by Andrea Kelton
“Suzy…Suzy Creamcheese. Oh, mama, now what’s got into ya?”
With those lyrics, I was introduced to Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. In the late 1960’s, bands competed to create music that would “blow your mind.” Although not commercial superstars, the Mothers were super progressive and innovative.
When I was 18, I flew to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Upon boarding Northwest Airline’s “Blue Goose”, the stewardess directed me to a seat between two bearded, long haired hippies. As I settled in, these friendly freaks admired my intricate hand “slave” bracelet. Taking my hand, the guy on my right examined the large jewel ring on my middle finger. His fingers trailed the three jewel- studded fine-link chains which were attached to the ring. These chains attached to a chain encircling my wrist. We talked jewelry and travel destinations. They were musicians headed for a college concert somewhere in Wisconsin, members of a band called The Mothers of Invention.
Wowie-zowie! I’d heard of them from my super cool friends. I could at least act like I was hip, knowing who they were. But they didn’t care all that much. They just liked to talk. I listened. Then, in comfortable silence, we sat for the remainder of the short flight.
Later that year, the Mothers came to Detroit’s Ford Auditorium. I dragged the guy I was dating to the concert. The lights dimmed. We saw no band on the stage as the music started. Then slowly, the orchestra pit rose to stage level. Far out! The crowd went wild as the musicians came into view. Psychedelic rock mixed with blues rock and fusion jazz filled the night. Looking back, I was probably too young to fully appreciate such complex compositions. My date, a huge Beach Boys fan, hated it.
I bought a few albums. Listening as I ironed my dad’s shirts in the basement laundry room. I’m not sure I could ever be called a “fan.” But I have to admit that every time Montana’s mentioned, I hear Frank Zappa say, “I might be movin’ to Montana soon… just to raise me up a crop of Dental Floss.”
Andrea Kelton was diagnosed with uveitis in 1974. Today she lives in Chicago and teaches Adult Basic Education at Literacy Chicago. She attends a weekly memoir writing class, “Me, Myself and I” taught by author Beth Finke.