Sunday, July 5, 2015

Taking Off: The Origin Of Jefferson Airplane

Jefferson Airplane's first album, released in August 1966

Two day ago, July 3, we noted a music milestone that occurred in 1968.

Today we recall a similar event that took place in San Francisco in 1965. On July 5 of that year, singer-songwriter, Marty Balin, watched a frustrated hootenanny try-out walk off the stage of The Drinking Gourd in disgust over his performance. Balin liked what little he heard and was impressed by the man's ambition. He went backstage and asked him, Paul Kantner, if he would join a band he was forming for his new Haight-Ashbury club called The Matrix. Kantner agreed. He didn't know it at the time, but he and Balin had just formed a band that would become Jefferson Airplane.

In a matter of days, another Drinking Gourd singer,  Signe Toly Anderson, would join. Kantner recruited his downstairs neighbor, Jorma Kaukonen, as another guitarist. A local drummer and bass guitarist filled out the group. Kaukonen would convince Jack Casady to become their new bass later in the year.

Six weeks after Balin and Kantner had their backstage chat, Jefferson Airplane debuted as the house band at The Matrix on August 13, 1965. The band was an instant success and went on to release their first album a year later:

The people changed, the name changed and some decided to pursue a solo career.  Through it all, after making music history for forty years their sound lives on for appreciative audiences around the world.

Sources:, Jefferson Airplane, Rock and Roll History, Signe Toly Anderson interview, KGON Portland, 2011 Mart Balin: Jefferson Airplane Takes Off, Joe Vertino, producer,, 2009

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