The Mamas & The Papas hit their peak of fame in the 1960s. The folk band helped to define the music scene of the counterculture during that time. Although they reached success throughout their career together, it wasn’t always smooth-sailing within the band itself. It seems like the events that have followed the career of the band has been just as dramatic as the five years they spent working together. Now, new details have emerged that cast a new light on certain members of this bizarre band. Take a trip back to learn about the secrets behind this beloved band.
30-Year-Old Secret Revealed
Mackenzie Phillips, the leading man’s daughter, has been at the center of one of the messiest family sagas in the world of rock n’ roll since the beginning of her life.
Being that her father is Papa John from The Mamas & The Papas, she has definitely had to endure her fair share of drama throughout the years. Interestingly enough, the singer/actress has recently revealed new details about her part in the story.
Mackenzie’s California Nightmare
Just like her father and his fellow band members, Mackenzie descended into a crazy rock n’ roll lifestyle. After all, she considered her father’s band family and looked up to them.
With that being said, though, recent details have emerged that suggest her involvement with The Mamas & The Papas ended up having some severe ramifications on her life in which she’s still moving on from. She revealed everything in both her memoir and an interview with Oprah Winfrey.
One of the craziest stories surrounding the band’s formation revolved around a map. On one eventful evening, one of the band members decided to close their eyes and point to a map. When it landed on the Virgin Islands, The Mamas & the Papas agreed that it was destiny, and took their families, including Mackenzie, to the Caribbean islands.
They ended up spending all their money and drinking rum out of coconuts. The escapade even inspired their song, “Creeque Alley.”
In Love with John Lennon?
Despite their collective decision to keep themselves to themselves, it was well documented that Cass Elliot was a huge admirer of John Lennon. In fact, 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…” Apparently, The Beatles ended up at Cass’s hotel suite and John whispered into her ear, “Cass, I love you.”
Welcome to the House of Fun
In the thick of superstardom, John and Michelle bought a mansion to show off their new found wealth. It was here where they hosted some of the biggest bands of all time. Regular guests included members of both The Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
The peacock-laden estate was a playground for some of music’s most iconic superstars. Most notably, Phillips became good friends with Keith Richards, who ended up luring him down a dark path…
It wouldn’t take long before serious drama spread throughout the band. Denny Doherty, who joined the band from the Mugwumps, eventually fell for Michelle and the pair started having an affair themselves. That’s not all though — John was also having affairs with other people!
Nevertheless, he was furious when he found out about Michelle. Shortly after, it was revealed that Michelle had an affair with Byrds founding member, Gene Clark. In the end, Papa John had enough and ultimately kicked Michelle out of the band.
Who’s Mama Jill?
After firing Michelle from the band, John was looking for a replacement and serendipitously stumbled across Jill Gibson. The band was happy to bring her on and shortly after, they went to Europe with their producer, Lou Adler, to record new music.
Before the change in personnel, the band had their photo taken for an album cover, which included Michelle on it. After failing to superimpose Gibson over Michelle, the band had an entirely new album cover taken.
Upon her first few months of touring, Gibson was becoming a fan favorite. With Simon and Garfunkel opening for a handful of their concerts, it was clear that fans had fallen in love with Jill. However, according to Phillips, the band was not seeing eye to eye with her.
For the greater good of the band, Phillips made an executive decision and replaced Jill once again with Michelle. Nevertheless, it was just a quick fix that didn’t solve the bigger problems at play…
Double Break Up
The band’s final live performance came in August 1967 at the Hollywood Bowl, which was followed by the album The Papas & The Mamas. The following year, John and Michelle decided that enough was enough, and the couple filed for divorce in 1969.
After releasing their final album People Like Us, the band finally broke up the same year, officially disbanding two years later. John explained that the band broke up because it was struggling to keep up with the times.
Michelle’s Legal Troubles
Many years had passed since the band’s breakup, and Michelle Phillips was still managing to get into trouble, one way or another. On December 2nd, 1987, she was pulled over for speeding and as a result, was caught in possession of illicit substances.
She was in the car with her boyfriend at the time, Geoffrey Tozer, and when all was said and done, Michelle was taken to jail and could only leave once a $500 bond was paid. It seems like rock n’ roll never died for Michelle.
