ian underwood

Ian Underwood, born 5/22/1939 in New York, NY, was the 'multi-instrumentalist' Zappa had been seeking in the late 60's to more fully present his musical ideas. Ian's "story" of meeting and joining Zappa is chronicled in the track 'Ian Underwood Whips It Out' on the "Uncle Meat" release. 

Ian recorded and performed with The Mothers Of Invention from late 1967 until late 1973, including Zappa's "Hot Rats" and "Grand Wazoo" tours!

He graduated from Yale with a BA in composition in 1961 and completed a Masters degree in compostion at UC Berkeley in 1966. He was a concert pianist specializing in Mozart.

Married Ruth Komanoff in 1970.

Apart from his work with Zappa he has contributed to many recordings by artists ranging from Gabor Szabo to Barbra Streisand.

Since the 1980's he has worked on many film soundtracks including Blade Runner, Aliens, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids and Titanic.


Saturday, November 6, 2010, Ian Underwood took part in a Q&A session at the "Frank Zappa At The Roundhouse" celebration of Frank Zappa’s music in London, UK. Later the same night, the Dweezil Zappa Played Zappa band performed at the same festival with special guests Ian Underwood, Jeff Simmons & Scott Thunes.



3 the mothers of invention: we're only in it for the money
   (1967, lp, usa, verve)

5 the mothers of invention: cruising with ruben & the jets
   (1968, lp, usa, verve)

6 the mothers of invention: mothermania
   (1969, lp, usa, verve)

zappa_06.jpg (26926 bytes)

7 the mothers of invention: uncle meat
   (1969, 2lp, usa, bizarre)


frank zappa: hot rats
   (1969, lp, usa, bizarre)

  gto's: permanent damage (1)
    (1969, lp, usa, bizarre 73397 - straight sts 1059) - produced by frank zappa / feat.ian underwood, don preston, roy estrada, jc black, frank zappa

  jeff simmons: lucille has messed my mind up  (2)
    (1969, lp, usa, straight records) - produced by fz, feat.ian underwood & fz,
incl. 'lucille...' (frank zappa)
  captain beefheart & his magic band: trout mask replica
    (1969, 2lp, usa, straight)


the mothers of invention: burnt weeny sandwich
   (1970, lp, usa, bizarre)

  jean-luc ponty: king kong  (5)
    (1970, lp, usa, world pacific jazz st 20172) – incl. various frank zappa compositions


the mothers of invention: weasels ripped my flesh
   (1970, lp, usa, bizarre)


frank zappa: chunga's revenge
   (1970, lp, usa, bizarre)


the mothers: fillmore east, june 1971
   (1971, lp, usa, bizarre)


frank zappa: 200 motels
   (1971, 2lp, usa, united artists)

fz013v.jpg (37378 bytes)


the mothers: just another band from l.a.
   (1972, lp, usa, bizarre)
  john & yoko / plastic ono band: sometime in new york city
    (1972, 2lp, uk, apple) - feat. zappa & mothers


the mothers: over-nite sensation
   (1973, lp, usa, discreet)


frank zappa: apostrophe (')
   (1974, lp, usa, discreet)
  flo & eddie: illegal, immoral and fattening  (3)
    (1975, lp, usa, cbs) - feat.ian underwood, aynsley dunbar, incl.'eddie are you kiddin' (frank zappa)

  alphonse mouzon: the man incognito
    (1975, lp, usa, blue note) - feat. ian underwood, victor feldman & emil richards

mouzon_incognito.jpg (18758 bytes)

  flo & eddie: moving targets
    (1976, lp, uk, cbs) - feat.ian underwood

  chunky, novi & ernie: chunky, novi & ernie
    (1977, lp, usa, warner bros) - feat.lauren wood, ian underwood & john guerin
  raul de souza: sweet lucy
    (1977, lp, usa, ??) - feat. george duke, ian underwood, kerry mcnabb
  eric tagg: dreamwalking
    (1982, lp, japan, agharta) - feat. ian underwood
51 frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.1
   (1988, 2cd, usa, ryko)

