Frank Zappa – Musician, Composer and Bandleader


Frank Zappa’s Full Name

What is his full name?

Known simply as Frank Zappa in his professional career, the bandleader’s full name was ‘Frank Vincent Zappa’.

Frank Zappa’s Age

What is his age?

Frank Zappa was born on the 21st of December 1940 in Baltimore, Maryland. He died on the 4th of December 1993 at the age of 52.

Frank Zappa’s Family

Who is his family?

Frank Zappa is the son of Rosemarie and Francis Vincent Zappa. His mother was of Italian and French ancestry whilst his father was a man of Greek and Arab heritage who had emigrated to Partinico, Sicily. Zappa was the eldest of four siblings and was raised in an Italian-American household where Italian was often the main spoken language. His family moved regularly because his father was a chemist and mathematician who worked with the defense industry. After spending time in Florida in the 1940s the family moved to Maryland and Zappa’s father began working with Edgewood Arsenal chemical warefare facility. Their home was close to the arsenal facility and so gas masks were kept in the house in case of an accident, the living situation was later regularly referenced in Zappa’s work.

The performer was often sick when he was young, he suffered from asthma, earaches and sinus issues. He was treated for sinusitis by a doctor with pellets of radium stuck up his nose. In 1952 the family moved to Monterey, California and his father began teaching metallurgy at the Naval Postgraduate School. They then moved to Claremont, California, El Cajon and then settled in San Diego. Frank Zappa’s home

Where does he live?

Zappa lived in a Hollywood Hills home which was set over 8,000 square feet and recently sold for $5.25 million to Lady Gaga.

Frank Zappa’s height and weight

What is his height and weight?

Frank Zappa was approximately 183 cm’s tall and was quite thin, possibly due to his health issues.

Frank Zappa’s fame

What is he famous for?

Frank Zappa was famous for being a musician, composer and bandleader. He is remembered for his non-conformist style, free-form improvisations, experimental sound, musical virtuosity and satirisation of the American culture. His career spanned more than thirty years and he composed music across a number of genres including rock, pop, jazz, jazz fusion and orchestra. He produced more than 60 albums and is considered to be one of the most innovative and musically diverse rock musicians in history. He was a self-taught musician and gained an interest in 20th century classical modernism, African-American rhythms and blues and doo-wop. Zappa was a non-conformist and was critical of mainstream education and organised religion he was an advocate for free speech, self-education and the abolition of censorship. He did not like drugs but agreed with decriminalization. In 1995 he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and achieved the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1997.

Frank Zappa’s early career

How did his career start?

Frank Zappa first joined a band when he was attending Mission Bay High School in San Diego. He also got a phonograph around the same time and began to collect records.

In 1956 he moved to Lancaster with his family and Zappa’s mother gifted him a long-distance phone call to the composer Varese for his 15th birthday. At Antelope Valley High School Zappa met Vliet and they became close friends, around the same time he began to play the drums for local band, The Blackouts. He left home in 1959 and moved into a small apartment in Echo Park, Los Angeles and worked for a short time as a copywriter. He tried to earn a living as a musician and some of his earliest recordings include a recording for the film ‘The World’s Greatest Sinner’ and ‘Run Home Slow’ which paid him well. During the 1960s Zappa wrote and produced songs for other artists.

In 1965 Ray Collins asked him to join the R&B band Soul Giants as a guitarist. Zappa accepted and became the co-lead singer of the band. The band was renamed ‘Mothers’ and increased their bookings, getting attention on the LA underground scene. The band was signed to Verve, a division of the label MGM. The label renamed the band ‘the Mothers of Invention’.

Frank Zappa’s career breakthrough

What was his career breakthrough?

Frank Zappa - Freak Out album
Frank Zappa’s Freak Out album

In 1966 the band recorded the album ‘Freak Out!’ which was groundbreaking at the time. Their second album ‘Absolutely Free’ was released in 1967. The album was recorded in November 1966 and mixed in New York. The band was offered a contract at Bleeker Street and as a result, moved to New York, their show was improvised and their performances were often outlandish. The band recorded the album ‘We’re Only in It for the Money’ in 1968, it was produced by Zappa. The alum was regarded as the peak of the groups’ work in the 1960s. The album satirized the hippie movement and sampled surf music, it also parodied the Beatles ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’.

The band’s next album ‘Cruising with Ruben & the Jets’ was a doo-wop album. In 1967 Zappa appeared with the Monkees on an episode of their TV series and in their film ‘Head’.

Frank Zappa’s continued career success

What has he done since his career breakthrough?

In 1968 the band returned to Los Angeles but they were suffering financially, Zappa decided to break up the band in 1969 citing financial pressure. After disbanding the band Zappa released the solo album ‘Hot Rats’. In 1970 Zappa formed a new version of the band which debuted on his next solo album ‘Chungas Revenge’. In 1971 Zappa suffered from two setbacks, a fire destroyed their equipment and Zappa was pushed off-stage by a man who was jealous of his girlfriend’s infatuation with Zappa. Zappa suffered from serious injuries and his voice dropped by a third as a result of injuries to his larynx. During 1971 and 1972 he released two solo LPs, ‘Waka/Jawaka’ and ‘The Grand Wazoo’.

Later the singer formed and toured with a number of smaller groups and in 1973 created DisCreet Records. His relationship with long time manager ended in the same year, with Zappa suing him for skimming off the top.

In the mid-1970s he worked on the LP ‘Lather’ but Warner Bros. prevented the release and a lawsuit followed, Warner Bros. eventually issued the album.

Due to the lawsuits to gain rights over his work, Zappa toured extensively between 1975 and 1977 because it was his only source of income. He also appeared on Saturday Night Live. He ended the 1970s by releasing the album ‘Sheik Yerbouti’ and ‘Joe’s Garage’.

Zappa later expanded his career with appearances on Miami Vice, The Ren & Stimpy Show, and Shelley Duvall’s Faerie Tale Theatre. He never appeared on The Simpson’s, to the disappointment of Matt Groening who was a lifelong fan.

Frank Zappa’s net worth

What is his net worth?

Frank Zappa had a net worth of around $40 million at the time of his death thanks to his catalogue of more than 60 albums, as well as his tours and appearances in other media.

Frank Zappa’s personal life

Who has he married?

Zappa was married twice, first to Kay Sherman between 1960 and 1964 and then to Gail Zappa from 1967 up until his death in 1993. He had four children, Moon Zappa, Dweezil Zappa, Ahmet Zappa and Diva Zappa.






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