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Jefferson Airplane

Jefferson Airplane photographed by Herb Greene at The Matrix club, San Francisco, in 1966. A cropped version was used for the front cover of Surrealistic Pillow.
Background information
Also known as The Airplane
Origin San Francisco, California, United States
Genres Psychedelic rock, acid rock, folk rock, hard rock
Years active 1965–1974,
Labels RCA, Grunt, Epic
Associated acts Jefferson Starship, Hot Tuna, KBC Band, Starship, Jefferson Starship - The Next Generation
Former members
Grace Slick
Marty Balin
Jorma Kaukonen
Paul Kantner
Jack Casady
Spencer Dryden

Signe Toly Anderson
Bob Harvey
Jerry Peloquin
Skip Spence
Joey Covington
Papa John Creach
John Barbata
David Freiberg

Jefferson Airplane was an American rock band formed in San Francisco, California in 1965. A pioneer of the psychedelic rock movement, Jefferson Airplane was the first band from the San Francisco scene to achieve mainstream commercial and critical success.

In the 1960s, Jefferson Airplane was one of the most sought-after and highly-paid concert acts in the world and they are also notable as the only band to have performed at all three of the most famous American rock festivals of the 1960s — Monterey (1967), Woodstock (1969) and Altamont (1969),[1] also headlining the first Isle of Wight festival. Their recordings were internationally successful and sold in great quantities, and they scored two US Top 10 hit singles and a string of Top 20 albums.Their 1967 record Surrealistic Pillow is still widely regarded as one of the key recordings of the so-called Summer of Love [2][3][4] and brought the group international recognition (as well as two chart hits: "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" both of which are listed in Rolling Stone's "500 Greatest Songs of All Time").

Successor bands to Jefferson Airplane include Jefferson Starship and Starship while spinoffs include Hot Tuna and KBC Band. Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.



Formation and early career

Jefferson Airplane was formed in Mexico during the summer of 1965, emerging from the San Francisco Bay folk music boom (see American folk music revival). Although the Airplane was considered a San Francisco group, Paul Kantner was the only native San Franciscan in the band.

The founder of the group that became Jefferson Airplane was 23-year-old vocalist Marty Balin (born Martyn Jerel Buchwald in Cincinnati, Ohio, January 30, 1942), a San Francisco-raised singer who had established a minor career as a pop singer in the early Sixties and had made several recordings under his own name. He recorded (without commercial success) for Challenge Records in 1962 and was a member of a folk group called The Town Criers in 1963–1964. With the Beatles-led British Invasion of 1964, Balin was inspired by the merging of folk with rock in early 1965, spearheaded by the success of The Byrds and Simon & Garfunkel, and decided to form a group to play the hybrid style. With a group of investors, Balin purchased a former pizza parlour on Fillmore Street[5] where he opened a new club, The Matrix and began searching for members for his group[6].

Balin met folk musician Paul Kantner at another local club, The Drinking Gourd. Kantner had started out performing on the Bay Area folk circuit in the early 1960s, alongside fellow folkies Jerry Garcia, David Crosby and Janis Joplin. Kantner has cited folk groups like The Kingston Trio and The Weavers as strong early influences. He briefly moved to Los Angeles, California, in 1964 to work in a folk duo with future Airplane/Starship member David Freiberg (who subsequently joined Quicksilver Messenger Service).

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. Originally from Washington, D.C., Kaukonen had moved to California in the early 1960s and met Kantner while at Santa Clara University in 1962. Kaukonen was invited to jam with the new band and although initially reluctant to join he was won over after playing his guitar through a tape delay device that was part of the sound system used by Ken Kesey for his Acid Test parties. 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 split to hold a marijuana joint that has been smoked too short to hold without burning the fingers - an improvised roach clip.[7] An urban legend claims this was the origin of the band's name, but according to band member Jorma Kaukonen, the name was invented by his friend Steve Talbot as a parody of blues names such as Blind Lemon Jefferson.[8] A 2007 press release quoted Kaukonen as saying:

I had this friend [Talbot] in Berkeley who came up with funny names for people," explains Kaukonen. "His name for me was Blind Thomas Jefferson Airplane (for blues pioneer Blind Lemon Jefferson). When the guys were looking for band names and nobody could come up with something, I remember saying, 'You want a silly band name? I got a silly band name for you!'

The group made its first public appearance as Jefferson Airplane at the opening night of The Matrix on August 13, 1965. The band expanded from its folk roots, drawing inspiration from The Beatles, The Byrds and The Lovin' Spoonful, and gradually developing a more pop-oriented electric sound.

A few weeks after the group was formed, 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 Harvey's bass playing was not up to par, he was replaced by guitarist-bassist Jack Casady, an old friend of Kaukonen's from Washington. Casady played his first gig with the Airplane at a college concert in Berkeley, California, two weeks after he arrived in San Francisco.

The group's performing skills improved rapidly and they soon gained a strong following in and around San Francisco, aided by reviews from veteran music journalist Ralph J. Gleason, the jazz critic of the San Francisco Chronicle who, after seeing them at the Matrix in late 1965, proclaimed them "one of the best bands ever." Gleason's support raised the band's profile considerably, and within three months their manager Matthew Katz was fielding offers from recording companies, although they had yet to perform outside the Bay Area.