54 frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.3
   (1989, 2cd, usa, ryko)


frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.4
   (1991, 2cd, usa, ryko)  
  the mothers of invention: the ark
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 70538)
  frank zappa: freaks & motherfu****
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 70539)
  the mothers of invention: 'tis the season to be jelly
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 70542)
  frank zappa: piquantique
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 70544)
  zappa / mothers: disconnected synapses
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 71017)
  zappa / mothers: tengo na minchia tanta
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 71018)
  zappa / mothers: electric aunt jemima
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 71019)
  frank zappa: at the circus
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 71020)

fooeeerecordsr271020_c.jpg (127542 bytes)

  zappa / mothers: swiss cheese / fire !
    (1991, 2cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 71021)
  zappa / mothers: our man in nirvana
    (1991, cd, usa, rhino foo-eee records r2 71022)
  jefferson airplane: loves you
    (1992, 3cd, usa, rca 07863 61110-2) - incl.'would you like a snack' (zappa, slick)


frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.5
   (1992, 2cd, usa, ryko)
59 frank zappa: you can't do that on stage anymore vol.6
   (1992, 2cd, usa, ryko)
60 frank zappa: playground psychotics
   (1992, 2cd, usa, ryko)
  lowell george & the factory: lightning-rod man
    (1993, cd, fr, edsel records) - feat.frank zappa, elliot ingber, roy estrada, ian underwood


zappa / mothers: ahead of their time (61)
   (1993, cd, usa, ryko)


frank zappa: the lost episodes
   (1996, cd, usa, ryko)


frank zappa: mystery disc
   (1998, cd, usa, ryko)

  jefferson airplane: crown of creation
    (2003, cd, eu, rca / bmg 82876 53226 2) - incl.'would you like a snack' (zappa, slick)


frank zappa: joe's domage
    (2004, cd, usa, vaulternative records)


frank zappa: quaudiophiliac
    (2004, dvda, usa, dts entertainment 69286-01125-9-9)


frank zappa: wazoo
    (2007, 2cd, usa, vaulternative records)

  flo & eddie: illegal, immoral and fattening  /  moving targets
    (2007, cd, uk, arcadia) = reissue  /  feat.underwood, dunbar, incl.'eddie are you kiddin' (f.zappa)


frank zappa: one shot deal
    (2008, cd, usa, zappa records)

  tony palmer's film of frank zappa's 200 motels
    (2010, dvd, uk, tony palmer)


frank zappa & the mothers of invention: carnegie hall
    (2011, 4cd, usa, vaulternative records)

fz091.jpg (18146 bytes)

  the royal acadamy of music manson ensemble: zappa
    (2012, cd, uk, ram 045) - all compositions by frank zappa

manson_zappa.jpg (21755 bytes)


frank zappa: road tapes - kerrisdale arena, vancouver bc, 25 august 1968
    (2012, cd, usa, vaulternative records )
zappa_roadtapes19680825.jpg (31025 bytes)


frank zappa: finer moments
    (2012, cd, usa, zappa records)

zappa_finermoments.jpg (47358 bytes)


frank zappa: road tapes - finlandia hall, helsinki, finland 23, 24 august 1973
    (2013, cd, usa, vaulternative records)
fz_roadtapes02.jpg (29253 bytes)


los angeles philharmonic: frank zappa - 200 motels the suites
    (2015, 2cd, usa, zappa records zr0019)
zappa_200motels_thesuites.jpg (23174 bytes)


frank zappa: road tapes - tyrone guthrie theater, minneapolis, mn 5 july 1970
    (2016, 2cd, usa, vaulternative records)
zappa_roadtapes19700705.jpg (30609 bytes)


frank zappa: the crux of the biscuit
    (2016, cd, usa, zappa records zr20020)

fz_cruxofthebiscuit.jpg (32468 bytes)


zappa / mothers: meat light
    (2016, 3cd, usa, zappa records zr20024)
fz_meatlight.jpg (46821 bytes)


semi-official releases

  the mothers of invention: wollman rink, central park, ny, august 3rd 1968
    (2014, cd, uk, keyhole records)
moi_wollmanrinkcd.jpg (27731 bytes)
  frank zappa & the mothers: mudshark live
    (2015, cd, uk, keyhole)
zappa_mudsharklive.jpg (39366 bytes)
  frank zappa: vpro radio piknik, uddel, june 18, 1970 (remastered)
    (2015, spotify)
fz_vproradiopiknik_spotify.jpg (16430 bytes)


random notes

Birthday: May 22, 1939 (New York, NY)

Ian Underwood now makes his living playing keyboards on film soundtracks in Los Angeles. You'll see his name in film credits and recording credits once in a while.

Some films he has been associated with are:

Does some studio producing and synth programming.  Recently produced (or helped produce) a Quincy Jones album including synth programming and hand clapping of all things.

Ian appears on the recently released Lowell George/Factory CD 'Lightning Rod Man'. (for apparently 15 seconds)

Played on:

That's right.  If you've exposed yourself to any popular culture of the  last 15 years or so, then you've almost certainly heard Ian's keyboard  work.  Among the most "significant" studio credits of his is a little  ditty called "We Are the World." 

I've seen him on Dave Grusin (sp?) albums.  The man gets exposure on the GRP label.  I'll let others buy those albums, though.

