truth?
John Phillips may have been in one of the most famous bands of the ’60s, but his legacy went into question more recently when details emerged of his troubled relationship with his daughter, Mackenzie. Her half-sister, Bijou Phillips, admitted that she had been aware of the problems since she was 13-years-old and that the information had devastating effects during her formative years. However, Bijou also revealed that she did not believe the claims from her sister Mackenzie to be entirely true.
Keeping His Work Close To Home
While married to Mackenzie’s mother, John Phillips had fallen in love with Michelle Gilliam. When his wife discovered his affair, the couple parted ways, and their marriage came to a bitter end. Meanwhile, John and Michelle tied the knot in 1962, and Phillips second marriage proved to be the most significant relationship in his life. Most notably, the couple had a large part to play in the formation of their successful band, The Mamas & the Papas, in which they both were members of.
Michelle’s Eight Day Marriage
In all the drama that unfolded with Tha Mamas & the Papas, more craziness came when Michelle Phillips married Dennis Hopper during a time she was trying to get into a career as an actress. However, it did not take Michelle long to realize how big a mistake she had made, and she divorced her husband just eight days later. Moreover, Hopper was not the only famous man that Michelle had been romantically involved with. She previously dated her co-star from The Fortune, Warren Beatty, as well as, Jack Nicholson.
It was not long after Michelle was kicked out of the band that Cass Elliot had fallen in love with Doherty. However, Doherty was still feeling bitter about Michelle’s departure since he too had feelings for the songstress. “Cass wanted me, I wanted Michelle, John wanted Michelle, Michelle wanted me, she wanted her freedom,” Doherty said. Eventually, it was the era of the “Summer of Love” which led to the band’s downfall since peace and love was at the forefront of everything.
Michelle & Mick?
The infamous groupie, Pamela Des Barres, shocked Michelle Phillips when she suggested that both ladies had been romantically involved with one another and Rolling Stones legend Mick Jagger at the same time. Des Barres admitted that she was excited to share a night with the two famous rock stars, but Michelle was quick to dismiss this recent statement by Des Barres. “It’s a lie,” she said. “I don’t even know this woman. It’s totally absurd she would drag me into her storyline.”
Beginning Of The End
In 1967, everything began to crumble for The Mamas and the Papas. That year, John Phillips and his producer, John Adler, worked in developing what would become known as the Monterey Pop Festival. Behind Woodstock, it is considered to be one of the most iconic festivals of all time, and that is why The Mamas and the Papas once closed the show. However, their performance at the festival was not received well with their fans and, from then on, everything changed for the band.
Telling Their Story
With all the crazy and drama that came from The Mamas and the Papas, it is no surprise that many have hoped to create the band’s story in many art forms. At the start of the Millenium, Fox had bought the rights to produce a movie of the iconic band but, to this day, no film has been made. The studio is still waiting for a good enough script to be written, but Peter Fitzpatrick did create the musical, Flowerchildren: The Mamas and the Papas Story.
The Band Are Back?
Regardless of how many times the surviving members of the band have hoped for a The Mamas and the Papas reunion, nothing will match the magic that John, Cass, Denny, and Michelle had created back in the ’60s. Nevertheless, Jampol Artist Management Inc. recently signed the band, adding to their classic acts such as Jefferson Airplane, Otis Redding, and The Doors. Should any future merchandise and documentaries be released about The Mamas and the Papas, JAM will be responsible for this.
Mackenzie’s Turning Point
After all the troubles Mackenzie Phillips had struggled with over the years, things took a turn for the worse in 2008 when she was arrested for being in possession of illicit substances. Mackenzie pleased guilty a few months later and followed her arrest with a stint in rehab. She left rehab completely sober and appeared on the reality series, Celebrity Rehab. Things have come full circle for Mackenzie these days as she now works as a rehab counselor helping those who face similar struggles to herself.
Mackenzie Phillips laid everything bare in her memoir, High on Arrival, which spoke about her dysfunctional family and on coming clean. Mackenzie claimed that the boundaries between her and certain members of her family were not always maintained and that no one ever really knew the pain she went through all those years. Rather, the singer and actress admitted that she “[boxed] away difficult memories” from an early age, and spent the next three decades trying to bury these dark experiences.
Confronting Papa John
Before John Phillips died, Mackenzie confronted her father on her tumultuous upbringing that was from his parenting, but she was not given any answer that she hoped for. The issues with her father continued in her 20’s while she performed alongside him in The New Mamas and the Papas. However, Mackenzie eventually accepted the dysfunctional relationship she had with her father and became somewhat comfortable with it over the years. Nevertheless, this was just a burden she was carrying all these years.
The Good Times
At the start of The Mamas and the Papas, the band members skyrocketed into becoming international superstars. Their classic singles such as “California Dreamin” and “Monday, Monday” were just some of the reasons they were fast on becoming the greatest of all time, and their debut album just proved this. “If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears” reached number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 and, in two years, the group had released three albums that all certified gold.
California Dream Come True
Despite the drama that unfolded while being in the band, Michelle Phillips had fond memories of creating the band’s most famous single, “California Dreamin,” and thanks Lou Adler for the song. “We let Barry McGuire record “California Dreamin” as a way to thank him for taking us to his producer Lou Adler,” she said. “Lou took us outside in the hallway of Studio Three at Western and said, ‘We’re not giving him this song. This is gonna be your first single.'”
Trying To Move On
During an interview with talk show host, Oprah Winfrey, Mackenzie was careful not to put all the blame on her father. “My father was not a bad man,” she said. “He was kind of a testament to what [substances] – in huge quantities – can do to a person’s priorities…I don’t hate him. I understand that he was a very tortured man, and he sort of passed that torture down to me.” Nevertheless, Mackenzie was able to follow down a path of recovery and make a life for herself.