Two significant early concerts featuring the Airplane were held in late 1965. The first was the historic dance at the Longshoremen's Hall in San Francisco on October 16, 1965, the first of many 'happenings' in the Bay Area, where Gleason first saw them perform. At this concert they were supported by a local folk-rock group, The Great Society, which featured Grace Slick as lead singer and it was here that Kantner met Slick for the first time. A few weeks later, on 6 November, they headlined a benefit concert for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, the first of many promotions by rising Bay Area entrepreneur Bill Graham, who later became the band's manager.

In November 1965, Jefferson Airplane signed a recording contract with RCA Victor, which included an unheard-of advance of US$25,000. On December 10, 1965 the group played at the first Bill Graham show at the Fillmore auditorium, supported by The Great Society and others. The Airplane also appeared at numerous Family Dog shows promoted by Chet Helms at the Avalon Ballroom.

The group's first single was Balin's "It's No Secret" (a tune he wrote with Otis Redding in mind); the B-side was "Runnin' Round The World", the song that led to the band's first major clash with RCA. After their debut LP Jefferson Airplane Takes Off was completed in March 1966, Skip Spence quit the band. He was eventually replaced by Spencer Dryden, who played his first show with the Airplane at the Berkeley Folk Festival on July 4, 1966.

Original manager Matthew Katz was fired in August—beginning a long-running legal battle that continued until 1987—and Balin's friend and roommate Bill Thompson was installed as road manager and temporary band manager. It was Thompson, a friend and ally of the band and a former Chronicle staffer, who had convinced reviewers Ralph Gleason and John Wasserman to see the band at the Longshoreman's Hall. Thanks to Gleason's influence, Thompson was able to book the group for appearances at the Berkeley Folk Festival and at the Monterey Jazz Festival.

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." Despite the fact that the group had not yet performed outside the Bay Area or appeared on TV, the album garnered considerable attention in the USA and sold well enough to earn a gold record award. RCA initially pressed only 15,000 copies, but it sold more than 10,000 in San Francisco alone, prompting the label to reprint it. For the reprinting, the company deleted "Runnin' Round This World" (which had appeared on early mono pressings), because executives objected to the word "trip" in the lyrics. For similar reasons, RCA also substituted altered versions for two other tracks: "Let Me In", changing the line "you shut your door; you know where" to "you shut your door; now it ain't fair" and "Run Around," changing the line "flowers that sway as you lay under me" to "flowers that sway as you stay here by me". The original pressings of Takes Off featuring "Runnin' 'Round The World" and the uncensored tracks of "Let Me In" and "Run Around" are now worth thousands of dollars on the collectors' market.

Arrival of Grace Slick

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 15 October 1966. The following night, her replacement Grace Slick made her first appearance. Slick was already 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.

Slick's recruitment proved pivotal to the Airplane's commercial breakthrough—she possessed a powerful and supple contralto voice that complemented Balin's voice and was well-suited to the group's amplified psychedelic music; as a former model, her stage presence greatly enhanced the group's live impact.

The Great Society had recorded an early version of "Somebody to Love" (under the title "Someone to Love") as the B-side of their only single, "Free Advice"; it was produced by Sylvester Stewart (soon to become Sly Stone) but it reportedly took more than 50 takes to achieve a satisfactory rendition. The Great Society decided to split up in late 1966 and played its last show on September 11. Soon after, Slick was asked to join Jefferson Airplane by Jack Casady (whose musicianship was a major influence on her decision) and her Great Society contract was bought out for $750.

Surrealistic Pillow and commercial breakthrough

In December 1966, Jefferson Airplane was featured in a Newsweek article about the booming San Francisco music scene, one of the first in a welter of similar media reports that prompted a massive influx of young people to the city and contributed to the commercialization and exploitation of the hippie culture.

Around the beginning of 1967 Bill Graham took over from Bill Thompson as manager. In January the group traveled to Los Angeles to record the tracks for their next LP, and also made their first visit to the East Coast. On January 14, alongside The Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane headlined the now-legendary "Human Be-In", the famous all-day 'happening' staged in Golden Gate Park, one of the key events leading up to the "Summer of Love".

During this period the band gained their first international recognition when rising British pop star Donovan, who saw them during his stint on the US West Coast in early 1966, mentioned the Airplane in his song "The Fat Angel," which subsequently appeared on his Sunshine Superman LP.

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 album chart on March 25 and remained there for over a year, peaking at #3. The name "Surrealistic Pillow" was suggested by the 'shadow' producer of the album, Jerry Garcia, when he mentioned that, as a whole, the album sounded "as Surrealistic as a pillow is soft." Although RCA (the record company) would not acknowledge Garcia's considerable contributions to the album with a "Producer" credit, he is listed in the album's credits as "spiritual advisor."

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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 "Plastic Fantastic Lover," and the atmospheric Balin-Kantner ballad "Today." A reminder of their earlier folk incarnation was Kaukonen's solo acoustic guitar tour de force, "Embryonic Journey" (his first composition), which referenced contemporary acoustic guitar masters such as John Fahey and helped to establish the popular genre exemplified by acoustic guitarist Leo Kottke.

