Few songs have captured the contradictions and ambiguities of the 1960s as memorably as “California Dreamin’,” the iconic folk music single that catapulted the Mamas & the Papas into rock and roll history. In All the Leaves Are Brown, author Scott Shea details how John Phillips, Denny Doherty, Michelle Phillips, and “Mama Cass” Elliot became standard-bearers for California counterculture, following their transformation from folk music wannabes to rock sensations and chronicling the tumultuous events that followed their unexpected success.
Shea gives a definitive account of the group’s short time together, from their hitmaking approach with legendary producer Lou Adler to John’s unique songwriting to tours and friendships with other musicians riding the folk-rock wave. He explores the emotional vicissitudes that came with being in the Mamas & the Papas, from Cass’s unrequited love for Denny, his affair with Michelle, and the ebb and flow of dysfunction in John and Michelle’s marriage. And he explains how it all came to a crashing end with John’s brainchild, the Monterey Pop Festival, which should have launched the group even further into the musical stratosphere, but only served to be their undoing. Drawing on new interviews with former bandmates, session musicians, family members, and many others, All the Leaves Are Brown is a layered, revelatory tale of overnight stardom and its many pitfalls.
Scott G. Shea is a longtime radio producer who currently works on the show Seize the Day with Gus Lloyd on SiriusXM. He has produced five original audio documentaries that have aired nationally.
"The trainwreck of the group’s existence is recounted in vivid detail in Shea’s excellent history."
"Shea’s matter-of-fact journalistic style prevents sensationalism from overtaking this study of the Mamas & the Papas’ powerful influence and importance."
"Shea's book unfolds dramatically ... The book is a reminder of a time when a changing of the guards took place in American culture."
"An expertly-researched, densely detailed, and likely definitive bio … The book that finally tells the full story of the music and madness that was the relatively brief—but era-defining—lifespan of the Mamas and the Papas."
"Scott Shea takes us on the wild ride that was The Mamas & The Papas with terrific detail, refreshing honesty, and perhaps best of all, a true love of their music. All the Leaves Are Brown had me from page one."
"Given the personal lives of these singers, Scott Shea's book might qualify for the horror genre rather than history or biography. But then there's the music—which was startling, distinctive, and unforgettable. For a generation, these songs have served as monuments to major moments in life. All the Leaves Are Brown is a hard read for its sorrow, but rewarding for its insights into the art of a unique and profoundly influential band."
"The Mamas & The Papas’ story is wilder than any work of fiction and Scott Shea is the first author to tell it objectively and in full. This is a book I could not put down."