My Mama, Cass: A Memoir

My Mama, Cass: A Memoir

by Owen Elliot-Kugell

Narrated by Owen Elliot-Kugell

Unabridged — 6 hours, 30 minutes

My Mama, Cass: A Memoir

My Mama, Cass: A Memoir

by Owen Elliot-Kugell

Narrated by Owen Elliot-Kugell

Unabridged — 6 hours, 30 minutes

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Notes From Your Bookseller

The first insider account of Mama Cass' personal life, this is the ultimate, definitive resource to undstanding the iconic rock star, told through the lens of her only child.

A long-awaited, myth-busting, and deeply affecting memoir by the daughter of legendary rock star “Mama” Cass Elliot

To the rest of the world, Cass Elliot was a rock star; A charismatic, wisecracking singer from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted band, The Mamas & The Papas; A legend of Laurel Canyon, decked out in her custom-made Muumuus, glittering designer jewelry, blessed with a powerful, instantly identifiable singing voice which helped define the sound of the 1960s counterculture movement. But to Owen Elliot-Kugell, she was just Mom.
In the nearly 50 years since Cass Elliot's untimely death at the age of 32, rumors and myths have swirled about, shading nearly every aspect of her life. In her long-awaited memoir, Owen Elliot-Kugell shares the groundbreaking story of her mom as only a daughter can tell it.
In*My Mama, Cass, Owen pulls back the curtains of her mother's life from the sold-out theaters to behind the closed doors of her infamous California abode. Born Ellen Naomi Cohen, the woman who was known to the world as Cass Elliot was decades ahead of her time: an independently minded, outspoken woman who broke through a male-dominated business, a forward-thinking feminist, and a single parent who embraced motherhood from the moment Owen entered the world. From the closely guarded secret of Owen's paternity to Cass's lifelong struggles with self-esteem and weight, to rumors surrounding her mother's death, Owen illuminates the complex truths of her mother's life, sharing interviews with the high-profile figures who orbited Cass, as well as never-before-heard tales of her mother and this legendary period of American history.
Featuring intimate family and archival photos*as well as interviews and memories from famous friends, fans, and colleagues who loved and respected Cass, this book*is both a love story and a mystery, a tale of self-discovery and a daughter's devotion. At its core,*My Mama, Cass*is a beautifully crafted testament befitting of Cass Elliot's enduring cultural impact and legacy, written by the person who knew and loved her best.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly


Elliot-Kugell debuts with an earnest if incomplete portrait of her mother, “Mama” Cass Elliot (1941–1974) of the folk rock group the Mamas and Papas, who died at 32 when the author was just seven. Born Ellen Naomi Cohen to a middle-class family in Baltimore, Elliot developed a childhood struggle with overeating that lingered throughout her life, though it failed to dull her ambition (she vowed in high school to become “the most famous fat girl that ever lived”). After briefly touring the country as a solo act, she moved to California in 1965 to join the Mamas and the Papas with married bandmates John and Michelle Phillips and Denny Doherty. Among other highlights, Elliot-Kugell covers in loving detail her mother’s “incredible, almost psychic intuition” for pairing musicians “who would sound good together” (she inspired the formation of Crosby, Stills, and Nash). Also detailed are a string of disappointing romances with men who were mostly interested in the rock and roll lifestyle, and how Elliot’s weight was mocked in an entertainment industry rife with fatphobia (on TV shows, she was sometimes literally cast as “the fat girl”). Unfortunately, the narrative’s loose ends lend it an unfinished feel, and while Elliot-Kugell promises that “questions asked in” her mother’s lifetime “receive their answers in mine,” the answers are anticlimactic or incomplete, as in the oblique discussions of larger health problems—likely exacerbated by a rigorous touring schedule—that preceded Elliot’s death. Despite some bright moments, this loses its way. (May)

From the Publisher

My Mama, Cass is a daughter’s search for the mother she lost. In these pages, Owen Elliot-Kugell reconstructs who Ellen Naomi Cohen really was, which is not an easy task, as the woman who became Cass Elliot was a very complex person: unimaginably talented, independent, loving, warm, and completely dedicated to her one and only child. She brings her mother back to life for herself and for Cass’s millions of fans. The spotlight is back on my friend, and it’s great to see her again.”

