Known for his complex, idiosyncratic and often button-pushing musical works, Frank Zappa has left behind an influential legacy to musicians. But his eldest son, Dweezil Zappa, has taken on that influence further, forming a longtime group that keeps the music of his father alive on stages around the world. Dweezil Zappa and his band will perform on April 28 at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.
Dweezil Zappa is the second of Frank and Gail Zappa’s five children. He learned guitar at a young age and first recorded and released a single called “My Mother is a Space Cadet” at age 12. It was on his father’s record label, was also co-produced by guitar legend Eddie Van Halen, and was a co-written song with his oldest sister, Moon, and guitarist Steve Vai.
On his website, Dweezil Zappa lets readers know that Vai was also an early guitar teacher of his: “Steve made a notebook, which I still have, of scales and exercises, and I practiced the stuff from that book at least five hours a day.”
From there, Dweezil Zappa balanced a career in music with acting and hosting pursuits. He released solo albums and guested on records by Extreme and Don Johnson. At the same time, he hosted MTV along with Moon Zappa and also made acting appearances in “The Running Man,” “Pretty in Pink” and “Jack Frost.” He also released two albums and toured with a group called Z, which featured he and his younger brother, Ahmet.
Starting in 2006, Zappa led his own group as a tribute to the work of his late father, Zappa Plays Zappa, the band has become a top attraction around the world and has release five live albums of material from Frank Zappa’s catalog. He’s currently touring under his own name, but the musicians are the same as the last ZPZ lineup and also play songs from Frank Zappa’s catalog. They are Cian Coey on lead vocals, Scheila Gonzalez on saxophone and keyboards, Ryan Brown on drums, Kurt Morgan on bass, Chris Norton on keyboards, and David Luther on rhythm guitar and sax. All of them also sing backing vocals.
“This is the best version of the band,” Dweezil Zappa said on his website. “We are able to tackle any vocal scenario as well as the hardest instrumental passages.”
Though there is a steady lineup for the group, there have also been guest artists that have appeared who were in Frank Zappa’s bands, including singer Napoleon Murphy Brock, drummer Terry Bozzio and bassist Scott Thunes, among others.
Still, Dweezil Zappa has not neglected his solo career. His latest album, Via Zammata in 2015, featured actor John Malkovich intoning some absurdist lyrics in his trademark style on one song. Otherwise, the album features everything from straightforward rock to Middle Eastern-influenced songs.