Ruth Underwood (born Ruth Komanoff; May 23, 1946) is an American musician best known for playing xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, and other percussion instruments in Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention. She collaborated with the Mothers of Invention from 1968 to 1977.
|Birth name||Ruth Komanoff|
|Born||23 May 1946|
|Instrument(s)||Xylophone, marimba, vibraphone, piano, synthesizer|
|Labels||Philips Records, Bell Records, DiscReet Records|
Life and careerEdit
Underwood began her music training in the classical tradition, studying both at Ithaca College under Warren Benson and at Juilliard under Saul Goodman (timpani) and Morris Goldenberg (percussion). Throughout 1967, she kept a regular attendance at the Garrick Theater in New York City when Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention were the resident band. This resulted in her association with Zappa, beginning in December 1967.
Oh, I was probably one of those rather stiff people from the suburbs – I think some of us did understand, and we kept coming back for more, and more, and more. I remember being very upset when they finally finished their stint at the Garrick Theatre and went back to L.A. I felt as if the real heart had gone out of New York City, and I had to get back on with my conservatory music training life, which seemed very dull after this.
Underwood performed in more than 30 recordings with Zappa or Mothers. Examples of her virtuosity can be heard on tracks including the "Rollo Interior interlude" from "St. Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast" on the Apostrophe (') album (1974). Other work is documented on Roxy & Elsewhere (1974) and on "Inca Roads", the opening track on One Size Fits All (1975). Underwood can be heard (though not seen) in the soundtrack of the Zappa movie 200 Motels (1971), and the Dub Room Special DVD (1982), which includes performances from the KCET Special A Token Of His Extreme. She also features in the film of the Roxy performances (2015).
During the 1970s, Underwood collaborated in recording sessions for a small number of other performers, most notably with the band Ambrosia, composer Jasun Martz, jazz keyboardist George Duke and drummer Terry Bozzio, the latter two also veterans of Zappa's bands. Underwood also appeared on drums with a rock group named the Hamilton Face Band during 1969, appearing on some of their recordings released by Philips Records and Bell Records.
By some accounts, she retired from performing by 1982, concentrating instead on her family.
In a 1993 interview she revealed that she played on one final session for Zappa shortly before his death from cancer in December of that year.
A couple of years ago, when I heard that Frank was ill, I called him up. For 14 years we had no contact at all. He invited me to the house and we enjoyed some really nice visits with each other. Last June ('93) he called and asked if he could sample some of my stuff. I was shocked because I hadn't touched a pair of mallets since March of '77. I ended up practicing for 14 hours, which was all the time I could get together in the context of my life now. I spent four days at Frank's house sampling. This was really a miracle for me – that I could be reunited with him and still have something to offer.
She also features in the DVD - DC Collection: Vol. 1 - The Drummers Of Frank Zappa (2009) with Terry Bozzio, Ralph Humphrey, Chester Thompson and Chad Wackerman.
She is the mother of two children, both musicians. She resides in Los Angeles.
- Uncle Meat (1969)
- 200 Motels (1971)
- Over-Nite Sensation (1973)
- Apostrophe (') (1974)
- Roxy & Elsewhere (1974)
- One Size Fits All (1975)
- Zoot Allures (1976)
- Zappa in New York (1978)
- Studio Tan (1978)
- Sleep Dirt (1979)
- Thing-Fish (1984)
- You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore Sampler (1988)
- You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 1 (1988)
- You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 2 (1988)
- You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 3 (1989)
- You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 4 (1991)
- You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 6 (1992)
- The Lost Episodes (1996)
- Läther (1996)
- Frank Zappa Plays the Music of Frank Zappa: A Memorial Tribute (1996)
- Have I Offended Someone? (1997)
- The Dub Room Special (2007)
- Wazoo (2007)
- One Shot Deal (2008)
- Understanding America (2012)
- Road Tapes, Venue #2 (2013)
- A Token of His Extreme Soundtrack (2013)
- Roxy by Proxy (2014)
- Roxy the Soundtrack (2015)
- The Crux of the Biscuit (2016)
- Meat Light (2016)
- The Roxy Performances (2018)
- Halloween 73 (2019)
- Zappa (2020)
The Hamilton Face BandEdit
Jasun Murtz and the Neoteric OrchestraEdit
- The Pillory (1978)
- I Love The Blues She Heard My Cry (1975)
- Liberated Fantasies (1976)
- My Soul: The Complete MPS Fusion Recordings (2008)
- Inner Conflicts (1978)
- Yesterday's Dreams (1976)
Eye to EyeEdit
- Eye to Eye (1982)
Jasun Martz/The Neoteric OrchestraEdit
- The Pillory (1981)
- Wagner, Alan D. (2005). A bio-bibliography of composer Warren Benson. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press. pp. 38, 41. ISBN 0-7734-6241-4. OCLC 56905356.
- Wagner, Alan D. (2005). A bio-bibliography of composer Warren Benson. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Presss. p. 358. ISBN 0-7734-6241-4. OCLC 56905356.
- Frank Zappa. The Late Show. London: BBC. July 23, 1993. Event occurs at 19:08. OCLC 263565757.
- "200 Motels".
- "The Dubroom Special".
- "Roxy - The Movie".
- "Ruth Underwood Songs, Albums, Reviews, Bio & More".
- "Hamilton 'Face' Is A Band". The Atlanta Constitution. June 14, 1969. pp. 68. Retrieved October 14, 2021 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Philips New Releases". Cash Box. April 12, 1969. pp. 28. Retrieved October 14, 2021 – via Archive.org.
- "Gordon Stout: New work for NEXUS (2009)". 11 January 2009. Retrieved 2016-11-19.
- Wagner, Alan D. (2005). A bio-bibliography of composer Warren Benson. Lewiston, New York: Edwin Mellen Press. pp. 358–59. ISBN 0-7734-6241-4. OCLC 56905356.