Jimmy Carl Black, who went from drummer in Frank Zappa’s avant-garde Mothers of Invention to doughnut shop worker and house painter, has died at age 70.
Black died Saturday of cancer in Siegsdorf, Germany, said Roddie Gilliard, a British musician who performed with him.
Black had Cheyenne ancestry; his greatest fame came from a line ad-libbed on the Mothers of Invention’s third album, “We’re Only In It for the Money,” which made fun of hippies.
“Hi, boys and girls,” he said. “I’m Jimmy Carl Black and I’m the Indian of the group.”
Early on, Black played backing music for strippers. In 1964, he was playing in a Los Angeles band called the Soul Giants when it recruited Zappa as lead guitarist.
Zappa took over, changed the group’s name and, according to Black, boasted that “if you guys learn my music, I’ll make you rich and famous.”
“He took care of half of that promise, because I’m damn sure I didn’t get rich,” Black recalled.
The Mothers satirized pop music and gloried in their weirdness and their eagerness to offend even their own fans. “You think we’re singing ’bout someone else but you’re plastic people,” they sang on their 1967 album, “Absolutely Free.”
He credited Zappa, who died in 1993, with introducing him to modern classical music and teaching him complex rhythms.
After Zappa disbanded The Mothers of Invention in 1969, Black played in a rock and blues band called Geronimo Black. The band flopped and in 1972 Black worked in a doughnut shop in Texas.
In 1975, Black played with the experimental rocker Captain Beefhart. He appeared as Lonesome Cowboy Burt in Zappa’s film “200 Motels,” and in 1980 he worked on several songs for Zappa’s “You Are What You Is.”
“I had a really good time with Frank at that time and he really treated me great. I even got paid,” Black said.
Born James Inkanish Jr. on Feb. 1, 1938 in El Paso, Texas, the drummer and vocalist changed his name to Jimmy Carl Black after his stepfather, Carl Black. Despite his fame, he often had to work day jobs. In the 1980s, he formed a house-painting company in Texas with British singer Arthur Brown, who had a hit as “the god of hell fire.”
Black moved to Italy in 1992, then to Germany in 1995, finding enough work to survive as a musician.
He is survived by his wife, Monika, whom he married in 1995 following the death of his second wife, three sons and three daughters.
A fundraiser planned in London for Black will go ahead on Sunday, Gilliard said Wednesday.