Jimmy Carl Black (February 1, 1938 – November 1, 2008) was an unusual figure in American rock music as he achieved lasting fame primarily for a single ad libbed line on the third album by the Mothers of Invention: "Hi boys and girls, I'm Jimmy Carl Black and I'm the Indian of the group."
Of course there was more to it than just this line, as bandleader Frank Zappa exploited the eccentric character of this Cheyenne Indian musician, realizing that his personality would be fascinating to certain listeners and quite a departure from the usual rock stars of that day. Black also has roots as a Texan, hailing from a town on the border of that state and New Mexico. This birthplace was almost a symbolic indicator of how Black would straddle different musical geographies.
Although famous for his avant-garde work with Zappa, he is really more of a roots musician and has worked extensively in blues, Tex-Mex, and country-rock. He comes from a generation of musicians for whom working in a rock & roll band meant playing for strippers, four or five sets per night with more than one version of "Wooly Bully."
All this would change in 1964 when his band the Soul Giants, auditioned a young man named Frank Zappa for lead guitarist. Zappa could smell change in the wind big time and eventually suggested the band quit doing covers and let him write some songs specifically for them. The idea was to create an image of the band as the ultimate set of freaks, to cash in on the peace and love hippie era while simultaneously making fun of it, and everything else that came to mind. Zappa also envisioned himself as an avant-garde composer creating works along the lines of Edgar Varese. It was all a tall order but with the band's name changed to the Mothers of Invention and the 1966 release of the second double album in rock history, after Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, Zappa's twisted dream became a reality. Black went from backing up bumping and grinding to playing at Royal Festival Hall in a few years, but was dumped back out on the street when Zappa decided to disband his original group of Mothers and embark on a solo career in 1970. By then Zappa and the band had released their first and only full-length commercial film, 200 Motels, in which Black was prominently featured in what came to be one of his signature songs, "Lonesome Cowboy Burt." Black and several other of the Mothers rebounded with a new band, Geronimo Black. The group's direction was less of a freak out and more rock and blues, and Black wrote several classic native American protest tunes for the band's debut album. Black and the group were based out of California up until 1973.
A shift in record company management led to the band being dumped, beginning several decades of struggle for Black as he moved around the western United States, almost always having to work at some job other than music in order to survive and support his five children. For Black being impoverished wasn't just a private matter. His former boss Zappa had recorded band meetings and arguments, inevitably about money and the lack of it, and had edited these spoken word bits into several Mothers releases. This material had an enlightening effect on many young listeners who thought all rock band members were rolling in amassed wealth and had not a care in the world, certainly not the worries that plagued middle class adults raising families. But no matter how hard times became, Black always remained involved in some kind of musical project.
From 1973-1982 Black lived in New Mexico and Texas. He performed in a group called the Lotus Family with the banjo player Jim Bowie. Other Black groups from this period were Captain Glasspack and the Magic Mufflers and Big Sonny and the Lo Boys. In 1975, Black joined the band of another avant-garde rock legend Captain Beefheart as one of a set of double drummers. He stayed with the group for less than a year, performing on the Chicago-based Soundstage television program and at the Nepworth Pop Festival in the United Kingdom. He was asked to do some guest vocals on a Zappa album in 1981, producing the off-color country song "Harder Than Your Husband." But this friendly association with Zappa ended when most of the original Mothers decided to sue for unpaid back royalties, winning the case but not allowed to discuss the outcome with the press.
In 1982 he moved to Austin, TX, a town with a promising music scene that led to some new relationships, including one with the British singer Arthur Brown, another individual attempting to survive on a few moments of '60s fame, in his case a bizarre hit single entitled "Fire." That Black and Brown would eventually combine their talents as house painters as well as musically says more about the lack of sufficiently paid musical employment in the Austin area than it does about these men's versatility. Throughout this period there had been attempts to revive the original Mothers, sans Zappa, as the Grandmothers. Most frequent partners in these ventures would be keyboardist Don Preston and reed player Bunk Gardner.
While living in Austin, Black also began a Texas-based version of the group, and began to incorporate not just senior ex-Mothers but young Zappa fanatics eager to take part in a repertory company of Zappa music alongside their hero's former sidemen. In 1991, Black and Preston were both invited to perform at the Moers Jazz Festival in a 12-piece grouping of musicians from different genres organized by guitarist Eugene Chadbourne. One year later Black had the opportunity to relocate in Europe when his wife was offered a job teaching on a military base in Vicenza, Italy. The army wasn't particularly fond of the Blacks and wanted to send them back to Texas, but they opted to stay in Europe, relocating to the Stuttgart area of Germany where, in collaboration with the Muffin records company, he began an intensive effort to expand work possibilities for the Grandmothers. At the same time Black continued his relationship with Chadbourne. The two formed a duo named the Jack and Jim show after a painting Beefheart had done of Black with a jackrabbit. Black began getting enough work in Europe to survive as a musician, backing up a variety of blues singers in a band led by guitarist and harmonica player Rick Farrell and also appearing from 1994 onward as a guest vocalist with the British band the Muffin Men. Concentrating more on singing than drumming, Black became known as one of the best interpreters of classic Zappa and Beefheart material. Despite threats of legal action from Zappa's widow Gail, the Grandmothers have continued to increase their activity. In 2000 the band embarked on a two month tour of the United States, playing 60 shows in 66 days.
