the grandmothers / the grandmothers of invention

In the early 1980s, Don Preston, Jimmy Carl Black and Bunk Gardner formed the Grandmothers.  The band has re-formed a couple of times, almost every time with a different line-up and often with a different name. (View the concert list for line-up data.)
At a certain moment, there were even two different bands called the Grandmothers.  One featured Jimmy Carl Black and Sandro Oliva. The other one (since August 2002) featured Don Preston, Bunk Gardner, Roy Estrada and Napoleon Murphy Brock and is called the Grandmothers Re:Invented (a band that does not want to be confused with the Grandmothers (of old).

The picture on the right shows Sandro Oliva, Ener Bladezipper, Jimmy Carl Black, Bunk Gardner and Don Preston. It was taken in 1994 by Reinhard Preuss.


1 the grandmothers: grandmothers
0, lp, ger, line records 6.24636 ap) - feat. various ex-moi

grandmothers_st_lp.jpg (28012 bytes)

2 the grandmothers: fan club talk lp
    (1981, lp, us, panda 001)

gm_fct_pdvinyl.jpg (25941 bytes)

3 the grandmothers: lookin' up granny's dress
    (1982, lp, us, rhino records  rnlp 804) - feat. various ex-moi; incl.zappa compositions

gm_lookinup.jpg (23374 bytes)

  don preston: speaks! - 1992 interview
    (1993, k7, usa, electrik yak letc 1)  = a reissue  + some additional grandmothers music
  bunk gardner: speaks ! - 1992 interview
    (1993, k7, usa, electrik yak letc 2)
  = a reissue  + some additional grandmothers music
  jimmy carl black: speak'n at ya!
   (1993, k7, usa, electrik yak records letc 3)  = a reissue  + some additional grandmothers music
4 the grandmothers: dreams on long play
    (1993, cd, ger, muffin records cdm 002) - feat.jc black  

  jimmy carl black and the grandmothers: the / brave combo: skin
    (1993, 7”flexi, usa, eva-tone soundsheet)
  the grandmothers: a mother of an anthology
    (1993, cd, us, one way records ow 28880)  = compilation + extra tracks  

  various artists: arezzo wave 1993
    (1993, 2cd, italy, big square records) - incl. a live grandmothers track
5 the grandmothers: who could imagine
    (1994, cd, nl, munich records netcd 53) - feat. various ex-moi; incl.zappa & beefheart compositions

  the grandmothers: dreams on long play
    (1995, cd, usa, muffin records) - feat.jc black  /  re-recorded, remixed version with new cover

  various artists: outstandingly ignited - volume 4
    (1995, cd, usa, esd 80982) - incl. the grandmothers: 'the'
  jimmy carl black: when do we get paid (5)
    (1996, cd, uk, devine records devine 50 cd)
6 the grandmothers: eating the astoria
    (2000, cd, i, obvious music om gm0100) - feat. various ex-moi; incl.zappa compositions
  the grandmothers: 20 year anthology of the grandmothers
    (2001, cdr, ger,
inkanish records) - anthology

7 the grandmothers: the eternal question
    (2001, cdr, ger,
inkanish records) - feat. various ex-moi; incl.zappa compositions

  the grandmothers: a little bit of the chef
    (200?, cdr, i, ??)                        -------------- announced but never released (?)
  various artists: eyeinhand sampler volume 1
    (2001, cd, spain, vaso music vm 032) - all zappa related artists
  the grandmothers: 20 year anthology of the grandmothers (volume two)
    (2002, cdr, ger, inkanish records)

  various artists: zappanale 13
    (2003, 3cd, ger, arf society) – incl. various artists playing frank zappa compositions

  various artists: zappanale 13 - the lewinskys - grandmothers west
    (2003, dvd, ger, the arf society) - feat. various artists playing frank zappa compositions

  various artists: zappanale 13 - retrospective
    (2003, dvd, ger, the arf society) - feat. various artists playing frank zappa compositions

  various artists: zappanale # 13
    (2003, cd, ger, arf society) – incl. various artists playing frank zappa compositions