The first single from the album, Spence's "My Best Friend," failed to chart, but the next two singles rocketed the group to prominence. Both "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" became major US hits when released as singles—the former reaching #5 and the latter #8 on the Billboard singles chart—and by late 1967 the Airplane were national and international stars and had become one of the hottest groups in America.

This phase of the Airplane's career peaked with their famous performance at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967. Monterey showcased leading bands from several major music "scenes" including New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and the United Kingdom, and the resulting TV and film coverage gave national (and international) exposure to groups that had previously had only regional fame. Two songs from the Airplane's set were subsequently included in the D. A. Pennebaker film documentary of the event.

The Airplane also benefited greatly from appearances on national network TV shows such as Johnny Carson's Tonight Show on NBC and The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS. The Airplane's famous appearance on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour performing "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love" was videotaped in color and augmented by developments in video techniques. It has been frequently re-screened and is notable for its pioneering use of the Chroma key process to simulate the Airplane's psychedelic light show.[9]

Change of direction

The membership of Jefferson Airplane remained relatively stable from 1967 to 1970. During that period they recorded five more albums and performed extensively in the USA and Europe. The group's music underwent a significant transformation after Surrealistic Pillow, however. Key influences on the group's new direction were the popularity and success of Jimi Hendrix and the British supergroup Cream, which prompted the Airplane (like many other groups) to adopt a 'heavier' sound and to place a greater emphasis on improvisation.

The band's third LP, After Bathing at Baxter's, was released on November 27, 1967 and eventually peaked in the charts at #17. Its famous cover, drawn by renowned artist and cartoonist Ron Cobb depicts a Heath Robinson-inspired flying machine (constructed around an idealised version of a typical Haight-Ashbury district house) soaring about the chaos of American commercial culture.

Recorded over a period of more than four months, with little input from nominal producer Al Schmitt, the new album demonstrated the group's growing engagement with psychedelic rock. Where the previous LP had consisted entirely of standard-length songs, the new one was dominated by long multi-part suites and one track ("A Small Package of Value Will Come To You Shortly") was a sonic collage inspired by Frank Zappa's avant-garde work on side four of Freak Out! Baxter's also marked the ascendency of Kantner and Slick as the band's major composers and the concurrent decline in the influence and involvement of founder Marty Balin who, among other reasons, was becoming increasingly disenchanted with the "star trips" and inflated egos produced by the band's runaway commercial success.

Baxter's also marked the end of the Airplane's brief run of success on the singles chart. While both "White Rabbit" and "Somebody To Love" were US Top 10 hits, "The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil", peaked at #43 while "Watch Her Ride" stalled at #61. Both singles however, were listed as being in the top forty in Cash Box. None of the band's subsequent singles made it into the Top 40 and several did not chart at all. AM Top 40 radio, in particular, became wary of a group that had scored a hit with a song that contained thinly-veiled drug references and whose singles were often deemed too controversial, so Jefferson Airplane never again enjoyed the kind of widespread radio support they would have needed to score more Top Ten hits.[10].

Despite this, Jefferson Airplane continued to enjoy significant success as "album" artists. Between 1967 and 1972 they scored a run of eight consecutive Top 20 albums in the USA, with both Surrealistic Pillow and Crown of Creation making the Top 10. Furthermore, many of their singles did manage to make minor chart positions in the singles chart due in part to the growing influence of FM radio, which would play many rock songs that AM radio refused to.


In February 1968, manager Bill Graham was fired after Grace Slick delivered an "either he goes or I go" ultimatum to the group. Bill Thompson took over as permanent manager and set about consolidating the group's financial security, establishing Icebag Corp. to oversee the band's publishing interests and purchasing a 20-room mansion at 2400 Fulton Street across from Golden Gate Park near the Haight-Ashbury district, which became the band's office and communal residence. Bill Laudner was hired as road manager.

In mid-1968, the group was photographed for Life magazine cover story on "The New Rock", appearing on the cover of the June 28, 1968 edition. They undertook their first major tour of Europe through mid-to-late 1968, playing alongside The Doors in the Netherlands, England, Belgium, Germany and Sweden. In a notorious incident at a concert in Amsterdam, while the Airplane was performing "Plastic Fantastic Lover," Doors singer Jim Morrison, stoned on some hash given to him by a fan, appeared on stage and began dancing. As the group played faster and faster, Morrison spun around wildly until he finally fell senseless on the stage at Marty Balin's feet. (Morrison was unable to perform his set with the Doors and was hospitalized while keyboardist Ray Manzarek was forced to sing all the vocals [11].) It was also during this tour that Slick and Morrison engaged in a brief sexual relationship, which she would discuss in her 1998 autobiography.

