If the demise of the Mamas and the Papas was the cause of sadness among their devoted fans, then on 19 October 1968, they had cause to celebrate. Cass Elliot, still known at this time by the name she came to dislike, Mama Cass, released her debut solo album, Dream A Little Dream.
The LP arrived on the wings of its successful first single and near-title track, which was actually a recording with her bandmates. Their ear for a classic melody had heard the potential in a song that dated back before World War II. ‘Dream A Little Dream Of Me’ had its origins around 1931, with music by Fabian Andre and Wilbur Schwandt and lyrics written by German-born Gus Kahn.
The song was first recorded by Ozzie Nelson, Ricky‘s father, a highly successful bandleader and then star of the radio and TV smash Ozzie and Harriet. His version of ‘Dream’ with his orchestra soon had rivals, including one by Wayne King’s orchestra which went to No. 1.
Many other versions followed, including a wave of recordings in the 1950s by the likes of Frankie Laine, Ella Fitzgerald and Dinah Shore. Then, just before the Mamas and the Papas split in 1968, they recorded it for the album The Papas and the Mamas. Dunhill Records saw its hit potential, and as Elliot made her solo debut, released it in her name. It worked: the single reached No. 12 in the US, No. 11 in the UK and the top ten in many other countries, including No. 1 in Australia.
That led to the Dream A Little Dream album, recorded at Wally Heider’s studio in Los Angeles and produced by Lou Adler and John Simon. Like Elliot’s musical tastes, it was wide-ranging. It embraced socially aware songs by such writers as Graham Nash (‘Burn Your Hatred’) and John Hartford (the second single ‘California Earthquake,’ a No. 67 US chart entry). But it also featured material by Leonard Cohen, The Band‘s Richard Manuel and folk writer Cyrus Faryar.
The album entered the Billboard chart at a cautious No. 190, climbing to No. 87 in a ten-week run that became Cass’ highest solo album peak in her home country.
The compilation Dream A Little Dream Of Me: The Music of Cass Elliot can be bought here.