Frank Zappa would have celebrated his 71st birthday today.
The Zappas moved to San Diego in 1954. Thirteen-year-old Frank bought his first record player at Valley Music in El Cajon. He soon began buying used records in a retail vinyl record nook at the Maryland Hotel. One day, he saw a Record Sale sign outside a La Mesa hi-fi store, Alan’s Music Center. In the bins, he found a record that he once read about, in an interview with a record store owner who said he used it as a stereo hi0fi demonstration album, but that it was so weird that he coiuldn’t talk anyone into buying the album.
That album, the Complete Works of Edgard Varese Volume 1, was in the bin at the La Mesa shop. It was priced at $5.95, but Zappa only had $3.80. The store owner sold it to him anyway, and the record would have a huge influence on Zappa’s musical development.
He attended Grossmont (freshman year) and Mission Bay High School (as a sophomore). Along the line, Mission Bay band director Robert Kavelman turned young Zappa on to composer Anton Webern and 12-tone music, another major inspiration. He also drummed for the school R&B band, the Ramblers, but they fired him for using too much cymbal.
The Zappas moved to Lancaster, CA in 1955. Later, Zappa’s band the Mothers of Invention first played San Diego in May 1966, at a club called Jazzville, opening for Little Richard. The Mothers returned to town on June 1, 1968, to play the Community Concourse downtown as part of something called Happening #10.
San Diego guitarist Mike Keneally played in the Zappa band for a number of years. In early 2011, UK’s Mojo Magazine released a Zappa Special Edition in Europe, including a few pages on his days in San Diego.
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