Jefferson Airplane's fourth LP, Crown of Creation (released in September 1968), was a huge commercial success, peaking at #6 on the album chart. Grace Slick's "Lather", which opens the album, is said to be about her affair with drummer Spencer Dryden and his 30th birthday. "Triad", a David Crosby piece, had been rejected by The Byrds because they deemed its subject matter (a ménage à trois) to be too "hot" to record. Slick's searing sex and social commentary anthem "Greasy Heart" had been released as a single in March 1968. Several tracks recorded for the LP were left off the album, but later included as bonus tracks, including the free form Grace Slick/Frank Zappa collaboration "Would You Like A Snack?"

Their appearance on The Smothers Brothers in the fall of that year would cause a minor stir when Grace Slick appeared black face (she claimed she simply wanted to wear all the makeup she saw in her dressing room) and performed the Black Panther Party's black power salute after finishing the song "Crown of Creation".

The group went on a short European Tour along with The Doors in late 1968. In February 1969 RCA released the live album Bless Its Pointed Little Head, which was culled from late 1968 live concert performances at the Fillmore West on October 24–26 and the Fillmore East on November 28–30. It became the Airplane's fourth Top 20 album, peaking at #17.

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 content of songs such as "We Can Be Together" and "Uncle Sam Blues" and the planned titled of the album, Volunteers of Amerika.

In early 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. When interviewed about Woodstock by Jeff Tamarkin in 1992, Paul Kantner still recalled it with fondness, although Grace Slick and Spencer Dryden had less than rosy memories.

Immediately after their Woodstock performance, the band played a live concert on The Dick Cavett Show. The new album was finally released in the USA in November 1969 with the title shortened to Volunteers. The song "Uncle Sam Blues" did not appear but was later released on the eponymous Hot Tuna. Volunteers continued the Airplane's run of Top 20 LPs, peaking at #13 and going gold early in 1970. It was their most political venture, showcasing the group's vocal opposition to the Vietnam War and documenting their reaction to the changing political atmosphere in the United States. The most-known tracks included "Volunteers", "We Can Be Together", "Good Shepherd", and the post-apocalyptic "Wooden Ships", which Paul Kantner co-wrote with David Crosby and Stephen Stills and which Crosby, Stills & Nash also recorded on their debut album.

RCA voiced objections to the phrase "up against the wall, motherfucker" in the lyrics of Kantner's song "We Can Be Together," but the group managed to prevent it from being censored, pointing out that RCA had already allowed the offending word to be included on the cast album of the rock musical Hair.

In December, the Airplane played at the Altamont Free Concert held at the Altamont Speedway in California, thus being the only band to perform at all three of the iconic rock festivals of the 1960s, along with Monterey Pop and Woodstock. Headlined by The Rolling Stones, the concert was marred by violence. Marty Balin was knocked out during a scuffle with Hells Angels members who had been hired to act as "security". The event became notorious for the now-famous "Gimme Shelter Incident": the fatal stabbing of black teenager Meredith Hunter in front of the stage by Hells Angels "guards" after he pulled out a revolver during the Stones' performance. (This incident was the centerpiece of the documentary film Gimme Shelter.)

Spencer Dryden quit the band in February 1970, burned out by four years on the "acid merry-go-round" and deeply disillusioned by the events of Altamont, which, he later recalled, "... did not look like a bunch of happy hippies in streaming colors. It looked more like sepia-toned Hieronymus Bosch." He took time off and later returned to music in 1972 as a drummer for the Grateful Dead spin-off band New Riders of the Purple Sage. Dryden's replacement was Joey Covington, an L.A. musician who had been sitting in with Hot Tuna during 1969.

Touring continued throughout 1970 but the group's only new recording that year was the single, "Have You Seen the Saucers?" b/w "Mexico". "Mexico" was an attack on then President Richard Nixon's Operation Intercept, which had been implemented to curtail the flow of marijuana into the United States. "Have You Seen the Saucers" marked the beginning of a science-fiction theme that Kantner would explore in his first solo album released in the same year, Blows Against the Empire, and with many of his songs in the 70s and 80s.

Side projects

During 1969 Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen launched their side project, a return to their blues roots, which they eventually dubbed Hot Tuna. This began as a duo, with the pair performing short sets before the main Airplane concert, but over the ensuing months other members of the Airplane, as well as outside musicians (including Joey Covington), often sat in for Hot Tuna performances.

During late 1969 Casady and Kaukonen recorded an all-acoustic blues album, which was released in the spring of 1970. This initial Hot Tuna album was remarkably successful, reaching #30 on the US album chart. Over the next two years, Hot Tuna began to occupy more and more of Casady's and Kaukonen's time, contributing to the growing divisions within Jefferson Airplane that would come to a head during 1972.

The Hot Tuna project also led to the addition of a new band member. Covington had met veteran jazz-blues violinist Papa John Creach in Los Angeles in the mid-1960s; he invited Creach to sit in with the Airplane for a concert at Winterland in San Francisco on October 5, 1970. As a result, Creach was immediately invited to join Hot Tuna and became a permanent member of the Airplane in time for their fall tour.

The Winterland concert also marked a turning point of another kind for the Airplane—it was a memorial for their old friend Janis Joplin, who had died in Los Angeles from a heroin overdose the previous day. Because of her death, her close friend Marty Balin refused to perform with the band that night.

