Jimmy Carl Black

So I’m trying to figure out why Geronimo Black never caught on. They were really good.

The record debuted in 1972 and went nowhere. The leader of that band chalks it up to “promotion wasn’t what it should have been.” After that, he became a doughnut maker in his home town of Anthony, Texas, then went on to front many other bands. He toured Europe. He had a full musical life, certainly.

But we all know why he’s actually famous.

You know it.

Say it with me:

“Hi, boys and girls. I’m Jimmy Carl Black, and I’m the Indian of the group.”

I have often wondered why this line has such staying power. It’s a weird throwback, isn’t it? A dig to the music industry, certainly, and one that blends with the album and its intent, or perhaps, just plainly, that it doesn’t. Or is it just that goofy laugh after? Or is it what follows, “Who Needs the Peace Corps?” Why-ever. It is certainly the “Baba Booey” of the Zappa cosmos.

I think he was more than that mere one line, however. Much more. Matter of fact, I think Black’s solid, distinctive drumming contributed largely to the Mothers’ sound. As Black used to say, when he got to play next to a virtuoso like Art Tripp, ferget it.

But Jimmy Carl Black I think has a perceived lack of gravitas. Perhaps it’s the line, or the character he portrayed in his Mothers career (see 200 Motels), or perhaps just because Frank really kind of screwed those guys. I don’t know. But let me ask you this. Who is the one musician that Steely Dan’s Walter Becker went out of his way to name-check at their Rock Hall of Fame induction speech in 2001?

Yuh-huh. Gravitas.

Jimmy Carl Black died on November 1, 2008. Before his death, he gave an interview that I found to be rather enlightening. There are similar interviews of other mothers such as Don Preston and Bunk Gardner. All of these interviews are excellent, but JCB’s is the first one to watch.

Sadly, it is split up into 14 parts on YouTube. I think the best way to navigate it is to follow it at YouTube itself, so have at it. It is a wonderful interview, and we’re lucky to have it.

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