TV Drama For Mackenzie
Mackenzie didn’t just get a taste of Hollywood in her heyday; she also had a major role in a popular TV show. In the ’70s, she starred as Julie Cooper on the hit sitcom One Day At a Time, for which Mackenzie earned $50,000 per episode (which was a lot at the time).
However, her rock n’ roll lifestyle started to creep in around this time. After a six-week break didn’t make any difference, the producers fired Mackenzie from the show in 1980.
After the band came to an end, Phillips had a poor solo career and descended into a downward spiral of addiction. However, it was his third wife Genevieve Waite who somewhat straightened him out, going into rehab with him. That wasn’t all though.
Both Denny Doherty and Mackenzie Phillips joined the couple and eventually, the four came out the other end clean, at least, for a while. Ultimately, Phillips suffered relapses, which would lead to his divorce with Genevieve in 1985.
Sinatra Sent the Mafia
One of the most notable affairs involving Mackenzie’s father, John Phillips, was with Mia Farrow, who was married to Frank Sinatra at the time. Shortly after finding out, Ol’ Blue Eyes broke up with the actress.
This wasn’t before he reportedly contacted his mafia connections in Chicago and got Sam Giancana to send some of his men to pay Phillips a visit. It was intended to act as a warning, but it didn’t scare Phillips at all.
Connected to the Manson Family Case
During the height of the band’s success was also when the notorious Manson family murders happened. The Mamas & The Papas were actually heavily connected to the case. At one point, John Phillips and Cass Elliot went to court as a handful of the latter’s ex-boyfriends were supplying the family with substances.
In fact, Roman Polanski reportedly accused Phillips of murdering his wife Sharon Tate, as an act of revenge after the director previously had an affair with Michelle.
Lou Was the Man
One figure that probably had the most impact on The Mamas & The Papas in their early days was Lou Adler. “Lou really helped us make the transition from folk to rock or from folk to folk-rock,” Michelle Phillips said. “Lou was really helpful in guiding us towards a more contemporary sound.”
The key to the band’s success was whether John and Lou’s styles would complement each other. Eventually, they did, and it led to the creation of their iconic sound.
Where it All Began
John Phillips’ wild love life began back in 1959, a few years before the band formed. He married his first wife Susan Adams, who had come from an affluent family from Virginia. Together, the couple had two children: a son called Jeffrey and a daughter by the name of Laura Mackenzie Phillips.
However, things took a crazy turn when he met the young Michelle Gilliam while touring with his band at the time, The Journeymen. This was the catalyst that sparked a domino effect of drama.
In one interview, Michelle Phillips was asked if she could remember the first time the band got into a studio together. “The first time we all sang together was probably January 9th, 1965, at our apartment in the West Village,” she said.
“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
Although she was determined to make a name for herself in a solo career, Cass Elliot’s reputation was tarnished on one fateful night in 1968 at the Caesars Palace, Las Vegas. After having an intense diet for the previous six months, Cass was in a terrible state of health.
When she got on stage to perform in front of around a thousand people, Cass crashed under the pressure, with the crowd being completely unsympathetic to her dire situation.
Papa John’s Summer of Love
The Summer of Love will go down as one of the most groundbreaking eras in the history of pop culture. People who opposed the US government at the time, as well as the Vietnam War, referred to themselves as flower children and paraded around San Francisco in protest.
In fact, John Phillips was actually one of the most influential figures of the Summer of Love, writing the song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”.
They Didn’t Like Other Bands
The Mamas & The Papas were performing during what many consider to be one of the most glorious times in music history. With bands such as The Beach Boys, The Doors, and Byrds around at the same time, many have wondered whether or not they all used to 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 said. “It was like, we didn’t need anybody else in the picture.”
Mama and Papa’s Millions
Despite all the chaos and drama that transpired between the band members, there was no denying that The Mamas & The Papas were a huge hit, both critically and commercially. Not just that, they have also had a long-lasting influence on pop culture, in general.
In just four years, the band released five studio albums and an impressive 17 hit singles. Six of those singles made the Billboard Top Ten and most notably, they have sold around 40 million records around the globe.
Denny Regretted Saying No
Although Denny and Cass had the most beautiful of harmonies, they didn’t work so well together in the love department. However, Denny admitted years later that he wished he had said yes when Cass asked him to marry her.
Although they were both married twice, it is reported that Denny spoke in interviews about regretting to never have taken Cass’ advances seriously. Denny even produced an off-Broadway show about his take on the band’s career and relationships, called Dream a Little Dream.
