Michelle Phillips

The Mamas and the Papas were one of the first rock groups labeled

as a "California group" in the '60s. So it was only fitting that when

the quartet was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last year,

it entered the rock pantheon along with the quintessential "California

sound" bands of the '70s, Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles.

Phillips, one of the two women in the Mamas and the Papas, was born

Holly Michelle Gilliam 55 years ago today in Long Beach, Calif. When she

was 21, Gilliam moved to New York City to try modeling. There she met

and married musician John Phillips, who had been singing in the Manhattan

folk-club scene. The Phillips duo then fronted a band called the Journeymen.

When former Mugwumps singer Denny Doherty joined them, the group became

the New Journeymen. Another member of the folky Mugwumps, Mama Cass

Elliot, later joined them when they relocated to California. After backing singer Barry McGuire, the band got a record

contract with the Dunhill label under the name the Mamas and the Papas.

The group was immediately successful with its 1966 release, If You

Can Believe Your Eyes and Ears. In the next two years, the Mamas and

the Papas had such classic smashes as "Monday, Monday," "California

Dreamin'," the Michelle-fronted "Dedicated to the One I Love"

(RealAudio excerpt) and the autobiographical "Creeque Alley."

John Phillips also was a moving force behind the historic 1967 Monterey

Pop Festival, at which the Mamas and the Papas performed.

But the band was self-destructing due to enormous internal conflict. The

Phillips' marriage began to dissolve, and at one point the group temporarily

replaced Michelle. The Mamas and the Papas split in 1968; Michelle

pursued acting, appearing in "The Last Movie" with Dennis Hopper, to

whom she was married for just eight days. She also appeared in one of

the final episodes of the original "Star Trek" TV series.

After the Mamas and the Papas regrouped briefly for a 1971 reunion album,

Michelle recorded a solo LP, Victim of Romance, which didn't make a big impression. She soon switched permanently to acting. Following a number of forgettable theatrical releases, including "Valentino" with Rudolf Nureyev and "Dillinger" with Harry Dean Stanton, Phillips hit pay dirt in the '80s with a lead role in the enormously popular prime-time TV soap opera "Knot's Landing."

In the early '90s, Phillips' daughter, Chynna, hit it big as a singer with the group Wilson Phillips (which included the daughters of Beach Boys legend Brian Wilson). In 1997 Michelle guested on "Beverly Hills, 90210" as the mother of vixen Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, and also appeared on Pauly Shore's TV show "Pauly."

Last year, after singing with the Papas as the surviving Mama (Elliot died in 1974) at the band's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Phillips was seen on "The Magnificent Seven" TV series. Earlier this year, she guested on the new show "Providence."

Other birthdays: Merle Haggard, 62; Tony Connor (Hot Chocolate), 52; Stan Cullimore (Housemartins, Beautiful South), 37; and Bob Marley, 1945-1981.