Jimmy Carl Black, drummer, vocalist and self-anointed “Indian of the group” of Frank Zappa’s the Mothers of Invention, has died at age 70.
Black, a native of El Paso, Texas, died Saturday of cancer in Siegsdorf, Germany, according to Roddie Gilliard, a British musician who performed with him.
Born James Inkanish Jr. on Feb. 1, 1938, Black had Cheyenne Indian ancestry through both parents. He changed his name legally to Jimmy Carl Black in 1958, adapting the name of his stepfather, Carl Black.
He was playing in the Soul Giants in Los Angeles in 1964 when the group recruited Zappa. “He joined the band and three days later he took it over,” Black once said.
Zappa changed the group’s name and, according to Black, boasted that “if you guys learn my music, I’ll make you rich and famous.” “He took care of half of that promise, because I’m damn sure I didn’t get rich,” Black recalled.
He credited Zappa, who died in 1993, with introducing him to modern classical music and teaching him complex rhythms.
Black appeared on Mothers albums including “Freak Out,” “Cruising with Ruben and the Jets” and “Burnt Weenie Sandwich.” He played trumpet as well as drumming on the 1968 album “We’re Only In It for the Money,” and also introduced his catchphrase: “Hi boys and girls, I’m Jimmy Carl Black, I’m the Indian of the group.”
Zappa disbanded the Mothers in 1969, and Black’s career thereafter was not lucrative. A recent remix of some of Black’s work was titled “Can I Borrow a Couple of Bucks Until the End of the Week?”
The band members were shocked when Zappa fired them. “We all just got a phone call from him stating that he had decided to break up the band and your salary has ended as of last week. That is pretty cold,” Black said once in an interview.
Black later appeared as Lonesome Cowboy Burt in Zappa’s film “200 Motels,” and in 1980 he worked on five songs from Zappa’s “You Are What You Is.” “I had a really good time with Frank at that time and he really treated me great. I even got paid,” Black said.
Following the breakup of the Mothers, Black formed a band named Geronimo Black after his youngest son. The band’s 1972 album was not a commercial success, and Black went to work in a doughnut shop in Anthony, Texas.
In 1980, he teamed with ex-Mothers Bunk Gardner and Don Preston in The Grandmothers, a band that broke up and reformed several times over two decades.
During one musical lull, Black formed a house-painting company in Austin, Texas, with Arthur Brown. They also made an album, “Brown, Black and Blue.”
Black moved to Italy in 1992, then to Germany in 1995, and has appeared as a singer with The Muffin Men, a Liverpool band that specialized in the music of Zappa and Captain Beefheart.
Black is survived by his wife, Monika, whom he married in 1995 following the death of his second wife; three sons and three daughters. A fundraiser planned in London for Black will go ahead on Sunday, Gilliard said.
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