Freak Chouflée and those Del’s effects

Posted: December 22, 2014 in album review, zappa, zappology
Frank Zappa, The Frank Zappa AAAFNRAA 2014 Birthday Bundle, Zappa Records, December 2014

Frank Zappa, The Frank Zappa AAAFNRAA 2014 Birthday Bundle, Zappa Records, December 2014

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On December 21, 2014 zappa.com celebrated Frank Zappa with the sixth AAAFNRAA birthday bundle, a download only, irregular tradition started on 2006. This last episode includes three tracks performed by Zappa (one of them video) and a piece executed by 3NSAMBL3 (a Mexican classical guitars ensemble):

01. Down In De Dew – Alternate Mix
02. Freak Chouflée
03. Uncle Meat/Uncle Meat Variations (3NSAMBL3)
04. RDNZL (Palermo, 1982, Video Omen)

(full credits at zappa.com)

The alternate mix of Down In De Dew it’s a joy, and has already been released in 2014 as the B-Side to the Record Store Day 7″ single Don’t Eat The Yellow Snow. 3NSAMBL3 gave us a fresh and close-textured version of Uncle Meat (“una de las piezas del siguiente cd […], que está próximo a publicarse“). RDNZL from the Palermo riot concert is a precious shooting, though the video quality is far from perfect. The audio is very good, Zappa takes a great solo (included in the YCDTOSA5 RDNZL edit), Ed and Tommy have a funny keyboard/percussion conversation, and the Thomas Nordegg long sequence shoot concentrate a lot on Frank, sometimes when he is not playing nor conducting too, giving a sort of intimate, beyond the scene flavor to the whole cut. Even though the video quality is below the usual FZ standard, I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there that would be very happy to watch the whole Palermo Shooting!

Said that, track 2 is underground, psychedelic, acid-rock, Freak Chouflée music from 1966! But it has also a lot of historical interest, since it belongs to a rare line-up of the early Mothers of Invention. Zappa.com full credits are the following:

Live Recording from the Vault, circa 1966
Previously Unreleased
Band:
FZ: Guitar
Del Casher: Guitar
Don Preston: Keys
Roy Estrada: Bass
Billy Mundi: Drums
Jimmy Carl Black: Drums
Ray Collins: Tambourine

Transferred & edited by Joe Travers
from 1/4” Stereo Analog Tape
Mastered by Steve Hall 2003, Future Disc

And this is a short note from fellow zappateer Al Fresco:

Now, the guitars. The left one from speaker and first solo to me sounds FZ & the second one and right speaker guitar solo would be Del Kacher.

It’s a classic MOI combo with Del Casher (also known as Del Kacher), a Californian guitar player and electronics techie. On his web site, Del claims his role as innovator as far as guitar effects: he reports his use of his wah-wah pedal as early as 1967.

Del Casher on guitar and pedal effects, February 1967

Del Casher on guitar and pedal effects, February 1967

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Del Casher surely was a fine musician since his early days, but what took the attention of Zappa was probably his technology skills too, being truly interested in any kind of innovation since his early days (see the Studio Z story and his relationship with Paul Buff).

Concerning his time with Frank Zappa, that is what Casher reports on his web pages:

Frank Zappa discovered that Del had unique pedals and echoes and asked Del to arrange, produce, and play the theme for a Roger Corman movie “Queen of Blood.” Immediately Frank Zappa asked Del to join his group “The Mothers” for appearances at the Shrine Auditorium and the Whiskey-a-Go-Go in Hollywood. Frank featured Del on his famous “Freak Out” performance that was aired on the David Susskind TV Show for ABC television.

Zappa.com credits do not mention venue and date for this – apparently live – performance. It should not be the case of the Whiskey-a-Go-Go. On October 1966 Del Casher was with the MOI at this West Hollywood venue, but, judging from the following pictures, there was no keyboard player involved. The second image is a clip of the same shot available through the Casher web site, it shows Del’s sign on himself.

The Mothers of Invention at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go, October 1966

The Mothers of Invention at the Whiskey-a-Go-Go, October 1966

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The Mothers of Invention at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, October 1966, clip from  delcasher.com

The Mothers of Invention at the Whiskey-A-Go-Go, October 1966, clip from delcasher.com

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On his web site photo section, Del Casher has also included a Los Angeles Free Press clipping for a September 17, 1966 Shrine Exposition Hall show, maybe another guess for the recording venue.

Freak Out! at Shrine Exposition Hall ad, Los Angeles Free Press, September 16, 1966

Freak Out! at Shrine Exposition Hall ad, Los Angeles Free Press, September 16, 1966

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Moreover, that is what Del Casher said to Charles Ulrich in 2005 (from the 1966 notes to the FZ Chronology available through the Information Is Not Knowledge web site):

After that [FZ] asked if I would play the Shrine auditorium in LA. There I met Van Dyke Parks, Roy Estrada, and I believe Billy Mundi and Don Preston later. I also remember Carl Black and Ray Collins but I believe Frank changed players according to availability.

From these elements it seems that September 1966 Shrine auditorium should be the most probable hypothesis. No matter of what the truth really is, Freak Chouflée is a real nugget and the collaboration with Del Cashier once again proves that Frank Zappa was all the time looking for new technical solutions and possibilities since his early days.

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Freak Out! clip featuring Del Cashier

Freak Out! clip featuring Del Cashier

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December 28 Post Scriptum (thanks Al Fresco):

Ray Collins on tamburine has been included in the Freak Chouflée line-up available at zappa.com.

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