  jimmy carl black: when do we get paid?
    (2007, cd, usa, crossfire) - feat. don preston, walt & tom fowler
  the grandmothers: boulder theatre – us tour, 2000
    (200?, 2cdr, italy, obvious music) -, don preston, bunk gardner

  the grandmothers: it happened here
    (2008, 2cdr, ger, arf society) = the grandmothers (with special guests) concert at zappanale in 2002

grandm_ithappenedhere.jpg (26054 bytes)

  various artists: zappanale 20 - promo-cd
    (2009, cd-promo, ger, arf society)

zappanale20_procd.jpg (22210 bytes)

  jimmy carl black: "where's my waitress?" (revised)
    (2010, download, -, crossfire publications) = revised edition - download only
jcblack_wheresmywaitress2010.jpg (10002 bytes)
  the grandmothers of invention: live in bremen
    (2018, 2cd, ger, sireena) - feat. don preston, bunk gardner

grandmothers_liveinbremen2cd.jpg (29166 bytes)

  the grandmothers of invention: free energy
    (2018, cd, usa, private release) - feat. don preston, bunk gardner and ed mann




concerts, etc...

* * * 1970/--/--concert     studio
             they recorded one track, 'high and mighty', produced by tom wilson

* * * the 1981 tour: the grandmothers * * *

Don Preston: keyboards, vocals
Jimmy Carl Black: drums, vocals
Bunk Gardner: saxop
Tom Fowler: bass, violin
Walt Fowler: trumpet, keyboards, vocals
Tony Duran: guitar



* * * The Fall 1981 line-up * * *



* * * 1981/11 - 1982/05   studio 'kludgit sounds', cerrillo, new mexico
parts are on "the eternal question"


* * * the 1982 tour * * *
don preston: keyboards, computer, vocals & madness
jimmy carl black: percussion, vocals, beer
tom fowler: bass, walkman, cigarettes
walt fowler: keyboards, trumpet, vocals and airpocket-hat
mike miller: guitar, vocals
tony morales: drums


* * * the 1988 tour * * * (the 'first austin grandmothers')
jimmy carl black: drums, vocals
mike harris: guitar, background vocals
jeff 'rasta man' hogan: percussion
ener bladezipper: bass
gerald 'eli' smith: all woodwinds
tony young: background vocals, engineer

* * * the 1989 concerts * * *
jimmy carl black: drums, vocals
don preston: keyboards, vocals
bunk gardner: sax, flute
ener bladezipper': bass
???: guitar

* * * the 1993 european tour * * *
jimmy carl black
ener bladezipper
roland st.germain
linda valmets
gerald eli smith
bunk gardner
don preston  

The picture on the right shows Bunk Gardner, Roland St.Germain, Jimmy Carl Black, Ener Bladezipper and Don Preston. It was taken in 1993 in Rome by Reinhard Preuss.

* * * the 1994 concerts: "the grandmothers of invention" * * *
jimmy carl black: drums, percussion, vocals
don preston: keyboards, vocals
bunk gardner: clarinet, sax, vocals
ener bladezipper: bass
sandro oliva: guitar, vocals

The picture on the right shows Sandro Oliva, Ener Bladezipper, Jimmy Carl Black, Bunk Gardner and Don Preston. It was taken in 1994 by Reinhard Preuss.


* * * the 1998 european tour * * *

jimmy carl black
bunk gardner
don preston
??: bass
sandro oliva: guitar, vocals
??: drums

* * * the 2000 u.s. tour * * *



* * * The Fall 2001 line-up * * *



* * * The 2002 Zappanale Gig / The Grandmothers West* * *

Don Preston
Roy Estrada
Bunk Gardner
Jimmy Carl Black
Bob Harris
Napoleon Murphy Brock
Andre Cholmondeley
Glenn Leonard



