Jefferson Starship

Jefferson Starship

Infobox musical artist
Name = Jefferson Starship
Background = group_or_band

Img_capt = Jefferson Starship in 2008 (Clockwise from Left): David Freiberg, Paul Kantner, Slick Aguilar, Chris Smith, Donny Baldwin, Cathy Richardson
Img_size = 250
Landscape = Yes
Years_active = 1974 – 1984, 1992 - Present
Origin = San Francisco, California,
Genre = Psychedelic rock Acid rock AOR
Label(s) = RCA, Grunt
URL = []
Associated_acts = Jefferson Airplane, KBC Band, Starship
Current_members = Paul Kantner
David Freiberg
Cathy Richardson
Slick Aguilar
Donny Baldwin
Chris Smith
Past_members = See: Personnel section

Jefferson Starship is an American rock band that was popular in the 1970s and 1980s. It evolved from Jefferson Airplane as Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady decided to focus on Hot Tuna full time and left the Airplane. The rest of the band were joined by Craig Chaquico and Jorma's brother Peter Kaukonen to promote the Grace Slick solo album Manhole and called themselves Jefferson Starship. After the initial tour, Kaukonen left and was replaced by Pete Sears for the first studio album Dragon Fly. The band continued in about the same configuration until late 1978 when Grace Slick, Marty Balin, and John Barbata all left the band under different circumstances. The band redefined their music with more of a hard-rock edge with Aynsley Dunbar and Mickey Thomas joining. In 1984, Paul Kantner left forming KBC Band with former bandmates Balin and Casady. The remaining members renamed themselves Starship, releasing three studio albums before manager Bill Thompson finally dismantled the band in 1990. Kantner began performing again in 1991 with Tim Gorman and Slick Aguilar of the KBC Band, calling themselves "Paul Kantner's Wooden Ships." As the band continued to add more members, Kantner renamed the band Jefferson Starship once again. In September 2008, the band released their latest studio effort "Jefferson's Tree of Liberty".


Paul Kantner/Jefferson Starship

During the transitional period of the early 1970s, singer-guitarist Paul Kantner recorded "Blows Against The Empire", a concept album featuring an "ad hoc" group of musicians and credited on the LP as "Jefferson Starship", marking the first use of the latter name. [ Jefferson Starship: Biography : Rolling Stone ] ]

This 'prototype' version of Jefferson Starship included David Crosby and Graham Nash and Grateful Dead members Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart, as well as some of the remaining members of Jefferson Airplane, lead singer Grace Slick, drummer Joey Covington and bassist Jack Casady. The name of this group of musicians was changed to Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra.

In "Blows Against the Empire", Kantner (and Slick) sang about a group of people escaping Earth in a hijacked starship. In 1971, the album was nominated for the prestigious science fiction prize, the Hugo Award, a rare honor for a musical recording. "Rolling Stone" calls it "a sci-fi song suite that now suffers from concept-album creakiness but at its time boasted an experimental edge." It was while that album was being made that Kantner sealed his love affair with Grace Slick; their daughter China Kantner (who made a name for herself as an MTV veejay in the 1980s) was born shortly thereafter.

Kantner and Slick with the Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra released two follow-up albums: "Sunfighter", an environmentalism-tinged album released in 1971 to celebrate China's birth, and 1973's "Baron von Tollbooth & The Chrome Nun", titled after the nicknames David Crosby had given to the couple. The artist credit on "Baron von Tollbooth" gave ex-bassist-keyboard player-vocalist David Freiberg equal billing with Kantner and Slick. Freiberg had known and played with Kantner on the folk circuit in the early 1960s and also appeared on "Blows Against the Empire", and he had joined Jefferson Airplane in time to appear on their live LP "Thirty Seconds over Winterland". Early in 1974, Slick released "Manhole", her first solo album. It was on the "Manhole" album that Paul and Grace next worked with Peter Sears (who had first played on Papa John Creach's first solo album, who was downstairs co-producing a Kathi McDonald album in the same studio. Sears wrote and recorded the song, "Better Lying Down" with Grace, and played bass on the song "Epic #38." It was during this session at Wally Heider studios in San Francisco, that Paul first asked Pete to play with a new band he was forming that was later christened "Jefferson Starship". However, Sears had worked on three of Rod Stewart's early British recordings, and had to go back to England to play on "Smiler", Rod's last album made in London, so Jorma Kaukonen's brother Peter Kaukonen first played with the band early in 1974 before Sears returned to the States and replaced him in Jefferson Starship in June 1974.

