Friday, July 24, 2009

1965 Jefferson Airplane Performance List (Airplane I)



As a result of my research into other areas of Rock Prosopography, I have ended up with a fairly detailed list of Jefferson Airplane performances from 1965-69. Since I have no other plans for it, I am posting it here. This list leans heavily on the posted Jefferson Airpane set lists document by Scott Abbott, as well as information from Jeff Tamarkin’s fine book Got A Revolution, but it includes considerably more shows. Please forward any changes, updates, advice or criticism.

Airplane Pre-History

Marty Balin, an aspiring folk singer, forms a ‘folk-rock’ group with his friend Paul Kantner. With his father, he finds investors to buy a sleepy pizza joint at 3138 Fillmore, in the Marina District, renames it the Matrix and decorates the club with murals in a new, hip style. After asking around and auditioning musicians, Kantner and Balin decide on the following lineup:

Marty Balin-vocals
Signe Toly-vocals (she would later become Signe Andersen)
Jorma Kaukonen-lead guitar
Paul Kantner-guitar, vocals
Bob Harvey-bass
Jerry Peloquin-drums

Initially, although Jorma Kaukonen—hitherto the hottest solo acoustic blues picker in the South Bay—played electric guitar (including an electric 12-string), Kantner and bassist Bob Harvey simply played amplified acoustic guitar and bass. Harvey, Kantner and Toly were basically folkies, while Peloquin had drummed with various jazz groups. Kantner and Balin knew each other from the SF coffee-house folk scene, and Kantner knew Kaukonen as a fellow former student of the University of Santa Clara (as well as from the South Bay folk scene).

August 13, 1965 The Matrix, San Francisco
Jefferson Airplane

This was the first show of both the Jefferson Airplane and The Matrix. The name Jefferson Airplane was suggested by Jorma Kaukonen, a shortening of the name of imaginary blues singer Blind Lemon Jefferson Airplane. The Matrix, a tiny place, remained open through 1971.

There were probably several other Airplane gigs at the Matrix in August and September. In fact, the Airplane may have played many nights at the Matrix during this period, as their equipment was there and they rehearsed there.

September 8, 1965 The Matrix, San Francisco
J.C. Burris/Jefferson Airplane

This date comes from Airplane bassist Bob Harvey’s site (no longer accessible).

September 21-26, 1965 The Matrix, San Francisco
Lightning Hopkins/Jefferson Airplane

Bob Harvey claims (in an excerpt from a forthcoming book posted on the Moby Grape yahoo discussion group) that Kantner criticized Jerry Peloquin’s drumming on “Midnight Hour” during an afternoon rehearsal at the Matrix and Peloquin ended up punching Kantner and walking out. John Cippolina, David Freiberg and Skip Spence were watching, and after Cippolina and Freiberg said they didn’t even know any drummers, Marty Balin said to Spence “you look like a drummer.” On the spot, Spence managed to fake it, and played the gig that night. Spence, a natural musician, had played drums in his high school marching band, although never actually a trap set. The exact date is unknown, although apocryphally it is the night the RCA A&R man came to see the Airplane.

September 22, 1965 Coffee Gallery, San Francisco
Jefferson Airplane

After their set at the Matrix, the band plays another set for fun at a nearby coffee shop. The source for this is Bob Harvey’s website.


September 27, 1965 Circle Star Theater, San Carlos
Eric Burdon & The Animals/Jefferson Airplane

The September 27 edition of the San Mateo Times includes a write-up on the Airplane by Times entertainment writer Barbara Bladen. This may be the first press attention received by The Airplane. She appears to have heard the band play, almost certainly at The Matrix. It is interesting to note that they play at least two Bob Dylan songs.

The Circle Star was a circular suburban theater with a rotating stage in the middle.

October 16, 1965 Longshoreman’s Hall, San Francisco
Jefferson Airplane/Great Society/Charlatans/The Marbles
“A Tribute To Dr. Strange: A Rock and Roll Dance Concert”

This was the first, legendary Family Dog Promotion. Great Society singer Grace Slick, having attended the first Airplane show, makes her formal performance debut this night (a warmup show at the Coffee Gallery the night before notwithstanding).

October 30, 1965 Harmon Gym, UC Berkeley
Larry Hankin/Jefferson Airplane

The Airplane were unhappy with bass player Bob Harvey. RCA Records had offered to sign the band if they went fully electric, like The Byrds. Harvey, with a background in bluegrass, did not make the effort to learn electric bass, and the band wanted him replaced. Jorma Kaukonen’s brother (Peter) was an excellent musician and attending Stanford. However, Jorma’s father insisted that Peter remain in college so that he would not be drafted and sent to Vietnam. Jorma ended up calling on the younger brother of one of his teenage Washington DC friends.

Jorma and Jack Casady had played guitar together in a DC rock band called The Triumphs in the early 1960s, and Casady had subsequently switched to bass. Jorma had never actually heard him play bass, but Jack took the gig in return for the promise of $50 a week and a plane ticket. When Jorma picked Jack up at the airport, he supposedly said “You’d better be able to play bass or I’ll kill you.”

This show was Jack Casady’s first show with the Airplane, replacing Bob Harvey. The experienced Casady considered the Airplane unprofessional and unrehearsed.

November 6, 1965 Calliope Ballroom, San Francisco
Jefferson Airplane/The Fugs/Sandy Bull/John Handy Quintet/The Committee/Lawrence Ferlinghetti/others
Benefit for The San Francisco Mime Troupe.

This was the first Bill Graham promotion, a benefit show for the San Francisco Mime Troupe, for whom he was the business manager.

December 6, 1965 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco
Jefferson Airplane/Great Society/Grateful Dead/John Handy Quintet/Mystery Trend/Gentlemen’s Band

The first Bill Graham promotion at the Fillmore, another Mime Troupe Benefit.

For the next installment, see here.

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