My wife Jody calls it “shopping in your closet”–looking through stuff you already own, but haven’t paid any attention to in a long time–if ever. Just today she pulled out a sweater that she hadn’t worn in probably 20 years, but looks great today. And I had my own similar experience a few days ago, while going through the still large pile of stuff I bought from the family of Ralph J. Gleason, the late, lamented music critic. While going through his “Jefferson Airplane” file, I found the article below, from the August 29, 1965 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle. I’d never noticed it before, but this may very well be the first article ever written about the Jefferson Airplane !
The Airplane is one of my favorite bands, and their history is well documented; folk singer Marty Balin put the Airplane together to headline the Matrix, the San Francisco club he co-founded in 1965. This article is the only one I’ve ever seen that reviews the band’s earliest lineup–Balin, guitarist Paul Kantner, guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, singer Signe Toly (pre-marrage, as her last name is Anderson on the first Airplane album) along with soon to be replaced members Jerry Pelequin (drums), Bob Harvey (bass), and occasional conga drummer Larry Davis.
Balin, described in this article as bringing to mind “an undernourished Beatle,” famously spotted future Moby Grape legend Skip Spence at the Matrix, saying to him “Hey man, you’re my drummer.” Spence replied “No, I’m a guitar player.” Balin said “No, no, no, you’re my drummer.” Balin “gave him some sticks and said “Go home and practice and I’ll call you in a week.” I called him in a week and asked him if he could do it because I’d fired this other guy and I had no drummer. And he said, “Well, I’ll give it a try.” And he was great.”
Soon Bob Harvey was replaced by Kaukohen’s friend from Washington DC, Jack Cassady, and the lineup heard on the Airplane’s superb first album “Jefferson Airplane Takes Off” crystalized. If you don’t know the Airplane, you should. The classic Grace Slick lineup began with their second album, “Surrealistic Pillow“–but “Takes Off” is a folk rock masterpiece and to me an essential 60’s album. And how about that Beatles ad, too. Happy holidays everybody.