Here's How the Mamas & the Papas Got Their Unique Name and Cass Elliot Got Her Moniker (Exclusive)

In her new book, "My Mama, Cass" Owen Elliott-Kugell shares the origin behind the "California Dreamin'" band and her mother's nickname

<p>Michael Ochs Archives/Getty; Hachette Books</p> The Mamas & The Papas and

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty; Hachette Books

The Mamas & The Papas and 'My Mama, Cass' by Owen Elliot-Kugell

They had one of the most singular sounds of the sixties and seventies and when it came time to name their group,The Mamas & the Papas did it their own way.

In her new memoir, My Mama, Cassexcerpted in this week’s issue of PEOPLE, her daughter Owen Eliot-Kugell shares the unusual story of how it all came about. In true sixties fashion, the adventure involved duck a l’orange, some weed and a little inspiration from the Hells Angels.

For more on Mama Cass, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands Friday, or subscribe here.

In September 1965, the foursome met with famous record producer Lou Adler and sang a few of their songs. Below, read an exclusive excerpt that explains what happened next.

<p>Hachette Books</p> 'My Mama, Cass' by Owen Elliot-Kugel

Hachette Books

'My Mama, Cass' by Owen Elliot-Kugel

The next day when they all returned to the studio, contracts were strewn about on the floor. A record deal so soon after arriving in LA? This was practically unheard of. The group was given an advance of $ 5,000 against future sales which they then went and bought a used car with. Because you can’t get anywhere in LA without a car. They bought a 1959 Buick convertible, they called Harold the Bleak.

Still living together, my mother prepared her speciality, duck a l’orange. After they indulged in the sumptuous meal, much wine, brandy and weed were consumed and the four of them lounged about watching television together.

Related: Cass Elliot's Daughter to Publish Memoir About Her Mother — and Dispel the Ham Sandwich Rumor

Denny later remembered: We were all just lying around vegging out...trying to come up with a name for the group. “The New Journeymen” was not a handle that was going to hang on this outfit. John was pushing for “The Magic Cyrcle.”

<p>GAB Archive/Redferns</p> The Mamas & The Papas

GAB Archive/Redferns

The Mamas & The Papas

Nobody liked that but none of us could come up with anything better, and Cass is just flipping through the channels and this talk show comes [on with] the Hells Angels and the first thing we hear is: “Some people call our women cheap, but we just call them our Mamas.”

Cass jumped up: “Yeah! I want to be a Mama.” And Michelle is going: “We’re the Mamas!  We’re the Mamas!” I look at John. He’s looking at me going: “Mama, mamas...Papas? The Mamas and the Papas.” Problem solved.  A toast. To the Mamas and Papas. 

Excerpted from My Mama, Cass: A Memoir by Owen Elliot-Kugell. Copyright © 2024. Available from Hachette Books, an imprint of Perseus Books LLC., a subsidiary of Hachette Book Group, Inc. 

My Mama, Cass by Owen Elliot-Kugell is out May 7 from Hachette Books and is available for preorder now, wherever books are sold.

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