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Guess where this Mama went to camp

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Hey, Summer Campers!

In this chilling autumn season, it’s not uncommon for northerners and folks on the upper east coast to do some California Dreamin’. Ever wish you could Go Where You Wanna Go and not just for the weekend, but Monday Monday and any other day of the week? An east coaster herself, Ellen Naomi Cohen dreamt of warm California too, or should I say Cass Elliot, as she changed her name to? 

Well, you probably know her best as Mama Cass of the Mamas and the Papas anyway. She didn’t have California, but she had Camp Louise of Airy & Louise. Earlier this month, I posted about another former Louise camper, Shari Lewis—the voice of Lamb Chop (you can check out that post right here).

These brother/sister camps are located just a few miles away from each other in the Catoctin Mountains of western Maryland, Airy and Louise, each camp stretches out about 400 acres to display natural beauty along with the camps’ prided rustic facilities.

Some time after her camp experience, Cass’ family moved to a town called Alexandria in Virginia. She enrolled in George Washington High School, where she attended classes alongside rock legend Jim Morrison of The Doors. It was here, in her high school days that she adopted the name ‘Cass’. It wasn’t until later, however, that she would assume the surname ‘Elliot’ in memory of a friend of hers who died.

It was also in high school that she took interest in the art of acting. She was cast in a school play and really got into it. She moved to New York City after her high school days to further a career in acting (as mentioned in the biographical Mamas and Papas song ‘Creeque Alley’).

Cass searched the inflating folk music scene, watchful for where she might fit in until she stumbled upon two fellows, John Phillips and Denny Doherty, who had formed a group called the The New Journeymen. They knew they needed a new name with two females joining their group. A call to women as ‘mamas’ on television inspired Cass and Michele (the other lady in the band) to shout goofily, ‘We’re the mamas, we’re the mamas.’ John looked at Denny who was quietly saying, ‘The Papas?’

Incredibly famous in their day, The Mamas and the Papas went on to exceed greatness, but Cass in particular was always the star vocal in the group. After The Mamas and the Papas, she continued an impressive solo career with so much to offer the world. Check out the video of her beautiful serenading below and, as always, thanks for reading!


- John


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