News of the death of Jimmy Carl Black seems as good an excuse as any to re-visit the extraordinary (and that doesn’t necessarily mean good) group of which he was a famous part. I’m talking about the Mothers of Invention — what later came to be known as Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, after its single most famous part.
In truth, I didn’t even remember what Jimmy Carl Black played (drums). But I did remember what he said, the words unspooling from that hangdog face with a goofy, ironic earnestness: “I’m the Indian of the group.”
Even more, I remembered what he wore, especially, second from right, above, on the Mothers’ We’re Only In It for the Money album. A high-waisted, scoop-neck dress.
Of course, they were all in drag, with aggressively girly outfits beneath thinning hair, scraggly beards, or, in Jimmy’s case, trademark puffy eyes, goatee and long, black, 1940s-wavy locks. They stared at the camera, scowling or sincere or slightly discombobulated — but never mugging or laughing. And, in drag or out, they easily took the prize as ugliest band in the world (and that does necessarily mean good).
Ellas McDaniel is one of the handful of guys who invented the thing we now call rock ’n’ roll. If there’s a band in creation that hasn’t played his enduring beat, we’ve never heard of them. And with his cowboy hat, custom box guitar and sexually insinuating lyrics, he also helped invent the persona of the rock ’n’ roll badass. So it was only appropriate that, when Bo Diddley headed off to rock ’n’ roll heaven two weeks ago, Hard Rock, which owns so much of his stuff (including his first, homemade guitar, pictured above), put out a tribute ad. This is it, conceived and created by D/C.