The Mamas and the Papas facts: Members, songs, albums and more about the 'California Dreamin'' stars

16 March 2022, 12:19 | Updated: 26 September 2023, 13:08

The Mamas and the Papas
The Mamas and the Papas. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

The Mamas and the Papas were one of the most iconic groups of the 'Flower Power' generation of the mid-to-late 1960s.

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In a relatively short period of time, the group scored several big hits which have stood the test of time.

Here are all the big and important facts about the cult folk-rock band:

  1. Who were the Mamas and the Papas?

    Mamas & Papas - California Dreaming

    The Mamas and the Papas were an American folk rock group, who performed from 1965 to 1968.

    They consisted of John Phillips, Denny Doherty, Cass Elliot, and Michelle Phillips.

    They were known for their tight vocal harmonies arranged by John Phillips, who was also the main songwriter, musician, and leader of the group.

    The group released a total of five albums and 17 singles over four years, and sold close to 40 million records worldwide.

  2. What were their biggest songs?

    Mamas and the Papas Creeque Ally

    Their most famous hits include:

    - California Dreamin'

    - Monday, Monday

    - Dedicated to the One I Love

    - Creeque Alley

    - Dream a Little Dream of Me (credited to Mama Cass)

  3. How did they get together?

    The Mamas and the Papas were formed by husband and wife John and Michelle Phillips, who were previously in the New Journeymen, alongside Denny Doherty, previously of the Mugwumps.

    The final member to join was Cass Elliot, Doherty's bandmate in the Mugwumps, despite John Phillips' concern that her voice was too low, and that her physical appearance would be an issue.

    The group's name was inspired by the Hells Angels, whose female associates were called "mamas".

  4. Why did they split?

    Mamas and the Papas
    Mamas and the Papas. Picture: Getty

    There had been tensions among the group for some time, including when Cass reportedly screamed at John Phillips, after he interrupted her while she told a story to Mick Jagger about why she was once arrested in the UK.

    After the success of 'Dream a Little Dream of Me', Mama Cass had made it known that she wanted a solo career, and by the end of 1968 it looked as if the group had split.

    John Phillips later said: "Times had changed. The Beatles showed the way. Music itself was heading toward a technological and compositional complexity that would leave many of us behind. It was tough to keep up."

    The group confirmed its breakup in early 1969.

  5. What happened to the members?

    Cass Elliot in 1970
    Cass Elliot in 1970. Picture: Getty

    Cass Elliot had a successful solo career, but sadly died of heart failure in London on July 29, 1974.

    John Phillips continued making music for the rest of his life, but struggled with drug addiction. He died in 2001 from heart failure. In 2009, his daughter Mackenzie Phillips claimed in her memoir that she had been in a long-term sexual relationship with her late father.

    Owen Elliot (Mama Cass's daughter), Michelle Phillips, Denny Doherty and John Phillips
    Owen Elliot (Mama Cass's daughter), Michelle Phillips, Denny Doherty and John Phillips. Picture: Getty

    Denny Doherty also made music on and off, and also had a brief acting career, before passing away in 2009 at the age of 66 in 2007.

    Michelle Phillips is the last surviving member of the band. After releasing her one solo album in 1977, she went on to have a successful career as an actress, apparing in films such as American Anthem and Joshua Tree.