Black continues in the life of a journeyman musician. "I'm famous, but I don't have a pot to piss in," he is fond of saying. The University of Liverpool Press planned to publish a biography of Black in 2002, to be written by Black and Rod Gilliard of the Muffin Men.
Jimmy was born Feb. 1st 1938 as James Inkanish Jr. in El Paso Texas. When he was 1 year old, his mother married Carl Black, and they moved 20 miles north of El Paso, to the little town of Anthony, Texas, New Mexico, where he spent the next 19 years. A wonderful childhood. He started playing the piano at age 6, but didn't like it much. When he was twelve, he started to play the trumpet. He was solo first chair in the high school band.
He joined the U.S.A.F. in 1958 and started to play the drums because there weren't any trumpets in rock'n roll. So began a 49 year(counting this year) stint behind the tubs. (He 's still there.)
He cut his first single in 1962 with a band called "The Keys" in Wichita, Kansas. He moved to California in 1964 and there he met Roy Estrada and Ray Collins and started the band called "The Soul Giants". When their guitar player got drafted into the Army, Ray said he knew a guitar player named Frank Zappa, so they auditioned him and hired him. One month later, Frank took over as leader of the rockin' combo and the band was called "The Mothers".
In 1965 The band played a lot of GO-GO clubs and in '65 met Herb Cohen, who became their manager. With new management, they started playing places like The Action Club, The Whisky A-GO-GO, and The Trip on the Sunset Strip. They had added guitarist Henry Vestine of "Canned Heat" fame (who deceased, God bless him) and while at the Whisky. The famous producer Tom Wilson heard the band playing "Trouble Coming Every Day" and we had a record deal with MGM records.The day the contract was signed, Henry quit the band. Frank has just written "Who Are The Brain Police" and that was too much for Henry. Anyway, when they got to the studio to start "Freak Out", Tom Wilson, who thought he had signed a blues band, was completely shocked, when they recorded the first song. 1969 It was "Who Are The Brain Police". Immediately he was on the phone to MGM saying that they had not signed a blues band, but some kind of weird band. He certainly was right about that. The band made a lot of albums in the sixties and in late '69 the band disbanded. Unfortunately, it was the end of one of best bands ever.
The MOTHERS had the great pleasure to play with some of the greatest musicians of that era; Jimmy Hendrix, Janis Joplin, B.B. King, The Greatful Dead, The Jefferson Airplane, Cream, The Doors, Joe Cocker, Arthur Brown, Chicago, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Albert King, Otis Rush, John Mayhal, The Turtles, John Lee Hooker, Chuck Berry, The Howlin' Wolf, Capt. Beafheart, Ten Years Later, The Moody Blues, etc. He is proud to have met and jammed with those people. The real legends of rock 'n roll.
In 1970 Jimmy formed the band Geronimo Black (named after his youngest son) with Bunk Gardner and some very fine musicians. They played around LA for a couple of years before getting a record deal with MCA records. In the meantime in 1971 Jimmy went to England to make a movie called "200 Motels" with Frank Zappa while making the movie he got a chance to meet and work with one of his favorite all time drummers Ringo Starr.
1973 He also worked with Flo and Eddie (The Turtles) Keith Moon and a group of very nice people, it was a very enjoyable experience since it was his first acting job.
In 1972 the record Geronimo Black came out to very nice reviews but the promotion wasn't what it should have been. So in '73 Jimmy moved back to his home town of Anthony and made donuts For Winebel's Donuts. It wasn't a very good experience for a drummer that had been sort of a cult star. So he formed a band called "The Valley Loboys" and cut out a single (a very rare little biscuit).
A couple of years later he changed the band to Big Sonny and The Loboys which put out one LP called "ln Heat". 1973 1980 In l980 Jimmy moved to Albq. New Mexico where he put out a very rare 50's LP called "Clearly Classic" This was a clear plastic blobed shaped LP of which only 500 copies were made Also that year he put out another album of previously unreleased material from Geronimo Black called "Welcome Back Geronimo Black".
That same year The Grandmothers formed and put out one LP on Rhino records called "A Mother Of An Anthology". 1982 Don Preston, Bunk Gardner and Jimmy were the main guys in the band and they toured Europe for two years. One more record came out in 1982 on Rhino called "Looking up Grannies Dress" Unfortunately the band split up and Jimmy moved to Austin Texas.