During this period, Paul Kantner had been working on his first solo album, a science fiction-themed project recorded with members of the Airplane and other friends. It was released in October 1970 under the title Blows Against The Empire, and credited to "Paul Kantner/Jefferson Starship". This "prototype" version of Jefferson Starship included David Crosby and Graham Nash, Grateful Dead members Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart, and Airplane members Grace Slick, Joey Covington, and Jack Casady. Blows Against the Empire was the first rock album to be nominated for the Hugo science fiction award.

Jefferson Airplane ended 1970 with their traditional Thanksgiving Day engagement at the Fillmore East (the final performance of the short-lived Kantner/Balin/Slick/Kaukonen/Casady/Creach/Covington line-up) and the release of their first compilation album, The Worst of Jefferson Airplane, which continued their unbroken run of chart success, reaching #12 on the Billboard album chart.

Decline and dissolution

1971 was a year of major upheaval for Jefferson Airplane. Grace Slick and Paul Kantner had begun a relationship during 1970, and on January 25, 1971, their daughter China Wing Kantner was born. Grace's divorce from her first husband had come through shortly before this, but she and Kantner agreed that they did not wish to marry.

In March 1971, Airplane's founder and co-lead singer Marty Balin decided to leave the band officially after months of isolation from the others. Although he had remained part of the band's live performances after the band's creative direction shifted from the brooding love songs that he specialized in, an emerging drinking problem, compounded by the evolution of the polarized Kantner/Slick and Kaukonen/Casady cliques, had finally left him the odd man out. He had also been deeply affected by the death of his friend Janis Joplin and had begun to pursue a healthier lifestyle; Balin's study of yoga and abstention from drugs and alcohol further distanced him from the other members of the group, whose drug intake continued unabated. This further complicated the recording of their long-overdue follow-up to Volunteers. Balin had recently completed several new songs, including "Emergency" and the elongated R&B-infused "You Wear Your Dresses Too Short," both of which would later see the light of day on archival releases.

On May 13, 1971, Grace Slick was injured in a near-fatal automobile crash when her car slammed into a wall in a tunnel near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. Her recuperation took several months, forcing the Airplane to cancel most of their concert and touring commitments for 1971.

The band still managed studio dates during 1971. Their next LP Bark (whose cover featured a dead fish wrapped in an A&P-style grocery bag) was issued in September 1971. Although it was the final album owed to RCA under the band's existing contract, it was the inaugural release on the band's Grunt Records vanity label. Manager Bill Thompson had struck a deal with RCA to allow Jefferson Airplane to run Grunt Records as they saw fit, but still use RCA's distribution.

The single "Pretty As You Feel," excerpted from a longer jam on the LP, lead vocals by Joey Covington, the song's composer, was the last Jefferson Airplane single to place on the US singles chart, peaking at #60. The album rose to #11, higher than Volunteers.

Even after the departure of Balin, major creative and personal divisions persisted between Slick and Kantner on the one side and Kaukonen and Casady on the other. (Jorma Kaukonen's song "Third Week In The Chelsea," from Bark, chronicles the thoughts he himself was having about leaving the band.) These problems were exacerbated by escalating drug use – especially Slick's alcoholism – which caused the Airplane to become increasingly unreliable in their live commitments and led to some chaotic situations at concerts.[citation needed] By the beginning of 1972 it was evident to most people close to the group that Jefferson Airplane was now severely damaged if not already an unairworthy total wreck, and about to collapse.[citation needed]

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. Hot Tuna, for instance, had released a second (electric) LP during 1971, First Pull Up, Then Pull Down which proved even more successful than its predecessor. Though still a nominal member of the band, Joey Covington had immersed himself in the production of his own album with Peter Kaukonen and Black Kangaroo on Grunt; consequently, John Barbata (formerly of The Turtles and CSNY) played on most of the album and continued on for the promotional tour that followed. The Long John Silver LP is notable for its cover, which folded out into a humidor (which the inner photo depicted as storing marijuana). The album rose to #20.

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 Silver 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.

They returned to the West Coast in September, playing concerts in San Diego, Hollywood and Albuquerque. The tour culminated in two shows at Winterland in San Francisco (September 21–22), both of which were recorded. At the end of the second show the group was joined on stage by Marty Balin, who sang lead vocals on "Volunteers" and the final song, "You Wear Your Dresses Too Short."

Although no official announcement was ever released, the Winterland shows proved to be the last live performances by Jefferson Airplane until their restoration and reunion in 1989. By the end of 1972 Casady and Kaukonen had left the group to concentrate on Hot Tuna and their recently acquired love of speed skating, which Freiberg had reluctantly taken up in an attempt to bolster group camaraderie. With Kantner and Slick, he would record Baron Von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun before the engineering into existence of their own Airplane ectype, Jefferson Starship, in 1974; both Kantner and Slick would also record additional solo albums.

Jefferson Airplane's second live album, Thirty Seconds Over Winterland was released in April 1973. Its cover art depicts a squadron of flying toasters, a design that the band later alleged was plagiarized for the famous "After Dark" computer screensaver design.

In 1974, a collection of previous unreleased material and the single "Mexico" and "Have You Seen The Saucers" was released as Early Flight, the last official Jefferson Airplane album until the self-titled reunion album of 1989.

