Isaac "Ike" Willis (born November 12, 1955) is an American vocalist and guitarist who was a regular member of Frank Zappa's studio and touring bands from 1978 until the last tour in 1988. He did not tour with Zappa in 1981 and 1982 because he wanted to be home for the birth of his two children, but returned to touring with Zappa for his final two tours in 1984 (which Zappa intended at the time to be his final tour) and 1988. He currently tours with the Frank Zappa tribute bands Bogus Pomp, Ossi Duri, Project/Object, Pojama People, Ugly Radio Rebellion and ZAPPATiKA. He also performed several times with the Brazilian Zappa cover band, The Central Scrutinizer Band, The Muffin Men, and with the Italian bands Ossi Duri and Elio e le Storie Tese . Additionally, he has appeared multiple times at the annual Zappanale Festival in Bad Doberan, Germany. He is most recognized for his involvement in Zappa records such as playing Joe in Joe's Garage, providing vocals on Tinsel Town Rebellion, You Are What You Is, and The Man from Utopia, and as the title character and narrator in Zappa's off-Broadway-styled conceptual musical Thing-Fish.
Willis also regularly does studio voice work and writes compositions for films. He also creates solo music and leads The Ike Willis Band. He has released two solo studio albums under his own name and is working on another album.
Currently, the life story of Ike Willis is being written by a group of friends and fans calling themselves Project Scrutinizer.
Years with Frank Zappa
The triple LP Joe's Garage featured lead singer Ike Willis as the voice of the character "Joe" in a rock opera about the danger of political systems, and the suppression of freedom of speech and music - inspired in part by the Iranian revolution that had made music illegal within its jurisdiction at the time - and about the "strange relationship Americans have with sex and sexual frankness". The album contains rock songs like "Catholic Girls" (a riposte to the controversies of "Jewish Princess"), "Lucille Has Messed My Mind Up", and the title track, as well as extended live-recorded guitar improvisations combined with a studio backup band dominated by drummer Vinnie Colaiuta (with whom Zappa had a particularly good musical rapport). On some of the tracks Zappa superimposes material recorded in different time signatures, a process he termed xenochrony. The album contains one of Zappa's signature guitar pieces, "Watermelon in Easter Hay".
• “Black Napkins,” a track from the 1976 album “Zoot Allures,” was one of the first Zappa songs that made a deep impression on him.
• He met Zappa during a 1977 concert at his school, Washington University, in St. Louis, his hometown.
• He deeply regrets that Zappa died before he was able to include him in a band that would also have toured in 1996, the 25th anniversary of the release of Zappa's surrealistic musical pseudo-documentary “200 Motels". The band was also to have included Flo & Eddie and George Duke.
• One of his favorite Zappa mantras is “The stupider it is, the better we like it!”
With Frank Zappa
|1979||Joe's Garage Act I||Zappa Records|
|1979||Joe's Garage Acts II & III||Zappa Records|
|1981||Tinseltown Rebellion||Barking Pumpkin Records|
|1981||Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar||Barking Pumpkin Records|
|1981||Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar Some More||Barking Pumpkin Records|
|1981||Return of the Son of Shut Up 'n Play Yer Guitar||Barking Pumpkin Records|
|1981||You Are What You Is||Barking Pumpkin Records|
|1982||Ship Arriving Too Late to Save a Drowning Witch||Barking Pumpkin Records|
|1983||The Man from Utopia||Barking Pumpkin Records|
|1984||Them or Us||Barking Pumpkin Records|
|1984||Thing-Fish||Barking Pumpkin Records|
|1985||Frank Zappa Meets the Mothers of Prevention||Barking Pumpkin Records|
|1986||Does Humor Belong in Music?||EMI|
|1988||Guitar||Barking Pumpkin Records|
|1988||You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 1||Rykodisc|
|1988||Broadway the Hard Way||Barking Pumpkin Records|
|1989||You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 3||Rykodisc|
|1991||The Best Band You Never Heard in Your Life||Barking Pumpkin Records|
|1991||Make a Jazz Noise Here||Barking Pumpkin Records|
|1991||You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 4||Rykodisc|
|1992||You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 6||Rykodisc|