For any fan of Zappa and Beefheart, The Muffin Men are a legend in their own right - and now they’re heading for Chester.
A rare chance to see The Muffin Men, acclaimed as the greatest ever Frank Zappa tribute band, is on offer at Alexander’s in Chester on Monday, March 23.
The band features one of The Mothers Of Invention’s founder members, Jimmy Carl Black, the self proclaimed Indian Of The Group.
The Muffin Men were formed in Liverpool in 1990 by guitarist, bassist and vocalist Roddie Gilliard. One night in the late Sixties after hearing a Frank Zappa album for the first time, Roddie learnt a few chords, and ten years later went to music school where he upset almost everyone by performing Stravinsky’s Petruska and The Rite Of Spring with a rock band.
As the Eighties progressed Roddie realised that performing Zappa music live was what he most wanted to do, so in 1990 he put together a two hour show of Zappa material to celebrate Frank’s 50th birthday. The Muffin Men were born.
The Muffin Men are a highly talented and experienced outfit. Carl Bowry (lead guitar), Andy Friz (flute, saxes and vocal) and Martin Smith (trumpet and horn) were once members of The Wizards Of Twiddly, and Friz and Carl also toured with Kevin Ayers.
Friz has also played with the late Viv Stanshall (of the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band) and with Super Furry Animals and Gorkys Zygotic Mynci.
Carl’s greatest claim to fame was performing on a televised TV promotional tour with Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark - miming the keyboards!
German born Tilo Pirnbaum now lives in London. He had seen the Muffin Men a few times in Cologne, never dreaming that five years later when he went to Liverpool to study music he’d meet up with them and be asked to join the band.
Jimmy Carl Black is the direct link to Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention. Jimmy, an American Native Indian, was born in 1938 and raised in Texas. In 1964 he met Roy Estrada and Ray Collins and formed The Soul Giants.
When their guitar player was drafted into the Army, they hired Frank Zappa who, a month later, took over as leader of the band, which he rechristened The Mothers Of Invention.
Adding guitarist Henry Vestine, The Mothers regularly played clubs on Sunset Strip. One night producer Tom Wilson heard them playing Trouble Coming Every Day and promptly signed them to MGM records. The day the contract was signed, Henry quit the band and joined Canned Heat. Frank has just written Who Are The Brain Police which Henry, ever the blues purist, just couldn’t cope with.
Tom Wilson had a similar reaction - Who Are The Brain Police was the first song The Mothers recorded in the studio for what became the Freak Out album. Wilson phoned MGM saying that they had not signed a blues band, but ‘some kind of weird band’.
The Mothers Of Invention made a lot of albums in the Sixties and disbanded in late 1969, by which time Jimmy Carl Black had appeared with Frank Zappa and The Mothers Of Invention on countless albums and singles.
Jimmy’s involvement in music and his connection with Frank Zappa didn’t stop there, however. A drinking buddy of Janis Joplin who jammed with Hendrix on several occasions, Jimmy formed Geronimo Black in 1970, and in 1971 went to England to make the movie 200 Motels with Zappa, Ringo Starr and Keith Moon.
In 1975 Jimmy joined another Zappa related band, Captain Beefheart’s Magic Band. Jimmy has also been involved with countless rhythm and blues bands and released many recordings.
He formed The Grandmothers in 1980, and first played with The Muffin Men in 1993. He now appears regularly with the band and has appeared on no less than seven of their CDs .
Each Muffin Men show promises to be an excursion through the many facets of Frank Zappa’s considerable body of work.
The Muffin Men will be performing at Alexander’s in Chester on the Monday, March 23. Tickets are available from www.alexanderslive.com or by calling 01244 340005.