Basic Background Info

Birth: May 23, 1946
Location: Unknown
Band: Frank Zappa, Mothers of Invention
Genres: Progressive
Instruments: Percussion, Xylaphone, Marimba, Vibraphone
Occupation: Musician (retired)


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.


Album Year Album Name Album Band
1969 Uncle Meat Frank Zappa & The Mothers of Invention
1970 Ain't Got No Time The Hamilton Face Band
1971 200 Motels Frank Zappa
1973 Over-Nite Sensation Frank Zappa & the Mothers
1974 Apostrophe (') Frank Zappa
1974 Confidential Frank Zappa & Captain Beefheart
1974 Dupree's Paradise Frank Zappa
1974 Roxy & Elsewhere Frank Zappa & the Mothers
1975 Ambrosia Ambrosia
1975 I Love the Blues, She Heard My Cry George Duke
1975 One Size Fits All Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention
1976 Liberated Fantasies George Duke
1976 Somewhere I've Never Travelled Ambrosia
1976 Yesterday's Dreams Alphonso Johnson
1976 Zoot Allures Frank Zappa
1977 Inner Conflicts Billy Cobham
1978 Pillory Jasun Martz
1978 Studio Tan Frank Zappa
1978 Zappa in New York Frank Zappa
1979 Sleep Dirt Frank Zappa
1979 Tiny Nightmares Frank Zappa
1980 Remington Electric Razor Frank Zappa
1982 Eye to Eye Eye to Eye
1983 Serious Music Frank Zappa
1986 Apostrophe/Over-nite Sensation Frank Zappa
1988 You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 1 Frank Zappa
1988 You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 2 Frank Zappa
1989 You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 3 Frank Zappa
1990 Supplement Tape Frank Zappa
1991 Amazing Mr. Bickford Frank Zappa
1991 Piquantique Frank Zappa
1991 You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 4 Frank Zappa
1994 Three Originals George Duke
1996 L‰ther Frank Zappa
1996 Lost Episodes Frank Zappa
1996 Supernatural Fairy Tales: The Progressive Rock Era Various Artists
2002 Zappa Picks Frank Zappa
2004 Guitar & Bass Alphonso Johnson
2007 Dub Room Special Frank Zappa
2007 Wazoo! Frank Zappa
2008 My Soul: The Complete MPS Fusion Recordings George Duke
2013 Roxy By Proxy Frank Zappa


  • Ruth Underwood appeared on a Frank Zappa tribute DVD with fellow Frank Zappa alums Ralph Humphrey, Terry Bozzio, Chester Thompson, and Chad Wackerman.

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