Jefferson Starship / Starship

In 1974, four years after Blows Against The Empire (the Jefferson Starship-prototype album with Paul Kantner and Grace Slick), Jefferson Starship was formally launched with the release of the album Dragon Fly and its single “Ride The Tiger”. Balin sang on one song, "Caroline," and in addition to Kantner and Slick the band consisted of David Freiberg (keyboards, bass), Craig Chaquico (lead guitar), Pete Sears (bass, keyboards), John Barbata (drums) and Papa John Creach (electric violin).

Marty Balin joined Jefferson Starship in January 1975 and they subsequently released the #1 album Red Octopus, featuring Balin singing lead on the #3 hit “Miracles”. Jefferson Starship released four albums between 1974 and 1978 and scored several hits, including “Count On Me”, “With Your Love” and “Runaway”.

In October 1978, Balin left the band. He issued a self-titled solo album in 1981 and had hit singles with "Hearts" and "Atlanta Lady (Something About Your Love)". "Hearts" was a soft pop ballad and also gave Balin a moderate Adult Contemporary chart hit.

Slick's alcoholism became a problem, which led to two nights of disastrous concerts in Germany in 1978.[12] On the first night, fans ransacked the stage when Slick failed to appear. On the second night, Slick, in a drunken stupor, shocked the audience by using profanity and sexual references throughout most of her songs. She also reminded the audience that their country had lost during World War II, repeatedly asking "Who won the war?", and implied that all residents of Germany were responsible for the wartime atrocities.[13][14] The debacle angered Kantner so much he demanded Slick's resignation from the team.

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Slick left Jefferson Starship in June 1978, and by the release of 1979’s Freedom at Point Zero the band consisted of Kantner, Chaquico, Freiberg, Sears and newcomers Mickey Thomas (vocals) and Aynsley Dunbar (drums). The newly-reconfigured band had several hit singles including "Jane". In 1981, Slick rejoined in time to duet with Thomas on one song, “Stranger”. from the album Modern Times. Jefferson Starship released two more albums and then Kantner left in 1984 shortly after the release of Nuclear Furniture. Freiberg continued to tour with the band but left shortly after the studio sessions for Knee Deep in the Hoopla began.

Kantner took legal action to prevent Slick and company from recording or touring as Jefferson Starship. Kantner ended up settling the suit and Grace Slick and Bill Thompson were given rights to use the name if they chose, but instead the band was rechristened Starship. In 2008, Kantner was sued for using the name Jefferson Starship for a promotion for Microsoft, but the suit was settled amicably with an agreement that Kantner would pay license fees to Slick and Thompson to use the name.

Although Starship was critically panned for their lightweight pop sound, they were commercially successful and scored the number one hits "We Built This City" and "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now." Slick left in 1988 after two albums, and the remaining members made one more album without her. Bill Thompson fired the band in 1990 when ticket sales dropped. Mickey Thomas revived Starship shortly thereafter and has toured steadily ever since, usually billed as “Starship featuring Mickey Thomas.” In concert he plays songs from his stint in Jefferson Starship (1979–1984) as well as Starship material. Stephanie Calvert joined Starship and Mickey Thomas recently to sing lead vocals. Calvert played for a local Las Vegas band called Love Shack then toured the country for various shows mostly working in casino lounges and shows.

Remnants and reunions: 1984 to present

After the acrimonious events that resulted in Jefferson Starship’s 1984 breakup, Paul Kantner reunited with Balin and Jack Casady in 1985 to form the KBC Band. They released their only album, KBC Band (which included Kantner's hit, "America"), in 1987 on Arista Records. The KBC Band also featured keyboardist Tim Gorman, who had played with The Who, and guitarist Slick Aguilar, who had played with David Crosby's band.

With Kantner reunited with Balin and Casady, the KBC Band opened the door to a full-blown Jefferson Airplane reunion. On March 4, 1988, during a Hot Tuna San Francisco gig at the Fillmore (with Paul Kantner, as well as Papa John Creach joining in) Grace Slick made a cameo appearance. This led to a formal reunion of the original Jefferson Airplane, featuring nearly all the main members, including founder Marty Balin, but without Spencer Dryden. A self-titled album was released by Columbia Records to modest sales but the accompanying tour was a success. During the tour, Jefferson Airplane was backed by additional players: Kenny Aronoff on drums, Peter Kaukonen on guitar, Tim Gorman on keyboards and Zebra's Randy Jackson on guitars, keyboards and backing vocals.

Upon the big success of Airplane's reunion tour, Jefferson Starship subsequently reunited and is still in active service as of 2009, releasing their most recent album in 2008. The refitted Jefferson Starship grew out of Kantner’s decision to tour in 1991 with a stripped down, acoustic ensemble he called Paul Kantner’s Wooden Ships, a trio that included Aguilar and Gorman from the KBC Band. In addition to his classic songs, Kantner and his group performed new material which received resounding praise[citation needed].

