Ed Mann, Frank Zappa’s Longtime Percussionist, Dead at 70

Ed Mann, the longtime percussionist for Frank Zappa, has reportedly died at the age of 70.

Mann’s passing was revealed on social media by fellow musician and Zappa collaborator, Chad Wackerman.

“Rest easy my old friend Ed Mann,” Wackerman wrote. “A masterful and brilliant percussionist. He could read anything Frank Zappa threw at him and I never once heard him make a mistake. He toured with Frank for 11 years and went on to record with many of the greats. Ed was a creative force and a great teacher and will be missed.”

Mann’s love of music began in childhood. He received his first drum kit at the age of 11 and almost immediately began performing with local bands. In 1972 he started studying at the Hartt College of Music in Connecticut, but a year later he switched coasts and enrolled at the California Institute of the Arts. It was there that his knowledge opened to a wide variety of styles, including jazz, world music and experimental rock.

Mann first came into Zappa’s orbit in 1977. The two were introduced via mutual friend John Bergamo, whom Mann had studied under at Cal Arts. Months later, Mann was invited to audition for Zappa.

READ MORE: Top 10 Frank Zappa Songs

“It happened at two o’clock in the morning up at his house,” Mann later recalled, “and Patrick O’Hearn and Adrian Belew were both there. [Zappa] just put some stuff up and asked me to read it which I did as well as I could, and then we improvised and played by ear, then he asked me to join the band.”

Mann’s tenure with Zappa lasted until 1988. In total, he appeared on more than 30 of the prolific rocker’s albums (including studio and live releases). Mann’s final Facebook post was published on Dec. 21, which would have been Zappa’s 83rd birthday. In the message, he paid tribute to his former colleague with a memorable anecdote.

“This photo is from November, 1977, playing Frank’s huge orchestral bass drum,” Mann wrote. “One night I broke his mallet for that drum during ‘Disco Boy.’ After the show I went to Frank apologetically, expecting him to be dismayed. But instead, he broke into a big smile, gave me a pat on the back and said ‘That’s what I’ve been talking about, and you finally got it.’ The next day of course Frank was back to business, but I could feel that for some reason, breaking that mallet had earned me seal of approval. He didn’t say this, but I know he was thinking: ‘I hired him to play, but NOW he’s passed the audition.’”

After his tenure with Zappa, Mann remained a popular session musician for many years, working with a wide array of artists, including Andy Summers, Kenny Loggins, Tammy Wynette, Los Lobos and the London Symphony Orchestra. He also played on film scores for some of Hollywood’s biggest composers, including Hans Zimmer, Jeff Rona, and Klaus Badelt.

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Gallery Credit: Allison Rapp

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