Jimmy was having trouble making a living as a musician so he hooked up with an old friend of his from the '60's days; Arthur Brown (The crazy World of) and they started a painting company called "The Gentlemen of Color". 1982 1989 Meanwhile he had formed a blues band called "Jimmy Carl Black and The Mannish Boys". They recorded a LP with a company called Amazing Records. While making that record, Jimmy and Arthur went in to the studio and made a classic 60's R&B record called "Brown, Black and Blue" which came out in 1989 on Blue Wave Records (since released on CD with Voiceprint Records, England). In 1988 Jimmy reformed the Austin Grandmothers. He was the only original Grandmother in the band, but that would change a few years later.
In 1991 Jimmy went to Europe to play with Eugene Chadbourne at the famous Moers New Music Jazz Festival. It was a twelve piece experimental band with Don Preston also in the band. That was the beginning of Jimmy's dream to move to Europe. In 1992 Jimmy moved to Vicenza, Italy with his wife, who was a school teacher with the military. While there Jimmy contacted Muffin Records in Stuttgart, Germany and made a deal to release the Grandmothers new CD called Dreams on Long Play which was recorded in Austin just before he moved to Europe.
1991 At that time Eugene had contacted Jimmy to start touring in Europe as a duo. So began the more than 100 shows; over a two year period of time of the Jack and Jim Show. They recorded two CD's the first one on Fundamental Records called Locked in a Dutch Coffee shop The second one on Firefly Records is a tribute to Capt Beefheart called Pachuco Cadaver.
1993 The Grandmothers new Cd was released in 1993 and the first European tour, with newly acquired Don Preston and Bunk Gardner, started a series of tours to commence. 1994 The second tour the Grannnies changed guitar players and hired a very talented Sandro Oliva from Rome, Italy. In l994 the Grannies released another CD with the new lineup called Who Could Imagine on Munich Records.After a much disputed law suite, I won't mention names, the band disbanded.
1995 In l995 Jimmy started a blues band called "The Farrell & Black Band" and they have been playing together for almost five years and have two CD's the first one released in 1996 is called "Cateract Jump" on Fritz Records. The new CD is called "Black Limousine" on Stormy Monday Records.
In 1995 Jimmy also started playing with a great band from Liverpool, England called the Muffin Men. He has done six tours with this band as a lead singer. He's been on three CD's of the Muffin's the first is called "Say Cheese and Thank You"; the second is called "Frankincence" and the third called "MufFinZ" and they are all on Muffin Records Productions. Those records are over a four year period of time. There is a new one coming out.
1996 Jimmy released a CD of old unreleased material in 1996 called "When do we Get Paid" on Cargo records. Jimmy is in the process of finishing a new R. & B. CD with a great band from Salzburg, Austria. He also has plans to record a CD of American Indian music that he has been wanting to do for a long time. Two dear friends of his are helping with the music. Essra Mohawk is writing the music to a song called "For the Little People" and Dawayne Bailey is writing the music to a song called "Chief Old Fox". He is providing the lyrics.
The Grandmothers have a new CD coming out soon. A live recording from the Astoria Theater in London recorded on the 1998 tour with Bunk Gardner (our first tour since the trouble). lt is a good one (see discography for more info) Jimmy hopes to record in the year 2000 a CD that has been his dream from a long time. If he can find the financing, he will record with his three sons a CD of mostly his youngest son Geronimo's music. He plays guitar, Darrell plays drums and Gary plays bongos, conga's, thimbles and trumpet. It will be an interesting project.
The new century was really great for Jimmy as he got more into the computer. He was learning about music production and the dream of forming his own record company for release of rare material he´s been toting around for many years.
The year 2000 was the year Jimmy did the most touring he has ever done in his career. He did over 150 dates in Europe and the United States. In the states the Grandmothers played 58 show´s in 66 days and travelled 17,200 miles and were in 42 states. They were promoting the new CD; "Eating The Astoria". He did two tours with The Muffin Men and two tours with The Farrell/Black Band.
The year 2001 was also a busy time in Jimmy´s career as he released several CD´s in CD-Rom form on his new label, Inkanish Records. He did quite a bit of touring, but not as heavy as the year before, as he was told by his doctor in October that he had a weak case of Leukemia. He did get together with Eugene Chadbourne again and The Jack and Jim Show was in business again. Two CD´s resulted in the two small tours they did. "2001: A Spaced Odysessy" and "Reflections and Experiences of Jimi Hendrix" are the CD´s that resulted in those tours. Also a new CD from The Muffin Men called "More Songs From The Campfire".
