Owen Elliot-Kugell - My Mama, Cass (2024)

Back in the mid-60s when I first listened to top 40 radio I considered The Mamas and The Papas the greatest vocal group I ever heard. I never tire of listening to "California Dreamin'," "Dedicated to the One I Love," "Twelve Thirty," "I Call Your Name," and a lot of their other wonderful songs.

Cass Elliot (born Ellen Naomi Cohen in 1941) was my favorite female singer for a long time, so I was immediately interested in My Mama, Cass, the new memoir written by her daughter, Owen Elliot-Kugell.

The star's life story is told in the first half of the book and the more interesting chapters are found there. The second half is mostly about Elliot-Kugell's life and how her mother's early death from a heart attack in 1974 at age thirty-two when the author was only seven years old (She's now fifty-six) affects her life even today.

Elliot's family tree is discussed, so are her formative years as a singer, life with her famous quartet, and her post-Mamas and Papas career that included stints as a talk show host who substituted for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show.

After her group disbanded Elliot was determined to shed the "Mama" nickname from her life. She even hosted a TV special and released an album, both titled Don't Call Me Mama Anymore.

Elliot played important rolls in the formation of two other future hall-of-fame bands. She introduced Graham Nash to David Crosby and Stephen Stills who were already rehearsing together. The great classic rock trio might not have become one of the world's premier supergroups without her involvement. She was also instrumental in bringing Zal Yanovsky and John Sebastian together to create The Lovin' Spoonful.

Highlights include well-remembered details of the author's last day with her devoted mother who loved her only child unconditionally and who loved her mother back just as much. Of course, Elliot's weight problem is discussed and how it most certainly was a factor contributing to her death. Elliot-Kugell also debunks the old rumor - mostly taken as fact - that her mother died choking on a ham sandwich and why that decades old story replaced the truth is discussed in detail. In fact, a desire to set the facts straight was one of her motivations for writing the book.

The memoir also discusses how - with the help of "Mama" Michelle Phillips - the author finally learned who her father was when she reached the age of nineteen.

My Mama, Cass is mostly for baby boomers who remember how amazing Elliot and her short-lived group were back in the late 60s. It's an easy and interesting read that you will hopefully find illuminating.

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