by Jamie Kime
Any "music afficianado" who thinks of themselves as being well rounded but doesn't have, at the very least, a working knowledge of Frank Zappa's music is, well, let's just say their music education is incomplete. By the time of his death in 1993, he was considered by many as being one of the Great American composers of the 20th Century, garnering the same respect as Copeland, Bernstein, and Cage. To others with a more casual knowledge of his work, he was the funny guitar player behind songs with titles such as "Valley Girl", "Titties And Beer", "Don't Eat The Yellow Snow", "Stink Foot", "My Guitar Wants To Kill Your Mama", "Illinois Enema Bandit", "The Jazz Discharge Party Hats" and dozens of others. He appeared in Coneheads skits on Saturday Nite Live, is immortalized in the lyrics of "Smoke On The Water", and appeared before the United States Congress to debate the merits and validity of Tipper Gore's censorship-happy PMRC. He had an uncanny knack for spotting raw talent and didn't shy away from hiring the qualified few worthy of a position in his band, regardless of age or resume. A young Steve Vai was signed on and given the task of handling "impossible guitar parts". A gig that would launch an iconic career. Other employees at one time or another have included Mike Keneally, Warren Cuccurullo, Terry Bozzio, George Duke, et al.