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Our Kickstarter has ended, but you'll still be able to join us to help save the Vault & tell Frank's story. Check back soon for more details!
Our Kickstarter has ended, but you'll still be able to join us to help save the Vault & tell Frank's story. Check back soon for more details!
8,688 backers pledged $1,126,036 to help bring this project to life.

CONE-HEAD: How FZ got kicked off SNL (Plus: A letter from the Vaultmeister!)

Posted by Alex Winter (Creator)

My fellow freaks,

At the end of week one, we’re more than 65% of the way to our first goal, which is just completely fucking amazing. I just want to say congrats and thanks to all of you for that: THANK YOU!!

We’re working on more answers to your questions — so keep ‘em coming.

Plus, I'll have some news tomorrow about NEW REWARDS we're adding, along with more details on the STRETCH GOALS for our Kickstarter, and more specifics about what you'll get from the Vault if you’re getting the DIGITAL VAULT PASS (Track 25 and up).

Dispatch from Vaultmeister Joe

We’ve seen a lot of questions about how we'll handle the archiving and preservation process, why it’s so time-consuming and expensive, and why the Vault hasn't already been completely preserved and digitized. Since that’s Joe Travers’ area of expertise, we invited him to chime in. Here’s some of what Joe had to say:

"Here at the UMRK, we take pride in the people and companies we trust in handling Frank Zappa’s precious assets. The bad news is that it can cost amazing amounts of money to digitize and save film. And FZ’s film is beginning the eventual downward spiral, even with the proper storage conditions in its lifetime.

Still, we trudge on and hope for the best in our race against time. With such an incredible response to the Kickstarter campaign so far, it excites me that we are that much closer to the goal of saving such an important archive."

To be totally clear: if we raise enough to save more of the Vault, I'll be working alongside Joe to oversee it, since he's the most qualified person in the world to manage any work on the Zappa archive. The funds we raise will let us provide Joe with top-notch preservation support, so that we can handle this mammoth task with maximum precision and efficiency – and save some of the less commercial content – before it has a chance to degrade.

And as I've said, the more we raise, the more we can save, the more I can share with all of you, and the more we'll have access to use for the doc.

In his letter, Joe also provided more detailed answers about the challenges involved in film preservation, "Vinegar Syndrome," and the obstacles we'll face as we work together to save the content in the Vault. You can read the rest of Joe’s note here.

Next up: in our Kickstarter video, I shared "10 Things To Know" about Frank… and since we've gotten a lot of questions about some of those facts, I thought I could give you some more details about each of them before the end of the month. For today, let's start with Fact #5...

How Frank Zappa got kicked off Saturday Night Live

As famous as he was, Zappa only appeared on Saturday Night Live once, in 1976. You can watch the whole thing on Hulu. (Or, if you don't have a Hulu account, watch Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.)

I was a kid when I saw it and it made me a lifelong FZ devotee. The musical performances blew me away, deepening my understanding and appreciation for Frank's genius far beyond the albums I had already come to love. Watching that episode, you knew you weren't just seeing a great and witty rocker: this guy was a master performer, arranger, composer.

The episode also includes a performance of "Rollo" (an instrumental track which, I believe, was cut from Apostrophe (') and remained unreleased until Imaginary Diseases came out 23 years later), in which Belushi joins Frank onstage as Samurai Futaba, wailing into a mic duct-taped to an electric guitar:

But as diehard SNL fans will tell you, Zappa's appearance was considered a disaster of legendary proportions. There were many people were not so taken with Zappa's turn on the show, including the cast, who were a famously freewheeling lot. Apparently, they were extremely put off by Zappa's hardline anti-drug stance. In fact, there's a whole skit devoted to it during the show.

FZ declining a handful of cocaine in a skit with Bill Murray and Paul Shaffer
FZ declining a handful of cocaine in a skit with Bill Murray and Paul Shaffer

And I can only imagine what a backstage conversation between Zappa and Belushi would have been like.

The SNL gang also resented the fact that Frank spent the whole show mocking their format, breaking character to remind the crowd that he was reading cue cards, and constantly mugging for the camera.

But hey, to quote FZ: “You are what you is,” and it should have been obvious that Frank's wit and irreverence wouldn't be containable in a scripted TV format.

Of course, he was never asked back, and the wound was still fresh fourteen years later when Frank was parodied by Dana Carvey in a sketch in which host Andrew Dice Clay envisioned a future so dire that his hosting spot was taken by – horror of horrors – Frank Zappa!

If you haven’t seen it yet, check it out — it will make you love him even more.


Alex Winter


It's easy! Just post this message to Facebook, Twitter, or scrawl it in sidewalk chalk on the street in front of your house:

Remember when Zappa got banned from @nbcSNL? See it for yourself! And help us find out: #WTFIFZ?

Molly Neuman, james velgot, and 35 more people like this update.


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    1. Robert Beshara on

      Is there a link to the Dana Carvey sketch?

    2. Alex Winter 2-time creator on

      Hey @Craig, if you give the link just a second, it'll bounce down the page to where we've included Joe's note as an FAQ.
      Of course, this format is pretty annoying, so we're working right now on moving all the FAQs and Joe's letter over to a new home at Stay tuned for that!
      In the meantime, this will point you to the exact FAQ at the Kickstarter campaign page footer where you can read Joe's note, or you can scroll down to the questions and click on the last one about Joe T.:

    3. Craig Toelle on

      How can I read the rest of Joe's note? The link just brings me back to the Kickstarter front page

    4. Missing avatar

      Michael wiegand on

      Everyone knows Frank was on SNL twice, well except you folks

    5. Missing avatar

      Chris Latta on

      Aw man this is so good to see again. Thanks Alex. I too watched it live, as a kid and it was magical. "Rollo" with Belushi is just unbelievable. I'm guessing Frank might have actually enjoyed that. Cheers !

    6. Andy Crawford on

      Andy Wants to Buy Yez (both) a Drink.

    7. Alex Winter 2-time creator on

      @ John Seman: 'Make an (apologetic) jazz noise here'

    8. John Seman on

      "But the people who come to these shows listen so carefully to every little detail that this man was deeply offended by Alex's performance."

    9. Andy Crawford on

      I was living in NYC then and scuttlebutt was he was put-off by the casts drug and alcohol use during rehearsals. Plus he mugged it up pretty good during the live show. Not sure of any truth to any of this...but that was the word on the streets.

    10. Matt Cline on

      Frank appeared as musical guest in 1976, and again as musical guest and host in 1978. It was after '78 that he was banned. "The Meek Shall Inherit Nothing" probably didn't help.

    11. Alex Winter 2-time creator on

      True, Andrew! He was banned after his hosting appearance — and never welcome back!

    12. Andy Crawford on

      As Musical Guest: December 11, 1976 - As Host: October 21, 1978