Cass Choked on a Ham Sandwich?
Throughout her time with the band, Cass Elliot had peculiar eating habits due to being overweight. On July 28th, 1974, the 32-year-old Elliot had just performed what was reported to be a sold-out show in London, but passed away in her sleep.
An urban legend claimed that Cass died from choking on a ham sandwich, which turned out to be a rumor started by her doctor. Amazingly, The Who’s drummer, Keith Moon, also died in exactly the same room, four years later. He was also 32.
The New Mamas & The Papas
In the ’80s, Papa John decided to rebuild a new version of The Mamas & The Papas. While Phillips and Doherty reprised their roles from the original set up, Mackenzie Phillips and Spanky McFarlane took Michelle and Cass’ parts respectively.
However, the band only really got going after John was released from prison. Not only did the band recreate some of the magic of the older days, but both John and Mackenzie were still consumed by addiction.
Papa Denny’s Destiny
Denny Doherty also went through a tough time during the years following the original band’s breakup. Although he had a respectable solo career, he could never match the success he had achieved with The Mamas & The Papas.
Although he suffered from alcoholism for the good part of two decades, Doherty eventually got sober and stayed that way for the rest of his life. However, the years of partying ultimately cost him his life. Denny died from an abdominal aortic aneurysm on January 19th, 2007.
Michelle’s Still Standing
In her autobiography, Michelle Phillips commented on how she was so grateful to have co-written “California Dreaming,” as she is still receiving royalties from it ’till this very day. According to her, Papa John had woken her up one day to help him finish writing the song.
Michelle has also managed to hold down a decent acting career, starring in movies such as Valentino, Bloodline, and Dillinger, which she ended up receiving a Golden Globe nomination for Most Promising Newcomer.
It seemed like things came full circle for Mackenzie Phillips when she got a chance to appear in a handful of episodes on the 2017 reboot of One Day at a Time.
Although she didn’t reprise her role as Julie Cooper Horvath, she did get to play a character that was more in line with her current lifestyle. She played the recurring character Pam Valentine, the leader of a female veteran therapy group. It made sense, seeing that Mackenzie is also a counselor in real life.
Chynna Rises from the Ashes
One anomaly in the Phillips family was Chynna Phillips, who was kept hidden from the limelight in order to have a better quality of life than her siblings. Chynna helped form the vocal group Wilson Phillips, consisting of daughters from both The Mamas & The Papas and The Beach Boys.
The group has gone on to become extremely successful in their own right, selling numerous multi-platinum albums, having three number one singles and being nominated for five Grammy Awards.
Like Father, Like Son
They say that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, and that is certainly true in a certain respects when it comes to the late Denny Doherty. His son, John Doherty, also plays music for a living and at one point, was a member of the Canadian punk/ska band illScarlett.
The band has actually had some minor success, having been nominated in 2008 for the Juno Award for New Group of the Year. John actually performed in their first show.
Papa John’s Last Years
John Phillips spent his final years in Palm Springs, with his fourth wife Farnaz. In 1992, he required a liver transplant but was caught drinking alcohol at the time. When asked about the incident on the Howard Stern show, he said, “I was just trying to ‘break in’ the new liver.”
Less than a decade later, after being inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, Phillips died of heart failure at 65 years of age. His posthumous album, Phillips 66 was released a few months later.
Sister Bijou Knew the Truth?
John Phillips’ legacy has been put into question recently, especially over the recent details that have emerged surrounding his tumultuous relationship with daughter Mackenzie. Her half-sister, Bijou Phillips, claimed to have been aware of what was happening since she was 13 years old.
The information apparently had a devastating effect on her during her formative years. However, Bijou ultimately didn’t believe the details that Mackenzie shared with her were true. What had Mackenzie been through during that time?
Keeping His Work Close to Home
Despite being married, Phillips fell head over heels for Michelle Gilliam. His wife, Mackenzie’s mother, eventually found out about his infidelity and shortly after, the couples’ marriage came to a bitter end. It wouldn’t take long before Phillips tied the knot for the second time, this time to Michelle in 1962.
His relationship with Michelle would prove to be the most significant one of Phillips’ life, especially since it had a large part to play in the formation of The Mamas & The Papas…
Michelle’s Eight Day Marriage
In a moment of madness that probably epitomized the career of The Mamas & Papas, Michelle Phillips ended up marrying Dennis Hopper as she was trying to get into the world of acting. However, she ended up realizing soon after that it was a big mistake and the couple divorced just eight days later.