The success of this project prompted Kantner to reorganize his electric band, and Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation was relaunched back into service. In addition to Aguilar and Gorman, Kantner recruited former collaborators Jack Casady and blues violin master Papa John Creach; former Tubes drummer Prairie Prince; and former World Entertainment War vocalist Darby Gould.

In 1993, Marty Balin rejoined Jefferson Starship, ending a 15-year absence from the group. Papa John Creach died in early 1993, weeks after touring Europe. Concurrently a young vocalist, Diana Mangano, joined the group as Gould’s replacement.

In 1995, Jefferson Starship released Deep Space/Virgin Sky, a live album recorded at the House of Blues in Hollywood, California. The album featured eight new and seven classic tunes. Grace Slick joined the band for four songs, "Lawman", "Wooden Ships", "Somebody to Love", and "White Rabbit". In 1999, Jefferson Starship released the studio album Windows of Heaven, which featured Slick on background vocals on one song, "I’m On Fire".

Balin continued as a full-time command-crew member of the refitted Jefferson Starship until 2003, and he still occasionally joins them in concert as of 2007. Casady remained a member until the late ‘90s and has since joined Jorma Kaukonen in a reunited Hot Tuna. Gorman left in the late ‘90s as well and was replaced by former Supremes keyboardist Chris Smith. In 2005, David Freiberg rejoined the group.

As of 2009, Jefferson Starship continues to tour with a lineup of Paul Kantner (vocals, guitar), David Freiberg (vocals, bass, keyboards), Cathy Richardson (vocals), Slick Aguilar (lead guitar), Chris Smith (keyboards) and Donny Baldwin (drums). The band sometimes features guest musicians such as Balin, Mangano, Gould, Gorman, Prince, and former Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten. Jefferson Starship played three songs on NBC’s The Today Show on June 30, 2007. A new studio album, Jefferson's Tree of Liberty, was recorded in 2008 with Marty Balin and Jack Casady appearing on a track previously recorded for Windows of Heaven and Grace Slick contributing vocals to the hidden track.

Jorma Kaukonen still tours as a solo act, playing up to 100 acoustic shows or more each year at small clubs throughout the country. Occasionally, Jack Casady joins him, and the pair perform as Hot Tuna. Kaukonen also operates a guitar camp in southern Ohio, where he teaches would-be guitar virtuosos his unique style of finger-picking blues.

Grace Slick retired from the music business after the reunion in 1989. In 1998, she released her autobiography Somebody to Love?. Since her retirement, she has made a few appearances at Jefferson Starship concerts. Her most prominent performances include the group's 1995 live album Deep Space/Virgin Sky in benefit to the widow of Papa John Creach who had performed with JA and JS, and a performance at a September 11 benefit concert which was her last stage appearance. Slick has also made a few appearances on studio material including Linda Perry's 1996 solo debut and Starship's 1999 album. She is now an acclaimed painter with most of her work focusing on old music legends and her interest in Alice in Wonderland, which had inspired "White Rabbit."

In 2004, Marty Balin pointed out that unlike many of their contemporaries, all of the original members of Jefferson Airplane survived the 1960s; all members from the classic lineup lived into the 21st century. Spencer Dryden, who had long languished under financial and health problems, died of colon cancer on January 11, 2005, at the age of 66.

Also in 2004, a film was released on DVD entitled "Fly Jefferson Airplane" (directed by Bob Sarles). It covers the years 1965–1972 and includes recent interviews with band members and thirteen complete songs (almost all are vintage performances). The one recent performance is a solo "Embryonic Journey" by Jorma Kaukonen (from a 1996 New York City reunion for the Airplane's induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame).





Jefferson Airplane (Summer 1965 – October 1965)
Jefferson Airplane (October 1965 – mid-1966)
Jefferson Airplane (October 1966 – February 1970)
Paul Kanter & Jefferson Starship (1970): Album - Blows Against the Empire
Jefferson Airplane (late 1970–1972)
Jefferson Airplane (early 1972 – mid-1972)
Jefferson Airplane (mid-1972–1974)
Jefferson Airplane (Reunion Tour and Album) (1989)

See also


External links

Simple English

Jefferson Airplane
Also known as The Airplane
Origin San Francisco, California, United States
Genres Psychedelic rock, acid rock, folk rock, hard rock
Years active 1965 – 1974
Labels RCA, Grunt, Epic
Associated acts Jefferson Starship, Hot Tuna, KBC Band, Jefferson Starship - The Next Generation
Former members
Grace Slick
Marty Balin
Jorma Kaukonen
Paul Kantner
Jack Casady
Spencer Dryden

Signe Toly Anderson
Bob Harvey
Jerry Peloquin
Skip Spence
Joey Covington
Papa John Creach
John Barbata
David Freiberg

Jefferson Airplane was a Psychedelic rock band from San Francisco. They were formed in 1965.

Some bands that were formed with members of Jefferson Airplane after they broke up include Jefferson Starship and Starship, while bands that modeled them include Hot Tuna and KBC Band.

Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.



Jefferson Airplane formed in San Francisco during the summer of 1965, and signed a recording contract with RCA Records in November of that year.