- freak out with the grandmothers

- necessity is… the early years of frank zappa & the mothers of invention by billy james
    (saf publishing, uk, 2000)


random notes

     from: (willem ) - fri, feb 27, 1998
hi boys 'n girls,
anyone with doubts whether to see the grandmothers?: just do it.
yesterday the grandmothers gave a concert in hedon in zwolle (announced as zappanight: with the mothers of invention). it was really a great concert. opening (after we had been shown a 1 hr video everyone probably had at home, it was the well known vpro-video) with peaches en regalia, stuff from a wide range of zappa albums and by the time the band played brown shoes the audience (approx. 100) was going crazy. it was a two hours show with lots of zappa work but some grandmother stuff als well. jcb and bunk gardner were great and to my suprise sandro oliva not even looked and acted as he was the master himself (swingin with his arms as frank used to do) but he also soudend very much like zappa. never knew btw that the bassplayer (ener bladzipper) was a dutch guy. right after the show in the cantine the band members were selling their merchandise:posters, t-shirts, booklets and cd's. meanwhile scriblling the autographs on tickets and talking to people from the audience. jcb was in a good mood.

     from: mdec500157 (
this is how it was when i saw them in detroit @ '90. tho sandro  wasn't with them, and jim was the only original mother!  jcb announced they were gonna play a medly of frank's music. some of the old freaks in the audience boooooood and said stuff like "fuck zappa". jcb said something like "wait a minute...frank's a good guy and he wrote some great music."  and later he did sign mothers albums, and even sat down next to me at the bar. then the management threw us out so the disco crowd could come in. man, was i pissed.
anyway this goes contrary to what someone else said earlier. the grandmothers still respect zappa, imo (why else would black say what he did at a gig with about 30 people in the audience?) and the band was really tight. their original material was great too. i hope they come back to detroit. i'm there.

     from: andreas klaer ( - date: fri, 06 mar 1998
saw the grandmothers about three weeks ago in mannheim / germany, which was a nice show. bunk had tears in his eyes playing king kong

     from: ant-bee (
for updated info on the grandmothers check out ant-bee's web bizarre
thanks, billy james

sandro oliva's website:

from: bill haines ( - date: thu, 10 aug 2000 12:42:45 -0500
subject: grandmothers in nashville
i attended the grandmothers 2000 tour opener last night. awesome show!! i hung out backstage with the band before the show and during the break, got some great photos and a wealth of info from jimmy carl black (the indian of the group), don preston and bunk gardner. all of the guys are very personable and very happy to answer any questions. you can bet i asked a few. i plan to gather my thoughts about the experience and write them down, if anyone would be interested, i will post it to the fireparty in a few installments. i'm headed to chicago this weekend, so can't right now, but will on monday when i return.
afew random thoughts...they played neon meate dream of a octafish....wonderful!!
jimmy told me that he has several beefheart bootlegs, i mentioned a few that i had and he wigged out!! he gave me his address so that i could send him copies, he promised to send me some in return...we'll see how that transpires. he said that the muffin men will really appreciate the cds, and jimmy said he'll burn copies for all of those guys off the ones i send him.
nothing will be happening until mid october though, when thier tour finishes up. thier last gig will be here in nashville again, at the same place as last night, the exit/in on oct. 14.
we talked about don. jimmy hasn't heard from him in eons, doesn't know if he's dead, but doesn't think so, he said he'd have heard if he was, but he does know that don's condition is grave, and that he is basically helpless, bedridden and uncommunicative. jim had some funny stories about don on the road to tell. he's a funny guy.
gotta go, but check out jimmy carl black's websire at:, also don preston's site is excellent. it's at:
one final thought: there is a lot of venom for gail zappa amongst the 3 ex-mothers. she has thrown every roadblock she can in thier paths, in fact they couldn't tour for three years because of her. don preston told me that she is sue happy, she sued her own brother twice, apparently. don told me he has ideas for putting out old mothers of invention tapes that he has, but fears the wrath of gail zappa, he said he doesn't want to go to jail...but the stuff is so good, he hates to keep it to himself. i encouraged him to do it anyway!!

     from: brian bukantis (
i've posted short streaming videoclips of the grandmothers from their aug. 19 concert in detroit. you'll need quicktime 4:
at this time, there are two clips posted - the first is the band introductions, the second is "the eternal question" as answered by don preston. hope you enjoy these little snips.

