Creeque Alley – The Mamas and The Papas

The Mamas & the Papas were a vocal group of the 1960s. The group recorded and performed from 1965 to 1968 with a short reunion in 1971.

After the split-up of their two previous folk groups-The Mugwumps and The New Journeymen-bandmates Denny Doherty and John Phillips formed a new group, which included John’s wife Michelle. The last member to join was Cass Elliot. The band shortly relocated to the Virgin Islands, and after running out of money, Michelle Phillips gambled back enough money for them to return to New York. After a short period of going under the name The Magic Circle, the group renamed themselves The Mamas and the Papas before signing a five-album contract with Dunhill Records.

After it was discovered that Michelle Phillips and Doherty were having an affair, tension in the band erupted. Consulting their attorney, Abe Somer, as well as their label Dunhill Records, the band drafted a formal statement kicking Michelle out of the group in June 1966, with only half of their second album recorded. At this point they hired a new singer to replace Michelle, Jill Gibson, girlfriend of their producer Lou Adler.

Creeque Alley

Creeque Alley” is an autobiographical hit single written by John Phillips and Michelle Phillips of The Mamas & the Papas in 1967, narrating the story about how the group was formed. The title of the song is derived from the place Creque Alley, home to a club in the Virgin Islands where the Mamas & the Papas spent time. The lyrics “Duffy’s good vibrations, and our imaginations, can’t go on indefinitely” refer, in part, to Hugh Duffy, the owner of the club on Creeque Alley. Duffy now owns Chez Shack in Vieques, Puerto Rico. The third song on the album The Mamas and the Papas Deliver, the song charted #5 on Billboard Pop Singles.

The lyrics of the song mention, directly or indirectly, many artists and bands who were part of the music scene at the time including the other two members of The Mamas & the Papas – Cass Elliot and Denny Doherty, earlier aka The Mugwumps; plus Zal Yanovsky & John Sebastian, of the group The Lovin’ Spoonful, Roger McGuinn, (of the group The Byrds) & Barry McGuire, (of the group The New Christy Minstrels). Several locations important to The Mamas and The Papas story are also mentioned e.g. The Night Owl Cafe in Greenwich Village. The lyrics, “Greasin’ on American Express cards” harks back to The Mamas and Papas time in the Virgin Islands when they were living off their American Express cards. The song is notable as a hit single in which the title is not in the lyrics.


John and Mitchy were gettin’ kind of itchy
Just to leave the folk music behind;
Zal and Denny workin’ for a penny
Tryin’ to get a fish on the line.
In a coffee house Sebastian sat,
And after every number they’d pass the hat.
McGuinn and McGuire just a-gettin’ higher in L.A.,
You know where that’s at.
And no one’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass.

Zally said, “Denny, you know there aren’t many
Who can sing a song the way that you do; let’s go south.”
Denny said, “Zally, golly, don’t you think that I wish
I could play guitar like you.”
Zal, Denny, and Sebastian sat (at the Night Owl)
And after every number they’d pass the hat.
McGuinn and McGuire still a-gettin higher in L.A.,
You know where that’s at.
And no one’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass.

When Cass was a sophomore, planned to go to Swathmore
But she changed her mind one day.
Standin’ on the turnpike, thumb out to hitchhike,
“Take me to New York right away.”
When Denny met Cass he gave her love bumps;
Called John and Zal and that was the Mugwumps.
McGuinn and McGuire couldn’t get no higher
But that’s what they were aimin’ at.
And no one’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass.

Mugwumps, high jumps, low slumps, big bumps—
Don’t you work as hard as you play.
Make up, break up, everything is shake up;
Guess it had to be that way.
Sebastian and Zal formed the Spoonful;
Michelle, John, and Denny gettin’ very tuneful.
McGuinn and McGuire just a-catchin’ fire in L.A.,
You know where that’s at.
And everybody’s gettin’ fat except Mama Cass.

Broke, busted, disgusted, agents can’t be trusted,
And Mitchy wants to go to the sea.
Cass can’t make it; she says we’ll have to fake it—
We knew she’d come eventually.
Greasin’ on American Express cards;
Tents low rent, but keeping out the heat’s hard.
Duffy’s good vibrations and our imaginations
Can’t go on indefinitely.
And California dreamin’ is becomin’ a reality…

  • Audio from the 1967 album, The Mamas and The Papas Deliver:


About DJ Allyn

DJ Allyn is a burned out radio guy who went on to become a burned out sound engineer for a few Seattle area grunge bands in the 1980s and 1990s. Left the madness of worldwide tours with bands, cleaned up my act and went into the relative sanity of sound engineering for television series. Currently working as the Director of Sound for a television series being filmed in North Vancouver, British Columbia. I am always on the lookout for interesting videos, old music, and fun.

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