Years: 1965 - 1989
Styles: Acid Rock, Folk, Psychedelic Rock
Bob Harvey - Bass Guitar (in band: 1965)
Jerry Peloquin - Drums (in band: 1965)
Signe Toly Anderson - Vocals (in band: 1965 – 1966)
Marty Balin - Guitar, Vocals (in band: 1965 – 1971; 1989)
Jorma Kaukonen - Lead guitar, Rhythm guitar, Vocals (in band: 1965 – 1972; 1989)
Paul Kantner - Guitar, Vocals (in band: 1965 – 1972; 1989; 1996)
Jack Casady - Bass Guitar (in band: 1965 – 1972; 1989)
Skip Spence - Drums, Percussion (in band: 1965– 1966)
Spencer Dryden - Drums, Organ, Percussion, Piano (in band: 1966 – 1970)
Grace Slick - Organ, Piano, Recorder, Vocals (in band: 1966 – 1972; 1989)
Joey Covington - Drums, Percussion, Vocals (in band: 1970 – 1972)
Papa John Creach - Violin (in band: 1970–1972, 1989)
John Barbata - Drums (in band: 1972)
David Freiberg - Vocals (in band: 1972)
Jefferson Airplane was an American rock band formed in San Francisco, California in 1965. The band was founded by singer Marty Balin and guitarist Paul Kantner in 1965. With the addition of Signe Anderson, their male-female singing style showed their folk music roots plus Balin’s love of R&B singing styles.
Balin and Kantner then set about recruiting other musicians to form the house band at the Matrix. After hearing female vocalist Signe Toly Anderson at the Drinking Gourd, Balin invited her to be the group's co-lead singer. Anderson sang with the band for a year and performed on their first album, departing in October 1966 after the birth of her first child.
Kantner next recruited an old friend, blues guitarist Jorma Kaukonen. Kaukonen met Kantner while at Santa Clara University in 1962. Drummer Jerry Peloquin and acoustic bassist Bob Harvey completed the original lineup.
The origin of the group's name is often disputed. "Jefferson airplane" is slang for a used paper match splint to hold a marijuana joint that has been smoked too short to hold without burning the fingers – an improvised roach clip.
Jefferson Airplane’s debut show was on August 13, 1965 at the Matrix nightclub in San Francisco. A few weeks after the group was formed, Jerry Peloquin departed, in part because of his disdain for the others' drug use. Although he was not a drummer, singer-guitarist Skip Spence (who later founded Moby Grape) was then invited to replace Peloquin. In October 1965, after the other members decided that Bob Harvey's bass playing was not up to par, he was replaced by guitarist-bassist Jack Casady, an old friend of Kaukonen.
The group's debut LP "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off" was released in September 1966. The folk-music-influenced album included John D. Loudermilk's "Tobacco Road" and Dino Valente's "Let's Get Together", as well as original ballads "It's No Secret" and "Come Up the Years."
After their debut LP was completed in March 1966, Skip Spence quit the band and he was eventually replaced by Spencer Dryden, who played his first show with the Airplane at the Berkeley Folk Festival on July 4, 1966. Dryden had previously played with a Los Angeles group called the Ashes, who later became The Peanut Butter Conspiracy.
Signe Anderson gave birth to her daughter in May 1966, and in October she announced her departure from the band. Her final gig with the Airplane took place at the Fillmore on October 15, 1966. The following night, her replacement Grace Slick made her first appearance. Slick was already well known to the band—she had attended the Airplane's debut gig at the Matrix in 1965 and her previous group, The Great Society, had often supported the Airplane in concert.
The group's second LP, "Surrealistic Pillow", recorded in Los Angeles with producer Rick Jarrard in only thirteen days at a cost of $8000, launched the Airplane to international fame. Released in February 1967, the LP entered the Billboard 200 album chart on March 25 and remained there for over a year, peaking at No. 3. In addition to the group's two best-known tracks, "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love", the album featured "My Best Friend" by former drummer Skip Spence, Balin's driving blues-rock songs "Plastic Fantastic Lover" and "3/5 of a Mile in 10 Seconds".
This phase of the Airplane's career peaked with their famous performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967.
The band's third LP, "After Bathing at Baxter's", was released on November 27, 1967 and eventually peaked in the charts at No. 17. Its famous cover, drawn by renowned artist and cartoonist Ron Cobb depicts a Heath Robinson-inspired flying machine soaring above the chaos of American commercial culture. Jefferson Airplane's fourth LP, "Crown of Creation", was a commercial success, peaking at No. 6 on the album chart. Grace Slick's "Lather," which opens the album.
In April 1969, sessions began for their next album, "Volunteers", using new 16-track facilities at the Wally Heider Studio in San Francisco. This proved to be the last album by the "classic" lineup of the group. The album's release was delayed when the band ran into conflict with their label over the content of songs such as "We Can Be Together" and "Uncle Sam Blues" and the planned title of the album,
In August 1969, a few days after the band headlined at a free concert in New York's Central Park, they performed in what Grace Slick called an early "morning maniac music" slot at the Woodstock festival, for which the group was joined by noted British session keyboard player Nicky Hopkins.
In December, the Airplane played at the Altamont Free Concert at Altamont Speedway in California, thus becoming the only band to perform at all three of the iconic rock festivals of the 1960s: Altamont, Monterey Pop and Woodstock.
Spencer Dryden was dismissed from the band in February 1970. Dryden was replaced by Joey Covington, an L.A. musician who had played with Hot Tuna throughout 1969 and had already performed select engagements with the Airplane that year as a second drummer. In March 1971, Marty Balin officially left the band after disassociating himself from the group following the fall 1970 tour.
The band still managed studio dates during 1971. Their next LP was "Bark", which was issued in September 1971 with cover art depicting a dead fish wrapped in an A&P-style grocery bag. The band held together long enough to record one more LP, entitled "Long John Silver", begun in April 1972 and released in July. By this time the various members were also engaged with their various solo projects.
With the formal departure of Covington and addition of Kantner's old friend David Freiberg on vocals, Jefferson Airplane began a tour to promote the "Long John Silve"r LP in the summer of 1972, their first concerts in over a year. This tour included a major free concert in Central Park that drew more than 50,000 people. Though no official announcement was ever released, the Winterland shows were the last live performances by Jefferson Airplane until their reunion in 1989.
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