Ruth Underwood (born Ruth Komanoff, May 23, 1946) is a musician best known for playing xylophone, marimba, vibraphone and other percussion instruments in Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention.
Biography and career
Underwood played with Frank Zappa's Mothers of Invention from 1972 to 1977.
Underwood began her music training in the classical tradition, studying both at Ithaca College under Warren Benson and under Saul Goodman at Juilliard. Throughout 1967, she kept a regular attendance at the Garrick Theater in New York City when Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention was the resident band, resulting in her association with Zappa beginning in December 1967.
Using both her birth name, Ruth Komanoff, and her married name - she married fellow Zappa musician Ian Underwood in May 1969; they divorced in 1986 - Underwood also appeared on drums with a rock group named The Hamilton Face Band during 1969, appearing on some of their recordings released by Philips Records and Bell Records.
Underwood went on to perform in over twenty Zappa/Mothers recordings. Examples of her virtuosity can be heard on tracks including the "Rollo Interior interlude" from "St. Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast", from the Apostrophe (') album (1974). Equally impressive work is documented on Roxy & Elsewhere (1974) and on "Inca Roads", the opening track on One Size Fits All (1975). Some glimpses of Underwood in action can be seen in the Zappa movie 200 Motels (1971), and the Dub Room Special DVD, which includes performances from the KCET Special A Token Of His Extreme. She also features in the film of the Roxy performances.
During the 1970s Underwood played sessions for a small number of other performers, most notably the band Ambrosia, Jasun Martz and jazz-keyboardist George Duke, the latter a Zappa bandmate. By some accounts (which are vague), she retired from music by about 1980, concentrating instead on her family and raising two children, both of whom are also accomplished classical musicians. However, in a 1993 interview she revealed that she played on one final session for Zappa shortly before his death from cancer in December of that year.