Friday, July 24, 2009

May-September 1966 Jefferson Airplane Performance List (Airplane III)

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.

The previous installments listed known shows from Jefferson Airplane’s formation through the end of 1965, and early 1966. This post covers known shows from May to September 1966.

May 6-7, 1966 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco
Jefferson Airplane/The Jaywalkers

Airplane drummer Skip Spence had taken an abrupt trip to Mexico without telling the band. He supposedly told manager Mathew Katz, who did not tell the band members. The Airplane wanted to replace him, but after they could not find a drummer in San Francisco--as everyone was already forming a group--Katz found a replacement in Los Angeles in Spencer Dryden . Dryden had played with jazz groups in strip clubs, so he was well-prepared. Dryden had been in an LA band called The Ashes (who later became Peanut Butter Conspiracy). Revealingly, Dryden had heard of the Airplane, but never actually heard them.

Spence, in the spirit of the times, agreed to teach Dryden all his drum parts. These shows appear to be the first where Dryden was ‘around,’ and Spence seems to have drummed throughout May. On one hand, it was a cheery admission from Spence that he was never really a drummer anyway. In any case, Mathew Katz was trying to form a new band with Spence as a singing guitar player, so it was easy for the Airplane and the likable Spence to remain friends.

>May 1966 RCA Records releases “Come Up The Years”/”Blues From An Airplane” (RCA Victor 47-8848)

May 14, 1966 Coconut Ballroom, Santa Cruz
Jefferson Airplane/Flowers Of Evil/American Tragedy “Spring Thing”

The University of California had opened a new campus in Fall 1965 in the sleepy seaside resort town of Santa Cruz, generating a modest ‘scene’ that coalesced around The Barn in Scotts Valley. The Coconut Ballroom was a regular venue for Teen shows. The Airplane was rare amongst underground bands in that they played both ‘Teen’ and ‘Underground’ venues, but the title “Spring Thing” suggests (by various roundabout pieces of evidence) that it was an end-of-year event for UC Santa Cruz students.

May 22, 1966 Cabana Hotel, Palo Alto
Jefferson Airplane
Peninsula Volunteers “Step N Time” Gala

The Cabana Hotel was Palo Alto’s ‘nice’ hotel. This was a society charity fashion show, yet another sign of how psychedelic consciousness was creeping into regular life. (Grace Slick herself had been a Palo Alto debutante). An eyewitness, who played in a local band also on the bill, said the Airplane played around the pool. The hotel only provided two wimpy speakers for the PA, and the Airplane borrowed the opening band’s PA instead.

Another eyewitness, high school student David Biasotti (among many other things, a former guitar student of Jerry Garcia), reports that the Airplane opened with instrumentals, presumably addressing the PA situation. At the end of the show, Skip Spence threw his sticks into the crowd and announced he was leaving the band.

(The promotional photo for the event, above, is from the Society Pages of the May 3, 1966 issue of the San Mateo Times).

May 28, 1966 Civic Auditorium, Santa Cruz
Jefferson Airplane/Mystery Trend/Flowers of Evil

May 30-31, June 1-4, 1966 The Matrix, San Francisco
Jefferson Airplane

June 4, 1966 Civic Auditorium, San Jose
Jefferson Airplane/William Penn and His Pals/E Types
“Dance and Ecodelic Trip”

This show often appears on Airplane lists as the San Francisco Civic Auditorium (based on a note in the Art of Rock book), but in fact the poster merely says “Civic Auditorium” and it is the San Jose Civic Auditorium. The promoter was probably Chocolate Watch Band and E-Types manager Ron Roupe (or someone associated with him). This would have been Skip Spence’s last known gig as the Airplane’s drummer.

June 6, 1966 Sheraton Palace Hotel, San Francisco
Private Event for the Republican Party

This gig was booked by Mathew Katz over the band’s fervent objections. This was Spencer Dryden’s first gig as the Airplane’s drummer. The Airplane’s lineup is now

Marty Balin-vocals
Signe Toly Andersen-vocals
Jorma Kaukonen-lead guitar
Paul Kantner-guitar, vocals
Jack Casady-bass
Spencer Dryden-drums

June 10-11, 1966 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco
Jefferson Airplane/Great Society/Heavenly Blues Band

The Heavenly Blues Band were from Raleigh, NC but did not actually make the gig due to an illness in the band.

June 24, 1966 Cow Palace, Daly City
Beach Boys/Lovin Spoonful/The Byrds/Jefferson Airplane/Percy Sledge/Chad and Jeremy/Sir Douglas Quintet/Neil Diamond/The Leaves/The Sunrays
“KFRC Beach Boys Summer Spectacular Concert”

June 27-28-29, 1966 Tivoli Ballroom, Seattle, WA
Jefferson Airplane

The scheduling of these gigs is described in detail in Jeff Tamarkin’s Airplane bio Got A Revolution (Atria Books 2003). Airplane manager Mathew Katz had made a deal with a “powerful disc jockey,” probably Pat O’Day. The Seattle Musicians Union tried to enforce a rule that only allowed five musicians on stage, but the Airplane refused to comply.

July 1-2, 1966 Losers North, San Jose
Jefferson Airplane/Jackie DeShannon

Losers North was a club/ballroom that opened in San Jose, near or on the Almaden Expressway. It had formerly been known as The Hawaiian Gardens. Most of the SF ballroom bands played there in the summer of 1966. Confusingly, it was part of a complex that also included a venue called Losers South. The venue never caught on, both because of the terminal unhipness of San Jose and the fact that Losers South was apparently notorious for not paying its acts (and no doubt, unlike the Avalon would not even give unpaid bands a kilo of weed).

