(this post is part of a series cataloging every performance at the Fillmore East)
Although the iconoclastic Mothers of Invention are rightly remembered as an underground Los Angeles band, in fact they had spent the fall of 1967 based in New York City, with residencies in Greenwich Village at the Café Au Go Go and Garrick Theater. Their revue at the Garrick was called Absolutely Free. Out of town visitors from, say, Piscataway, New Jersey were surprised not only to discover that show was not, in fact, free, but that the opening number consisted of surprisingly ugly men with beards, wearing dresses, doing a Supremes medley as a prelude to crazy avant-garde music.
The Mothers lineup for this show would have been FZ, Don Preston (organ), Ian Underwood (keyboards, reeds), Bunk Gardner (reeds), Motorhead Sherwood (baritone sax), Roy Estrada (bass, vocals), Jimmy Carl Black (Indian of the group, drums) and Artie Tripp (drums, percussion). Ray Collins (sometime lead vocalist) had an ambiguous status and may or may not have appeared. Sandy Hurvitz (later known as Essra Mohawk) may have appeared as vocalist, as she often sang at New York appearances.
The Mothers were confusing to follow since Zappa’s complicated sonic productions had little to do with his stage band at any given time. The current Mothers of Invention album would have been the immortal We're Only In It For The Money (Verve February 68). Albums such as Cruising With Ruben and The Jets and Uncle Meat had largely been recorded, but they would be released until later in the year.
Harmonica master James Cotton had replaced Little Walter in Muddy Water’s band in the late 1950s, and now led his own group, probably featuring Luther Tucker on guitar (Matt ‘Guitar’ Murphy, later in The Blues Brothers movie, subsequently replaced Tucker), Albert Gianquinto on piano (who later wrote some songs for Santana), and Francis Clay on drums. Cotton was already a regular at the San Francisco Fillmore. His mixture of blues classics and bluesy version of R&B hits (like "Turn On Your Lovelight") always went over well.
Some live material recorded in Montreal in 1967, released many years later, gives a good idea of Cotton's sound at the time. To fans at the Fillmore East his current album was probably Cotton In Your Ears (Verve 1967). He did release a 1968 album on Verve, Pure Cotton, but I do not know the exact release date.
Next: April 26-27, 1968: Traffic/Blue Cheer/Iron Butterfly