Ruth Underwood, (born Ruth Komanoff on May 23, 1946) is a retired professional musician, best known and revered for playing xylophone, marimba, vibraphone and other percussion in Frank Zappa's Mothers (of Invention) from 1969 to 1977.
A percussionist of staggering virtuosity, Ruth Underwood began her music training in the classical tradition, studying both at Ithaca College under Warren Benson and at Juilliard. Throughout 1967, she kept a regular attendance at the Garrick Theater in New York City when Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention was the resident band, resulting in her membership as a Mother beginning in 1968.
"Oh, I was probably one of those rather stiff people from the suburbs - I think some of us did understand, and we kept coming back for more, and more, and more. I remember being very upset when they finally finished their stint at the Garrick Theatre and went back to LA. I felt as if the real heart had gone out of New York City, and I had to get back on with my Conservatory music training life, which seemed very dull after this."
She married fellow Zappa musician Ian Underwood in 1970. Ruth went on to augment over 10 Zappa/Mothers recordings with her talents, dispatching marimba passages that would plunge most percussionists into despair with effortless grace and precision. Particular examples of this can be heard on such tracks as St. Alfonzo's Pancake Breakfast, from the Apostrophe (') album (1973). Equally impressive work is documented on Roxy & Elsewhere (1974) and, most notably, stunning parts on Inca Roads, the opening track on One Size Fits All (1975). Some glimpses of Ruth in action can be seen in the Zappa movie 200 Motels (1969) and the film of the Roxy performance.
Sessions for a small number of other performers were undertaken by Ms. Underwood during the 70s, most notably the band Ambrosia and jazz-keyboardist George Duke. She used the name Amanda B. Reconwith for contractual reasons. By some accounts (which are vague), she was retired from music by the beginning of 1980, concentrating instead on her family. However, one final session for Zappa was undertaken in 1993, shortly before his death from cancer in December.