Michelle Phillips of The Mamas and the Papas

“A unique perspective from the daughter of a rock star. General audiences will get a fresh glimpse into the manipulative music business, which demanded ceaseless hard work, personal sacrifices, and a determined focus on glittery celebrity.”—Library Journal

“Filled with time-warping anecdotes, Elliot-Kugell’s searing tribute is an important work that fills in the gaps and corrects the apocryphal lore about an essential era and a key figure in American music.”—Booklist

Library Journal


Elliot-Kugell recounts both the saga of her famous mother, the Mamas & the Papas star Mama Cass Elliot (a.k.a. Ellen Cohen, 1941–74), and her own personal and professional life. She begins with Cass's upbringing in a middle-class New York Jewish household and her dream of Broadway stardom. The book charts the rise of Mama Cass's career amid the folk music boom of the 1960s. She performed with the bands the Big 3, the Mugwumps, and finally the Mamas & the Papas. The latter scored a No. 1 single ("Monday, Monday") on a No. 1 album If You Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears. Elliot-Kugel describes the implosion of the harmony-based group after three tumultuous years, Cass's catalytic folk-rock role, her subsequent less-than-stellar solo recording and television career, and her death at age 32, when the author was only seven years old. She also reveals stories about her life as a child, raised by her aunt and grandmother, her own nascent recording career, marriage, and motherhood. VERDICT A unique perspective from the daughter of a rock star. General audiences will get a fresh glimpse into the manipulative music business, which demanded ceaseless hard work, personal sacrifices, and a determined focus on glittery celebrity.—Dr. Dave Szatmary

MAY 2024 - AudioFile

Laurel Canyon music legend Ellen Naomi Cohen, better known as Mama Cass of the 1960s folk-rock group The Mamas & the Papas, died at age 32. Her daughter, the author of this audiobook, was 7. Elliot-Kugell's slightly nasal narration of this biography is sincere, loving, and precise. But, sadly, the text seems unfinished and incomplete. What predominates is a compendium of facts, tour dates, stories, and legends as told by Cass's friends, music collaborators, and business associates. Cass's daughter does her best to debunk the widely repeated legend of Cass choking to death on a ham sandwich. While there are truly appealing moments in this performance and many stories help build a more complete portrait of the iconic artist, the overall effort is lacking. W.A.G. © AudioFile 2024, Portland, Maine

Kirkus Reviews

The daughter of the late singer aims to set the record straight on a score or two.

Though Cass Elliot (1941-1974) died from a heart attack, an urban legend immediately arose that Elliot—well known for her weight and the object of countless fat jokes, some embedded in the lyrics of the Mamas & the Papas—asphyxiated on a ham sandwich. Elliot-Kugell, the daughter of Elliot and a man who briefly played bass for the group, recounts the short life she knew with her mother and the bereavement that followed. Some of this material comes from other sources, although she was on the scene. One interesting anecdote: She was but six months old gnawing on one of Henry Diltz’s film canisters when Cass engineered the meeting that would produce Crosby, Stills & Nash; their sound “was first imagined by my mom, who instinctively knew what her three friends were capable of creating.” By this account, it’s clear that Elliot was troubled, as was her daughter, packed off to a boarding school that practiced what the denizens called “the Thorazine shuffle.” Much of the narrative is rather by the numbers, and the prose is largely workmanlike: “To millions of her fans, she was known as ‘Mama’ Cass Elliot, the Earth Mother figure of the Los Angeles hippie scene of the late 1960s. But to me, she was just my mom.” While her quest to discover the source of the ham-sandwich canard takes a surprising turn, to say nothing of her search for her biological father, of greater interest are her devoted efforts to carve out her own career in music, hampered by conglomerate mergers and the industry’s demand for big-ticket stars in place of long-tail artists.

Well intended and of some interest to fans, but a footnote in musical and pop-myth history.

Product Details

BN ID: 2940159448590
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Publication date: 05/07/2024
Edition description: Unabridged
Sales rank: 963,387
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