Make sure you are sitting down before you read any further.
    OK? ................................ OK.
    He played keyboards for ...
.. in the late 70's.

Ian played synth on the title track of Lee Ritenour's "Captain Fingers" circa 1977.

I noticed in the closing credits to the new Mel Gibson movie,  "Braveheart," that Ian Underwood is credited with synthesizer programming.

Ian is working at Mike Post's Olive Studios in beautiful ...Burbank, California! Yes, right off the Interstate 5 from Los Angeles!

Both George Duke and Ian Underwood performed on Quincy Jones: "Back on the Block". Ian did synthesizer programming on several songs, and George is featured soloist playing fender Rhodes on two songs ("New Man Woman" and "Brasilian Wedding Song")

Ian also appeared on an album entitled "Nosferatu" which was a joint effort By the Magic Band drummer, Robert Williams and Stranglers singer/guitarist,

Hugh Cornwell. Ian plays synthesizer and sax on a few pieces. The album was released in 1980 and to the best of my knowledge was never re-issued on CD.

    Aviv Ron sez:
A little add to the film list wich Underwood participate in there soundtrack. His credit as a synthesizer programmer is alse at the end of "Honey, I shrunk the kids".

    Raymond Ricker Said:
The album Williams (Beefheart drummer) released was called "Nosferatu" 
in 1980 along with fellow collaborator Hugh Cornwell of the Stranglers.
Cornwell was known for his Keith Moon antics and was thrown out of a hotel
after running through a lobby in his birthday suit chasing down some woman who had ripped him off during foreplay. BTW - Ian Underwood appeared on several of the tracks of "Nosferatu". I highly recommend this album because it contains some fabulous musicianship by Williams, Underwood, and the Mothersbaughs (of Devo & Pee-Wee Herman fame - If there are any "Playhouse" fans out there, Pee Wee's set supposedly includes one of the eye-balls from the Residents "Mole Trilogy Tour" - whether he stole it is a point of debate because one of the "Eye-Balls" was stolen from that tour.)

     Bill Larsen sez:
I had the pleasure to visit Ian at his home several years ago and am pleased
to say he's doing quite well.  He has a very nice home in the valley and introduced us to his current wife and his three year old. He said he hadn't picked up his sax in years and currently works with James Horner on movie soundtracks which seems to be a pretty lucrative business. Said he stays in touch with Ruth (they parted on good terms) and sees her every now and then.

     Jan van Kemenade sez:
Chester Thompson, Ian & Ruth Underwood play on Alphonso Johnson's Yesterday Dream.

      From: Steve Gilford March, 1998
I was wandering through the nooks and crannies of the Internet following Ian
because for many years, Ian and I had been very close friends.  We played together in high school in a dance band that included Steve Swallow, the accomplished bassist.
At that time, Ian was playing alto sax.  I have a privately produced LP from those days that has Ian (and Steve Swallow) on two tracks playing Horace Silver tunes in a quartet. Later, we both moved on to Yale where we were roommates until Ian's first marriage.
The last time I spoke with Ian was back in the glory days of Frank Zappa. He had just finished work on "Hot Rats" and was extremely proud of the album. He thought it was the best thing that the group had done.

How current is your information that Ian is doing studio work in LA. I had heard that he had been living in Studio City, CA but had moved to the Northwest (Washington State or Oregon). I'd like to get back in touch with him.

     From: kerry
     Date: Sat, 8 Jan 2000 
F.Y.I : Ian Underwood lives in Portland (actually the suburb Lake
Oswego) now

Sent: Thursday, February 19, 2004

Have just seen the film "The Four Feathers" (2002) and see that Ian Underwood is listed under Synthesizer Programming, with Randy Kerber.

Richard Witt
Brooklyn NY


miscellaneous crew filmography

(1990s) (1980s) (1970s)


   1.braveheart (1995) (london symphony orchestra - synth programming)

   2.honey, i shrunk the kids (1989) (synthesizer effects)

   3.*batteries not included (1987) (spaceship sounds)

   4.aliens (1986) (synthesizer effects)

   5.krull (1983) (synthesizer effects)

     ... aka dragons of krull (1983)

     ... aka dungeons and dragons (1983/ii)

     ... aka dungeons of krull, the (1983)

     ... aka krull: invaders of the black fortress (1983)

   6.blade runner (1982) (synthesizers)

   7.demon seed (1977) (electronic performances)

2002 - The Four Feathers (movie) - Synthesizer Programming


actor filmography:

1971 frank zappa's 200 motels (as a member of the mothers of invention)

1987 uncle meat (as himself)

1989 the true story of 200 motels

frank zappa  / musicians timeline



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soundtracks various artists