>July 3-4, 1966 ASUC 9th Annual Folk Music Festival

July 3, 1966 Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley
Jefferson Airplane/Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach/Alice Stuart Thomas/The Gypsies
“Special Gypsy Fiddle Program”

The Airplane’s role in the Gypsy Fiddle Program remains unknown.

July 3, 1966 Pauley Ballroom, UC Berkeley
Jefferson Airplane/Country Joe and The Fish/Greenbriar Boys
“Dance Happening”

July 4, 1966 Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley
Pete Seeger/Jefferson Airplane/Robert Pete Williams/Greenbriar Boys/Alice Stuart Thomas/Sam Hinton/Charley Marshall/Phil Ochs/John Fahey

Marty Balin arranged the booking at the folk festival, and Katz was in fact resentful since it conflicted with dates Katz had lined up in Seattle.

July 15-16-17 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco (July 17 is an afternoon show).
Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead

July 22-23, 1966 Avalon Ballroom, San Francisco
Jefferson Airplane/Great Society

July 26, 1966 Cow Palace, Daly City
Rolling Stones/Standells/McCoys/Trade Winds/Jefferson Airplane/Sopwith Camel

The Airplane snuck Jerry Garcia backstage as a member of their crew so that he could see the Stones.

July 29, 1966 Rollarena, San Leandro
Jefferson Airplane/Soul Venders/System of Soul

The Rollarena was a skating rink on East 14th in San Leandro, about 10 miles south of Oakland. The promoter was Bill Quarry, who promoted many ‘Teen’ shows under his TNT (Teens N Twenties) banner.

August 2-5, 1966 Losers South, San Jose
Jefferson Airplane/Big Brother and The Holding Company

Great Society played instead of Big Brother on the 5th. The poster implies that the Airplane also play the 6th and 7th.

August 12-13, 1966 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco
Jefferson Airplane/Grateful Dead

August 17, 1966 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco
Jefferson Airplane/Quicksilver Messenger Service/Mimi Farina/The Only Alternative And His Other Possibility
“Psychedelic Fashion Show” presented by The Mod Hatter in Mill Valley.

August 18-21, 1966 Mother Blues, Chicago, IL
Jefferson Airplane

These gigs were in a folk club in Chicago, arranged by Mathew Katz before he was fired by the Airplane. Marty Balin’s roommate, Bill Thompson, was drafted as manager temporarily to “talk to the straights”, a role he would hold for the next 25 years. During this dismal week, Signe Andersen tells the Airplane manager that she will “take care of business” but she is quitting the band, forcing the Airplane to look for a new singer. Jeff Tamarkin’s books has a vivid description of these gigs. The exact number of dates is unknown to me.

August 24-28, 1966 Whisky A-Go-Go, West Hollywood
Jefferson Airplane

Jeff Tamarkin describes the measured indifference of Los Angeles to the new San Francisco sound.

>In September 1966, RCA releases the band’s first album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off (LPM-3584, LSP-3584). Jeff Tamarkin puts the release date at August 15.

September 2-3, 1966 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco
Jefferson Airplane/PH Factor Jug Band/Andrew Staples

A flyer exists for a show at the Highlands A-Go-Go in Clear Lake, promoted by Bill Quarry, featuring Jefferson Airplane/Mojo Men/Mother's Kookies/Project Hope. Quarry was a big East Bay promoter, and Bill Graham focused on vanquishing his rivals, so I suspect that Graham won out and booked the Airplane.

September 3, 1966 Monterey County Fairgrounds Arena, Monterey (afternoon)
Butterfield Blues Band/Muddy Waters/Memphis Slim/Jefferson Airplane

The Airplane played a set at the Saturday afternoon blues segment of the annual Jazz Festival. Jeff Tamarkin has this date as September 17.

September 11, 1966 Fillmore Auditorium, San Francisco
Jon Hendricks Trio/Elvin Jones/Joe Henderson Quartet/Big Mama Thornton/Denny Zeitlin Trio/Jefferson Airplane/Great Society/Wildflower
Benefit for Both/And jazz club.

Great Society lead singer Grace Slick’s star quality is obvious to the Airplane, too, and she seems like the ideal replacement for Signe Andersen. After her marriage to Airplane light show man Jerry Andersen, new mom Signe is under pressure to retire from performing. At this show, Jack Casady approaches Grace Slick about replacing Andersen in the Airplane, and she agrees to join. In the September 18 edition of Mojo Navigator (issue #6), the Rumors column reports that Great Society have broken up. This show is the last performance of the Great Society.

September 23-24-25, 30, October 1-2, 1966 Fillmore/Winterland
Jefferson Airplane/Butterfield Blues Band/Muddy Waters

September 23 and 24, as well as September 30 and October 1 (the Friday and Saturday night shows) were scheduled for Winterland, and the September 25 and October 2 (Sundays) were Fillmore afternoon shows. However, due to riots in the Fillmore district, the October 1 (Friday) show was rescheduled from Winterland to the Fillmore, but was still only attended by a few hundred people.

For the next installment, see here.


  1. A poster was uncovered for the Cocoanut Grove, Santa Cruz "Spring Thing" event. The actual date is May 14, 1966. The show was presented by Stevenson College (of UCSC), and the opening acts were Flowers Of Evil and American Tragedy,

  2. A footnote about Skip Spence's last show with the band on June 4, 1966 in San Jose:

    A friend of mine was there (he still have the ticket!) and remember that Signe Toly Anderson wasn't with them that night, so it was the all male Airplane. Also he remember that they opened with Wilson Pickett's In The Midnight Hour!

  3. New show added: June 9, 1966 at Wonderland Skating Rink in Fresno.