Basic Background Info
Percussionist Ruth Underwood, now retired, made her professional mark performing with Frank Zappa between 1969 and 1977. As a young woman, Ruth studied classical music at Ithaca College in New York and later at The Juilliard School.
Throughout 1967 Ruth Underwood regularly attended performances by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention at the Garrick Theater in New York City. During the many performances Ruth attended,"Sometimes there were more people on stage than there were in the audience. And because of that Frank even got to know some of us by name. There were so few hard core Mothers freaks back then that we were all very noticeable to him." Still a spectator and fan, Ruth recalled, "I remember droning music going on for ages. It shocked me how such beautiful music could come out of such strange looking people."
Ruth Underwood's devotion and appreciation for the band, coupled with her skill as a percussionist, eventually afforded her the opportunity to join the Mothers of Invention. Of her time working with Zappa, Ruth said, "We all had our eyes on Frank all the time and you had to. You never knew what was going to happen. It was incredibly tight but it was free as well. The bottom line with Frank was that he wanted to, that he needed to, get the best from everyone. That was of paramount importance to him. And I think that's why he got such extraordinary results. He saw what each of us could do and he wouldnít settle for anything less."
Ruth Underwood recorded more than ten albums with Zappa and the Mothers and made countless live appearances. Ruth Underwood's best work, ripe with grace and precision, can be heard on St. Alphonso's Pancake Breakfast, Apostrophe, Roxy & Elsewhere, and One Size Fits All. She also appeared briefly in Zappa's film, 200 Motels, his first collaboration with a classical orchestra.
Zappa unexpectedly disbanded the Mothers of Invention in 1975. He encouraged the musicians to go out and "infiltrate" other bands until he called them back for a reunion. Unfortunately, that reunion never materialized.
After her time with Zappa and the Mothers, Ruth Underwood performed with Jasun Martz, Ambrosia, and George Duke. After 1980 Ruth disappeared from the music scene. Various accounts suggest she retired to spend time with her family.
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