Hopper wasn’t the only A-list celebrity that Michelle was romantically involved with. She also dated Jack Nicholson and Warren Beatty, who she co-starred with in the movie The Fortune.
Soon after Michelle was kicked out of the band, Cass Elliot (aka Mama Cass) fell in love with Doherty. However, he was still embittered by the departure of Michelle. “Cass wanted me, I wanted Michelle, John wanted Michelle, Michelle wanted me, she wanted her freedom,” Doherty said.
It was ultimately the era, the “Summer of Love,” when peace and love were at the forefront of everything they did, became too much and ultimately led to the band’s downfall.
Michelle & Mick?
Michelle Phillips could not believe it when infamous groupie Pamela Des Barres suggested the following: at one point, both of them were romantically involved with Rolling Stones legend Mick Jagger – at the same time! Des Barres recently stated how she was excited to shared a night with the two rock stars.
However, Michelle was quick to dismiss this. “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
It seemed like it was at the band’s absolute peak when everything started to crumble. In 1967, John Phillips and his producer, John Adler, started developing what would be known as the Monterey Pop Festival. It is considered, behind Woodstock, to be one of the most iconic music festivals of all time.
It was here where The Mamas & The Papas closed the show, albeit with a performance that fans considered to be lackluster. Things would never be the same afterward.
Telling Their Story
With a story as messy as The Mamas and the Papas, it should come as no surprise that many, over the years, have wanted to recreated their story in a variety of artforms. At the turn of the Millenium, Fox bought the rights to produce a move about the band.
However, no movie has been made as of yet, and the studio is waiting for a good enough script to be written. Their story was transformed into a musical, though, with Peter Fitzpatrick creating Flowerchildren: The Mamas and Papas Story.
The Band is Back?
No matter how many times that one of the surviving members of The Mamas & The Papas want to get back together, they will never be able to recreate the magic that John, Denny, Cass and Michelle brought all those years ago. However, the band was recently signed by Jampol Artist Management Inc.
The company currently has classic acts such as The Doors, Otis Redding, and Jefferson Airplane in their roster. JAM will be responsible for bringing out future merchandise and documentaries about the band.
Mackenzie’s Turning Point
Things came to a head for Mackenzie Phillips when, in 2008, she was arrested for possessing a variety of illicit substances. After pleading guilty a few months later, she was put into rehab and came out of it completely sober.
She also appeared on the reality TV show Celebrity Rehab and looked back on her experiences when she guest appeared on an episode of The View. Nowadays, Mackenzie works as a rehab counselor, helping those who go through the same problems that she did.
In recent times, Mackenzie Phillips has finally been able to come clean about her dysfunctional family and laid everything bare in her memoir, High on Arrival. She confessed that boundaries were not always maintained between her and certain members of her family, and for so many years, no one knew the pain that she went through.
Mackenzie admits that from an early age, she “[boxed] away difficult memories,” and spent over three decades burying her darkest experiences into the deepest corners of her mind.
Confronting Papa John
While her father John Phillips was still alive, Mackenzie reportedly confronted him about the tumultuous upbringing he had given her, only to realize that she would get no satisfactory answer. It seemed like the issues recurred throughout her 20s, while she performed alongside her dad as part of The New Mamas & The Papas.
The saddest part is that, as time went on, Mackenzie became somewhat comfortable with the peculiar dynamic between her and her father. It was a huge burden to carry.
The Good Times
The first few years of The Mamas & The Papas’ career skyrocketed them into superstardom. With classic singles such as “California Dreamin” and “Monday, Monday” under their belts, the band was well on its way to becoming one of the greatest of all time.
Their debut album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears reached number one on the U.S. Billboard 200, with the following two albums also being commercial hits. In two years, they released three albums that were all certified Gold.
California Dream Come True
Michelle Phillips had fond memories when asked about the creative process behind the band’s most famous single, “California Dreaming.” Ultimately, it was Lou Adler who made sure that the song was theirs.
“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
In an interview with Oprah Winfrey, Mackenzie was apprehensive to put all the blame on John. “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.”
Mackenzie might never find peace, but at least she has been able to remove such a huge load from her shoulders.