  • Bob Harvey (1965)
  • Jack Casady (1965–1972)
  • Jerry Peloquin (1965)
  • Skip Spence (1965–1966)
  • Spencer Dryden (1966–1970)
  • Joey Covington (1970–1972)
  • John Barbata (1972–1973)
  • Jorma Kaukonen (1965–1972)
  • Paul Kantner (1965–1974)
  • Papa John Creach (1970–1974)
  • Marty Balin (1965–1971)
  • Signe Anderson (1965–1966)
  • Grace Slick (1966–1974)
  • Paul Kantner (1965–1974)
  • Jorma Kaukonen (1965–1972)
  • Joey Covington (1971)
  • David Freiberg (1972–1974)



Jefferson Airplane (studio albums)
  • Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (1966) - US position: # 128
  • Surrealistic Pillow (1967) - US position: # 3 (breakthrough album featuring "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit")
  • After Bathing at Baxter's (1967) - US position: # 17
  • Crown of Creation (1968) - US position: # 6
  • Volunteers (1969) - US position: # 13
  • Bark (1971) - US position: # 11
  • Long John Silver (1972) - US position: # 20
  • Jefferson Airplane (1989) (1989 'reunion' album) – US position: # 85
Jefferson Airplane (official live albums)
  • Bless Its Pointed Little Head (1969) Live – US position: # 17
  • Thirty Seconds Over Winterland (1973) Live – US position: # 52
  • Live at the Fillmore East (1998) (live recording of 1968 performance at the Fillmore East in New York City)
  • Sweeping Up the Spotlight: Live at the Fillmore East 1969 (2007) (live at the Fillmore East, New York City - November 28-29, 1969)
Jefferson Airplane (non-US live albums)
  • Live at the Monterey Festival (1995) (live recording, British release of Jefferson Airplane's performance at the Monterey Pop Festival)
  • Feed Your Head : Live '67-'69 (1996)
  • At Golden Gate Park (2006) (live in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco - May 7,1969)
  • Last Flight (2007) (live at Winterland, San Francisco - September 22, 1972)
  • At The Family Dog Ballroom (2007) (live recording of 1969 performance in San Francisco)
Jefferson Airplane (official compilations)
  • The Worst of Jefferson Airplane (1970) - US position: # 12 (first greatest hits collection)
  • Early Flight (1974) (a collection of singles, B-sides, and other non-LP tracks) – US position: # 110
  • Flight Log, 1966-1976 (1977) (compilation album, also includes tracks by Jefferson Starship, Hot Tuna, as well as solo tracks) – US position: # 37
  • 2400 Fulton Street (1987) (25-track compilation 2 LP set or 36-track compilation 2 CD set) – US position: # 138
  • Jefferson Airplane Loves You (1992) (3-disc boxed set)
  • Ignition (2001) (4-disc boxed set of first four studio albums)
Jefferson Airplane (other compilations)
  • Time Machine (1984) (compilation album)
  • White Rabbit & Other Hits (1990) (compilation album)
  • The Best of Jefferson Airplane (1993) (compilation album)
  • Journey: The Best of Jefferson Airplane (1996) (British compilation album)
  • Through the Looking Glass (1999) (compilation album) (Italian only)
  • The Roar of Jefferson Airplane (2001) (compilation album)
  • Platinum & Gold Collection (2003) (compilation album)
  • Cleared For Take Off (2003) (compilation album)
  • The Essential Jefferson Airplane (2005) (compilation album) (Legacy Recordings)
  • The very best of Jefferson Airplane (2007) (compilation album)
Paul Kantner / Jefferson Starship
  • Blows Against The Empire (1970) – US position: # 20
Combined Jefferson Airplane / Jefferson Starship Compilation albums
  • Hits (1998)
  • VH1 Behind the Music (2000)
  • Love Songs (2000)


  • "It's No Secret" / "Runnin' 'Round This World"(Censored Version) (1966)
  • "Come Up the Years" / "Blues From An Airplane" (1966)
  • "Bringing Me Down" / "Let Me In" (1966)
  • "My Best Friend" / "How Do You Feel?" (1967) #103 US
  • "Somebody to Love" / "Plastic Fantastic Lover" (1967) #5 US
  • "White Rabbit" / "She Has Funny Cars" (1967) #8 US
  • "Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil" / "Two Heads" (1967) #42 US
  • "Watch Her Ride" / "Martha" (1967) #61 US
  • "Greasy Heart" / "Share a Little Joke" (1968) #98 US
  • "Crown of Creation" / "If You Feel" (1968) #64 US
  • "Plastic Fantastic Lover" (live) / "Other Side of This Life" (live) (1969) #133 US
  • "Volunteers" / "We Can Be Together" (1969) #65 US
  • "Mexico" / "Have You Seen the Saucers?" (1970) #102 US
  • "Pretty as You Feel" / "Wild Turkey" (1971) #60 US
  • "Long John Silver" / "Milk Train" (1972) #102 US
  • "Trial By Fire" (live) / "Twilight Double Leader" (1972)
  • "Summer of Love" (1989) #15 US Adult Contemporary (from the reunion album)
  • "Planes" (1989) #24 Mainstream Rock Tracks
  • "True Love" (1989)

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