Lonesome Onry and Mean: RIP Jimmy Carl Black

Mothers of Invention, "Who Are the Brain Police?"

Lonesome Onry and Mean is saddened by news that Texan Jimmy Carl Black, drummer for the groundbreaking anti-establishement 1960s band Mothers of Invention, passed away in his sleep this past Saturday. He was 70 years old.

Born in El Paso and raised in Anthony, New Mexico, Black moved to Los Angeles and joined the Soul Giants, alongside Roy Estrada and Ray Collins. In 1964, they auditioned and hired a young guitarist named Frank Zappa, changed its name to the Mothers, and shortly became regulars at several important Sunset Strip clubs.

Noted producer Tom Dowd signed the band to MGM in 1965 on the basis of its searing rock song, “Trouble Coming Every Day.” What Dowd was not aware of -- he thought he’d signed a bluesy rock band -- was that Zappa had just written “Who Are the Brain Police?” (above), which became the centerpiece of the band’s first album Freak Out, now considered a cult classic and one of Zappa’s most creative works.

Trailer, 200 Motels

The Mothers broke up in 1969. Thereafter, Black played occasionally with Don van Vliet, also known as Captain Beefheart. Alongside Zappa, the charismatic Black starred in the acid-drenched 1972 cult movie classic 200 Motels, one of the trippiest, freakiest period pieces of a trippy, freaky era. The movie spawned what became Black's signature line: “Hi, boys and girl, I’m Jimmy Carl Black and I’m the Indian in the group.” (He was of Cherokee descent.)

By 1973, Black had left L.A. and the music biz and returned to Anthony, where he made donuts and shortly formed a little band called The Loboys. In 1980, he relocated to Albuquerque, eventually finding his way to Austin, where he started the painting company Gentlemen of Colr with another fringe musician, Arthur Brown of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown. However, a move to Europe with his wife, a teacher, eventually reignited Black’s musical career and he stayed busy until lung cancer took him down.

For much more on Black's life, click here. -- William Michael Smith (no relation)

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William Michael Smith