In Oct. he joined forces with his new pardner Robert O´Haire and the official beginning of Inkanish Records was solidified. In March of this year the first two releases from Inkanish Records is happening. Jimmy Carl Black and the X-tra Combo released the new CD "Mercedes Benz" and The Grandmothers new CD "The Eternal Question". There is going to be two more releases before the end of the year but as of now, uncertain which ones it will be.
It looks like an interesting year, 2002, touring wise for Jimmy coming up. April-May-June will be with The Muffins in Europe, England, Scotland, and Ireland. In Sept.-Oct. there is a tour with The e.u. Grandmothers featuring Candy Zappa on vocals that is going to be great but, unfourtantly that didn´t happen. He did the winter tour with The Muffins again.
The third official release on Inkanish Records was in 2002 with the release of "Hamburger Midnight". This is the first recordings with Jimmy´s old pardner, Roy Estrada, from the Mothers of Invention years. This great rhythm section hadn´t played together in 36 years. Mick Pini is on guitar for this recording.
the next year, 2003, was more touring with the Muffins and with Mick Pini. It is also the year that Jimmy started to recieve his Social Security check from the Bush government because he turned 65 that Feb. 1st. He did a tour with "The Jack and Jim and Pat Show" of Holland and Scandinavia and they put out a double CD called "We´ll Be Together Again" that was recorded on that tour. About three weeks later "The Jack and Jim Show" without Pat went to northern Germany to do The Zappanalle 14 and we put out a wonderful CD from that show called "Live at the ZAPPANALLE 14". On the same festival Jimmy also played with The Muffin Men and the whole festival was great. A few months later jimmy finished out the year with the annual winter tour of Germany with The Muffins. He had to go into the hospital during that Muffins tour because he contracted Plurisy in his lungs. That was actually a blessing because he finally quit smoking cigarette after smoking for 45 years. HURRAH!!!!!!
2004 was the year that Jimmy started his 25 treatments of Chimo therapy. Fortunately, it was a fairly weak one, meaning that he didn´t lose his hair or get sick at his stomach although it did have some bad side affects on him. Nothing he can´t cope with. He did the annual spring tour with The Muffins that went well. When he came back from that tour he found out that his distributing company for Inkanish Records had gone bankrupt and he not only lost a bunch of money but also all the CD´s they had in stock. All in all, about 15.000 euros and that bankrupted Inkanish Records and put him out of business. The biggest regret from that experience is for Jimmy´s pardner, Robert O´Haire, who had put the money up orginally. He says "I wish I would have done something different in the work field like teaching or something like that". The music business SUCKS but he says he doesn´t know anything else. So it is onward and upward and maybe when he dies his product´s will start to sell.
2005 was a good year touring and making more CD´s that don´t sell that good but were fun to do. Playing with The Muffins and Mick Pini. He did a great tour with "The Jack and Jim and Pat Show" that took them to Germany, Slovenia, back to Freiburg, Germany, where they played a gig and also went into the recording studio and recorded a CD entitled "Hearing is Believing" that will come out in March, 2007, on the Boxholder label. From there, they went to play a free jazz festival in Nancy, France. Then to Amsterdam and finishing up in Brussels. The CD sounds GREAT. It is the best of all "The Jack and Jim Show" CD that they have out. There are 17 CD´s available.
2006 started with the recording of the newest CD from Jimmy, Mick Pini, and Roddie Gilliard called "How Blue Can You Get?" that came out great. The band did all cover tunes this time around just because they could. After that, the annual spring tour of the U.K with The Muffins. Jimmy then met Eugene Chadbourne (Jack) in Brest, France for a wonderful 5 day festival that turned out great. In May, Jimmy and his lovely wife, Monika, went back to Nancy, France, for the free jazz festival and the project "Chadfest". Jimmy played on the "Tribute to Johnny Paycheck" part of the fest and also the last night "Monster" part of Chadfest. Eugene got to put 6 different shows together and invite 30 musicians from all over the world to do the Chadfest. It was truely the wildest thing Jimmy ever did with him. Eugene, Pat, Jimmy, and the lovely Monika then went down south to Marseille, France and played another festival that turned out great and then back home. Him and his wife had a very nice holiday. Jimmy did a U.K. tour in the summer with Mick Pini under the name "The Jimmy Carl Black Band" to promote the new CD. It was Great!!!!. He has played several gigs in the fall with Pini and that is the update of his biography. By the way, Greg Russo, is re-issuing "When Do We Get Paid" now and you can order it at http://www.crossfirepublications.com or conntact Greg at GRusso2787@aol.com. Jimmy is about 85% done (finally) with his Autobiography "For Mothers Sake". It will be published in 2007. SOON!!!! I will let everyone on MySpace.com know when, OK. THANKS MUCHO!!!!!
It is my sad duty to report the news that JIMMY CARL BLACK has passed away. Jimmy left this earth around 11pm Germany time on November 1st 2008 of cancer.
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