Denny Bruce joined the original Mothers Of Invention as a second drummer in 1965. He lasted about 6 months, until he contracted mononucleosis, and was replaced by Billy Mundi in time for the Freak Out! sessions.
info from istván fekete (the
hungarian of the group):
from record collector, march 1998, no.223:
peter doggett meets one of the mavericks of california rock - a former mother, jack nietzsche's best friend, neil young's roommate, ann-margret's producer, and the man who turned leo kottke into a guitar cult.
it's a hell of a cv. an original mother of invention; a founder of a pre-spirit band; running vanguard in the 60s and takoma in the 70s; rooming with neil young; managing the unpredictable jack nietzsche; launching the careers of leo kottke, t-bone burnett, the fabulous thunderbirds, and john hiatt; handling the personal affairs of bluesmen like magic sam, earl hooker and albert collins; and producing everyone from mike bloomfield to john hiatt, via beat writer charles bukowski and actress ann-margret.
record collector: what kind of music was frank zappa playing when you joined the mothers of invention in 1965?
denny bruce: nobody whatsoever would book the band, because we were
living in an era when trini lopez and johnny rivers dominated sunset strip. even
when the byrds came through, frank couldn't get hired, because he insisted on
doing original material. ultimately he discovered that the way to get hired was
to have a band with a danceable beat. i was looking to drum with a group, and
his babysitter was a friend of mine. she told him about me, and he said,
"this guy sounds great", because he assumed that i had changed my name
in honour of lenny bruce.
i showed up for an audition with brian jones-style hair, and frank said, "you're hired. i need some young, good-looking guys if i'm ever going to get work in this city. all you have to do is keep a backbeat."
the band arranged an audition at this hollywood club, and we showed up with an entourage of about 200 people - including the girls who became the gtos, people like that. it was quite a freak scene. frank asked the owner beforehand, "what is your definition of a great dance song?". the guy thought long and hard, and said, "louie louie". so frank told us, "ok, we'll give them 'louie louie' for 45 minutes, but our version is going to be called 'plastic people'."
record collector: how long did you play with the mothers?
denny bruce: i was in that line-up, with ray collins, roy estrada, jimmy carl black and elliot ingber, for about six months. then i got mononucleosis, and i was replaced by billy mundi, who ended up playing on the first album, "freak out". he was a great drummer, and he could actually read music, which was unheard of in our circles.
record collector: so zappa didn't try and force his classical music on you?
denny bruce: he knew better than that. he realised that with me and
jimmy both playing drums, something interesting might come out of that. but he
also realised that there was a giant chasm between the music he heard in his
head, and what we'd be able to play. it would have been laughable - like the way
beefheart would point at a piano, and tell the pianist,
"i want you to play between the cracks".
record collector: how did the mothers fit in with the l.a. rock
aristocracy of the time, with people like the byrds?
denny bruce: i think zappa was totally impervious to all of that, to that whole scene where the folkies saw a hard day's night and started plugging in. he was truly unique. like beefheart, he would have done what he did regardless of what was happening around him. those guys never watched television, not like those later television jerks, people like alice cooper, whose whole lives were television.