Ken Leighton 5 p.m., Jan. 24
RIYL: John Zorn, Captain Beefheart, John Cage
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- "Zappa Fest in Little Italy" · May 14, 2014
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Influences: Edgard Varese, John Cage, Anton Webern, Harry Partch
In 1954, the Zappa family moved to San Diego, where 13-year-old Frank reportedly bought his first record player at Valley Music in El Cajon. He soon began buying used records in a retail vinyl record nook at the Maryland Hotel. One day, he saw a Record Sale sign outside a La Mesa hi-fi store, Alan’s Music Center. In the bins, he found a record that he once read about, in an interview with a record store owner who said he used it as a stereo hi-fi demonstration album, but that it was so weird that he couldn’t talk anyone into buying the album.
That album, the Complete Works of Edgard Varese Volume 1, was in the bin at the La Mesa shop. It was priced at $5.95, but Zappa only had $3.80. The store owner sold it to him anyway, and the record would have a huge influence on Zappa’s musical development.
He attended Grossmont (freshman year) and Mission Bay High School (as a sophomore). Along the line, Mission Bay band director Robert Kavelman turned young Zappa on to composer Anton Webern and 12-tone music, another major inspiration. He also drummed for the school R&B band, the Ramblers, but they fired him for using too much cymbal.
The Zappas moved to Lancaster, CA in 1955. Singer Ray Collins invited Zappa to join the Soul Giants, the band that eventually would become the Mothers of Invention and first played San Diego in May 1966, at a club called Jazzville, opening for Little Richard. The Mothers returned to town on June 1, 1968, to play the Community Concourse downtown as part of something called Happening #10.
San Diego guitarist Mike Keneally played in the Zappa band for a number of years. In early 2011, UK’s Mojo Magazine released a Zappa Special Edition in Europe, including a few pages on his days in San Diego.
In Autumn 2012, it was announced that film footage of the December 1973 concerts at the Roxy on Sunset Boulevard in West Hollywood, which formed the basis of the album Roxy & Elsewhere, will be released on DVD, Blu-Ray, and showcased with a limited theatrical run.
Mothers of Invention co-founder Ray Collins died on Christmas eve 2012 in Pomona, having suffered a heart attack on December 18. A new two-LP Zappa collection called Finer Moments dropped March 19, 2013 via the UME (Universal Music Enterprises) Select label.