The song “California Dreamin'” by The Mamas and The Papas made us all want to go to So Cal. Ah, the warmth of Southern California when it’s cold back East. But, more than the sunshine, there was the 1960s counterculture happening there, championing peace, love, and various pharmaceuticals. “California Dreamin’,” written by group members John and Michelle Phillips, was released as a single in December, 1965. It went to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Cashbox in 1966. It rose to #23 on the U.K. Singles Chart. The song expresses the sadness and hope of longing very well. The story goes that in 1963, John and Michelle were newly married and living in New York. She was homesick for California, and John began to write about it. She enjoyed visiting churches, evidently, and a visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral inspired the second verse. Group members of The Mamas & The Papas for the recording were John and Michelle Phillips, Cass Elliot, and Denny Doherty. Jazz musician Bud Shank played the also flute solo, and P.F. Sloan provided the guitar introduction. “California Dreamin'” sold more than one million copies and was awarded an RIAA gold record. It is on Rolling Stone’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time.”
The song was first recorded by Barry McGuire. There have been numerous covers of the song, including versions by The Beach Boys R.E.M, The Carpenters, the Four Tops, The Seekers, Queen Latifah, and Meat Loaf just to name a few.
The Mamas and The Papas formed as a vocal folk rock group in New York City and performed from 1956 to 1968. John and Michelle had been with The New Journeymen. Doherty and Elliot had been with The Mugwumps.