From: peter quinnell
Subject: Grandmothers memory 9/25/00 -- and a brief Don Preston interview
Date: Mon, 25 Jul 2005

Just saw the Grandmothers' live show (9/25/2000) here in Orange County, California. The venue was the Coach House, San Juan Capistrano. Brilliant show, with a line-up of Jimmy Carl, Bunk, Don Preston, Sandro Oliva, Ener Bladezipper, and Steve B. Roney. The band was very tight, and more than up to the challenge of putting across such complicated numbers as ‘Little House I Used to Live In’, ‘Overture to a Holiday in Berlin’ (with Bunk perfectly recreating the mournful sax tone as on the original), and, of course, ‘the Orange County Lumber Truck’.

Jimmy Carl Black acted as master of ceremonies for the audience, and ably took the lead on ‘Big Leg Emma’, ‘Brown Shoes’, ‘Lady Queen Bee’ and ‘Trail of Tears’, and played an electronic percussion device programmed to cowbells and woodblocks, as well as a standard (non-electric) tambourine. After the show, while JCB was signing my old vinyl copy of "Freak Out!", I complemented him on the set, and he said "glad you enjoyed it.that's why we're here!"

Sandro Oliva is a marvelous guitarist, and truly provides an integral element to the proceedings. His conducting style recalled the vocal cues and gestures Zappa employed, while he effortlessly spindled through one wah-wah drenched guitar solo after another on his sunburst Les Paul. Even his Italian-accented English adds flavor, providing a surrealist counterpoint to the other singers when introducing numbers. He also sang a song with Italian lyrics, which went down really well with the crowd.

Don Preston was especially on form, turning in one brilliant solo after another, delivering his own composition ‘What Was Zappa Really Like’, and also intoning Beefheart's ‘Neon Meate Dream of A Octafish’ while playing spacey keyboard-generated sound-effects backing. He later turned in to his alter ego The Reverend Biff Debrie (which involved an hilarious blond fright wig and a velvet robe). The crux of the Reverend's message was dope is throw it on up here to us, and we'll take care of it. Funny thing was, someone did! Don and Jim exchanged bemused looks, and as Don said "you didn't see that" in to the microphone, Jim wandered downstage to go retrieve it.

Don continued with a lecture on the evils of beautiful young groupies, instructing the audience to bring those up to the stage as well.

Before the show, I purchased a copy of the new "Eating the Astoria" CD in the lobby. After the show, Sandro assured me I'd enjoy it as he was signing the booklet, and he was right. I haven't had enough free time to listen to in its entirety yet (78 minutes of music - excellent value at $15 American) though the tracks I listened to so far are both sonically and musically stellar, and I am looking forward to diving back in.

I also enjoyed a rather elliptical conversation with Don Preston as he was unplugging his keyboard rig.
Here's an excerpt from our (brief) conversation about the Mothers' '71 tour –

PQ (me) - I recently picked up a 2-CD set of the Montreaux gig [Swiss Cheese/Fire] where the Casino caught fire. do you remember doing that gig?

Don Preston - yeah, I remember it all perfectly

PQ - you guys were doing that weird 18-minute Sofa medley that didn't really get released in that form at the time.

Don Preston - (smiles) yeah, with the sofa and God. (sets some equipment aside) maybe that's the reason for what happened.

PQ - what, you mean at the end of the tour?

Don Preston - yeah.the fire [Dec 4. 1971], falling into the pit. [Rainbow, Dec. 10, 1971]

PQ - It's funny you mentioned that. That thought occurred to me too when I first heard it, 'cause it's so close to the edge.

Don Preston - (dramatic pause) Maybe God doesn't have a sense of humor as Zappa thought.

-- Peter Quinnell

the others of invention



 c   d   e   f   g   h   i   j   k   l   m 
 n   o   p   q   r   s   t   u   v   w   x   y   z
soundtracks various artists