Mamas & the Papas’ Cass Elliot’s Daughter Talks Life With Mom

At 7, Owen Elliot-Kugell was told that her mother, singer Cass Elliot, wouldn’t be coming home again.

“I remember thinking to myself that they were wrong. I knew she was going to come home because she always did,” Owen tells Closer.

In a new memoir, My Mama, Cass, the daughter of the Mamas & the Papas singer reveals the story of her mother and their family.

“She didn’t get a chance to tell it, so I figured I was the next best thing,” Owen says.

Many of Owen’s memories of her mother, whose hits include “California Dreamin’” and “Monday, Monday,” involve travel. The Mamas & the Papas hit their apex — releasing a third album and performing before 18,000 fans at the Hollywood Bowl — just months after Owen’s birth in 1967. A year later, Cass set off on a solo career.

“I have memories of going to the air- port to pick her up and of running down the sidewalk to greet her,” says Owen.

Cass didn’t sing often at home, although Owen remembers harmonizing with her in the car. “We were singing along to ‘Top of the World’ by the Carpenters,” she recalls.

Cass died of a heart attack in her sleep at age 32, and her daughter went to live with Cass’ sister, Leah. Although she was made a welcome part of Leah’s family, Owen had a hard time believing her mother’s passing.

“I did have a lot of fantasies about how maybe they were wrong,” she confides.

The secure childhood she found under her aunt’s roof didn’t erase her love for her mother. Owen keeps a trove of Cass’ belongings, including her eyeglasses, jewelry, gold records and a Grammy Award. She donated other items, including the gown made for Cass by Bob Mackie, to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Mamas & the Papas’ Cass Elliot’s Daughter Talks Life With Mom
Frazer Harrison / Getty Images

Would-be biographers have contacted Owen over the years asking for help in telling Cass’ life story, but she finally realized she wanted to do it herself. The two-year writing process proved both traumatic and cathartic.

“I remember writing and feeling it so deeply that I was just weeping as I wrote,” Owen says.

One of the most difficult things to write about was her parentage. Cass never publicly revealed the identity of Owen’s biological father, but her Mamas & Papas bandmate Michelle Phillips helped Owen locate him and set up a meeting.

“He said that he had met me [once as a child] and that he had honored what my mom asked of him, which was to stay away and let her raise me,” explains Owen, who maintained contact with him sporadically until his 2008 death. “I showed him pictures of the grandchildren,” she says.

Owen’s aunt Leah says she has Cass’ laugh. And, like her mother, Owen also became a professional singer and toured with the Beach Boys’ Al Jardine.

“The music business is just part of my DNA,” she admits. “And now I have kids. One of them wants to go into the recording industry, and I’m like, ‘No, don’t do it!’”

She believes that her mother would be proud of My Mama, Cass. “I hope that she would be satisfied,” says Owen. “It’s a tribute to her. Writing it was an experience I’m very grateful to have had.”

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