Frank Zappa

The Mammy Nuns

Composed by Frank Zappa

Song Review by

"The Mammy Nuns," part of the pseudo-Broadway musical Thing-Fish, originated as an instrumental hard rock piece. "The Mammy Anthem" (as titled on You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 1) served as a curtain riser in June and July 1982 for Frank Zappa's band. Its rock-solid guitar riff and medium tempo were the perfect occasion for Zappa and Steve Vai to warm up over a few preliminary solos before diving into more complex material.

On the studio album, the piece is sung by Thing-Fish (Ike Willis) and presents the Mammy Nuns, horribly mutated characters with a potato head and duck lips. The name can be traced back to Al Jolson's song "Mammy." Jolson, a white performer with his face painted black, sang, danced, and talked like a black man -- that is, the impersonation of what racist white men in the 1920s perceived as a stereotyped black. This kind of entertainment, called minstrel in early-20th century theaters and later brought to the radio and TV by Amos & Andy, served as the satirical basis for Thing-Fish. The song title cannot be coincidental.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Thing-Fish 1984 Zappa Records 3:31
blue highlight denotes editor's pick