Jaw-Dropping Stories About The Mamas & The Papas

The roller-coaster history of the Mamas & the Papas is a prime example of how too much free love - and lots of drugs - ended up destroying the flower power of the 1960s. 

The Mamas & the Papas were comprised of Mama Cass Elliot, Denny Doherty, John Phillips, and his wife Michelle. The four members began performing in 1965 and quickly gained fame with hits like "California Dreamin'." Their musical chemistry made them iconic, but troubled relationships between members ended their union after only three years. 

For a band to rise so quickly to fame, create a handful of hit songs that are still beloved today, and then implode after only a few years, the behind-the-scenes stories must have been intense. These are some of the most jaw-dropping.


  • John Phillips Allegedly Had A Sexual Relationship With His Daughter For 10 Years
    Photo: CBS Television / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    John Phillips Allegedly Had A Sexual Relationship With His Daughter For 10 Years

    Eight years after her father passed, Mackenzie Phillips published an autobiography that claimed the two had a sexual relationship. According to her story, John Phillips visited her in 1979 the night before she was to be married to Jeff Sessler. She wrote:

    I had tons of pills, and Dad had tons of everything too. Eventually I passed out on Dad's bed. My father was not a man with boundaries. He was full of love, and he was sick with drugs. I woke up that night from a blackout to find myself having sex with my own father.

    Mackenzie said their sexual relationship later became consensual and continued for 10 years. Phillips's wives refused to believe the story, claiming he would never take such action with his own daughter and pointing out Mackenzie's history with drugs. On the other hand, Mackenzie's half-sister, Chynna, fully believed her and noted she was told the story back in the late 1990s.

  • The Band Lived On A Beach In The Virgin Islands With A Quart Of Liquid LSD
    Photo: ABC Television / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    The Band Lived On A Beach In The Virgin Islands With A Quart Of Liquid LSD

    The first time all four members of the Mamas & the Papas took acid, they decided to take a trip. According to the story, one of them closed their eyes, pointed to a map, and their finger landed on the Virgin Islands.

    Along with a group of about 15 people, including 5-year-old Mackenzie Phillips, they camped on the beach, drank rum from halved coconuts, and lived off of soon-to-be-maxed-out credit cards. Cass Elliot found a waitressing job near their camp in order to join them and brought a quart of liquid LSD along as a gift.

    After about a month, the group decided to go to California, obtained a car, and made their way there. The song "Creeque Alley" was written about this drug-filled beach vacation.

  • Everyone Was Either Sleeping With Each Other Or Suffering From Unrequited Love

    When John Phillips first met Michelle, he was married and she was a teenage model. After they fell in love, Phillips divorced his wife, married Michelle, and made her part of his trio, the New Journeymen.

    As the Mamas & the Papas began their streak of success, Michelle discovered she and bandmate Denny Doherty had feelings for one another and they started an affair.

    Although Phillips was engaged in his own affairs, he was enraged when he eventually found out. After she also had an affair with Gene Clark of the Byrds, Michelle was briefly kicked out of the band. Meanwhile, Cass Elliot had fallen in love with Doherty, but he wasn't interested and his affair with Michelle hurt her deeply.

    Doherty recalls, ''Cass wanted me, I wanted Michelle, John wanted Michelle, Michelle wanted me, she wanted her freedom...'' The tangled web of love, sex, and relationships that went on in the group made for a very messy situation and eventually led to the band's demise.

  • Roman Polanski Threatened John Phillips With A Knife
    Photo: ABC Television / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    Roman Polanski Threatened John Phillips With A Knife

    On the night the infamous Manson Family murders took place, John Phillips had been invited to visit the home Roman Polanski and Sharon Tate were renting. Fortunately for him, he was unable to make it because he was too high and managed to escape being murdered.

    Polanski didn't view this as being so fortunate, though, and at one point believed Phillips was behind the murders as an act of revenge after Polanski had an affair with Michelle. Polanski allegedly threatened Phillips with a kitchen knife, holding it to his throat.

    Phillips was later summoned to testify in the Manson trial, as was Cass Elliot, since two of her ex-boyfriend drug dealers had been asked to leave a party at the house on the night of the attack.

  • Frank Sinatra Called In His Mob Ties After John Phillips Slept With Mia Farrow
    Photo: The Great Gatsby / Paramount Pictures

    Frank Sinatra Called In His Mob Ties After John Phillips Slept With Mia Farrow

    While Michelle Phillips cheated on her husband throughout their marriage, he was unfaithful to her, as well. One of John Phillips's affairs was with Mia Farrow, and they happened to get together while her husband, Frank Sinatra, was away on tour.

    When Sinatra found out about it, he used his ties with Chicago mafia boss Sam Giancana to send Phillips a warning. A couple of mob thugs allegedly paid Phillips a visit, but he wasn't intimidated. Phillips simply decided to protect himself by acquiring a small collection of weapons. Whether he ever slept with Farrow again is unclear.

  • They Partied With The Rolling Stones
    Photo: CBS Television / Wikimedia Commons / Public domain

    They Partied With The Rolling Stones

    Demonstrating the "rich hippie" lifestyle, John and Michelle Phillips bought a mansion in the extremely upscale area of Bel Air, complete with peacocks. Parties were a regular occurrence and guests included movie stars as well as members of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones. Visitors to the house were handed LSD as soon as they entered the door and bowls of cocaine sat around for anyone to partake.

    Phillips became good friends and drug buddies with Keith Richards, and the two attempted to make an album together in the late 1970s. They ended up wasting time during their recording sessions by shooting heroin instead of playing music, and the studio didn't release the album until after Phillips's passing.

    Mick Jagger was also a good friend of Phillips. He invited Phillips and his daughter Mackenzie over for tuna salad sandwiches, sent Phillips out for more mayo, and then locked him out so he and Mackenzie could have sex.