A quite unique band from Detroit and other southeast Michigan localities. Only A Mother existed from approximately 1987 to 1994, though Frank Pahl, the main songwriter and genius behind the group, continues his own solo work, which resembles in style the OaM sound, a sound best described as "avant garde noise-folk".

Only a Mother used only acoustic instruments to create very strange songs, often with pop structures but with bizarre instrumentation and arrangements, extended techniques, strange time signatures and keys, and harmonic references to other ethnicities (Balkan, Middle Eastern, and Celtic especially) . The lyrics were often quite surreal as well, with subjects ranging from contortionists to talking bricks to Bill Hickok. One song even depicts a young boy making a misguided, dream-like correlation between his masturbation and the old alligators in New York City sewers myth.

Other artists somewhat resembling them are The Residents, Renaldo & the Loaf, the Art Bears, and more recently Charming Hostess and the Tin Hat Trio. Only A Mother worked with a variety of collaborators, including Eugene Chadbourne (they appear on his LSDC&W album, and he plays guest guitar and banjo on their first album, as well as sitting in on many live gigs) and the Shaking Ray Levis, but their core members were:

  • Frank Pahl - vocal, guitar, prepared mandolin, balalaika, euphonium, whistling
  • Bobbi Benson - upright bass, trumpet, vocals
  • Marko Novachcoff - cello, various reeds
  • Mary Richards - violin, mandolin, vocals
  • Doug Gourlay - percussion
Note: the instrumentation listed is only what they usually played. they often traded off or played other rare instruments or devices (like noseflutes, mbiras, washboard, saws, etc) for just one song or one verse - this was one of the reasons they were so entertaining to watch live!

They released 2 albums, the 1991 Naked Songs for Contortionists and Feral Chickens in 1993, both on the TEC Tones label. Pahl has also released 3 solo albums.