Who Was Mama Cass?
Cass Elliot, better known as "Mama Cass," became a folk singer in 1963. In 1965, she formed The Mamas and the Papas, becoming an overnight success. They produced hits such as "California Dreamin'" and "Monday, Monday." After the band broke up in 1968, Elliot had some success as a solo act, but died suddenly from heart failure, at the age of 32.
Cass Elliot, better known as "Mama Cass," was born as Ellen Naomi Cohen on September 19, 1941 in Baltimore, Maryland. After initially pursuing a career in acting, Elliot became a folk singer. In 1963, she gained notice as part of an innovative folk trio called The Big Three. After recording two albums with bandmates Tim Rose and James Hendricks, the band began to fall apart, so she formed a new group, Cass Elliot and the Big Three — which also featured Hendricks, Denny Doherty and Zal Yanovsky. That group, renamed The Mugwumps, played mainly out of a Washington, D.C. nightclub, The Shadows. The Mugwumps broke up in early 1965, after releasing only one single, and Elliot began working as a solo singer.
The Mamas and the Papas
In mid-1965, Elliot began singing with former Mugwump Doherty and the two other members of his new band, The New Journeymen: John and Michelle Phillips. The foursome, known as The Mamas and the Papas, were an overnight success, releasing a hit debut single, "California Dreamin'," and album, If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears, by the end of 1965.
The Mamas and the Papas stayed together until 1968, releasing five albums and a series of Top 10 singles, including "Monday, Monday," "I Saw Her Again" and "Dedicated to the One I Love." Various problems within the group, including romantic jealousy (Elliot was reportedly in love with Doherty; Doherty became involved with Michelle Phillips), drug abuse, alcoholism and Elliot's constant struggle with her weight, led to the group's eventual break-up in 1971.
On July 29, 1974, after a concert series at the London Palladium, Elliot was found dead in her hotel room. She had succumbed to heart failure, at the age of 32.
Elliot had been married twice, to Hendricks of The Big Three and The Mugwumps (1963-1968), and to Baron Donald von Wiedenman (1971). She had one daughter, Owen Elliot Kugell, in 1967. Owen accepted her mother's award in 1998, when The Mamas and the Papas were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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