Kantner is also credited with discovering teenage guitarist Craig Chaquico during this time, who first appeared on "Sunfighter" and would play with Kantner, Slick and their bands and then with Starship through 1990. He later embarked on a successful solo career as a smooth jazz artist.

Jefferson Starship

By 1973, with Kaukonen and Casady now devoting their full attention to Hot Tuna, the musicians on "Baron von Tollbooth & the Chrome Nun" formed the core of a new lineup that was formally reborn as "Jefferson Starship" in 1974. Kantner, Slick, and Freiberg were charter members. The line-up also included late-Airplane holdovers drummer John Barbata, and fiddler Papa John Creach (who also played with Hot Tuna), Jorma Kaukonen's brother Peter, who, after the group's 1974 spring tour, was replaced by Peter Sears (who, like Freiberg, played bass and keyboards) and twenty-year-old guitarist Craig Chaquico. Marty Balin contributed the haunting ballad, "Caroline" to their first album "Dragon Fly", but did not join the band again until January 1975. Balin stayed with the group for nearly the remainder of the decade. This line-up proved to be the band's most commercially successful so far. Balin's ballad "Miracles" helped 1975's "Red Octopus" reach multiple-platinum status. The follow-ups, "Spitfire" (1976), and "Earth" (1978), were both big sellers. Creach left the band in August 1975 to pursue a solo career.

However, Slick's alcoholism became a problem, which led to two nights of disastrous concerts in Germany in June 1978 [ [ Worst Onstage Meltdowns Article on Blender :: The Ultimate Guide to Music and More ] ] . The first night, fans ransacked the stage when Slick and the band failed to appear. The following 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 [ [ The Hangar ] ] ["Behind The Music: Jefferson Airplane", VH1, Paramount Television, 1998.] . After the debacle, she was asked to leave the band.

Towards the end of 1978, Jefferson Starship (now without Grace Slick) recorded "Light the Sky on Fire" for the Star Wars Holiday Special and their forthcoming greatest hits album "Gold". "Gold", highlighting their work from 1974's "Dragon Fly" through to 1978's "Earth", was released early the following year. "Light the Sky on Fire" (backed with Sears and Slick's "Hyperdrive", from "Dragon Fly") was included as a bonus single in the original packaging of album. (When "Gold" was issued on CD, both tracks were included on the album.) The album originally had a shortened single version of the hit "Miracles"; early pressings of the CD repeated this, but later editions had the full length version from the album "Red Octopus".

Shortly before the release of "Gold", Balin too left the group, leaving Kantner and company to find a new lead singer in Mickey Thomas (who had sung lead on Elvin Bishop's "Fooled Around and Fell in Love"). Thomas joined the group in April 1979 and his soaring tenor steered the band toward a harder rock sound. Barbata had been seriously injured in a car accident in October 1978 and and was replaced by Aynsley Dunbar, who had previously played with Journey.

After the 1979 release of "Freedom at Point Zero" (which spawned the hit single "Jane"), the new lineup toured(for the first without Grace Slick) and were augmented by sax player Steve Schuster(who had played with the band, along with horn player David Farey, on their 1978 tour and had also appeared on Freedom at Point Zero).

In early 1981 Grace Slick returned to the band, rejoining in time to sing on one song, written by Pete Sears, "Stranger", on the group's next album, "Modern Times" (1981). "Modern Times" also included the humorous "Stairway to Cleveland," in which the band defended the numerous changes it had undergone in its musical style, personnel, and even name. Slick remained in the band for Jefferson Starship's next two albums, "Winds Of Change" (1982) and "Nuclear Furniture" (1984). One noted personnel change in the group between the two albums was Dunbar leaving in August 1982 replaced by Donny Baldwin, who had performed with Thomas in the Elvin Bishop Group. Around this time, the band began enthusiastically embracing the rock-video age, making elaborate videos typical of the era's superstar bands. Grace Slick would appear frequently on MTV and such music-oriented television shows as "Solid Gold", giving the band a high visibility in the MTV era. However, the Jefferson Starship albums of this era were only modestly successful, yet the band remained a gold-selling (and thus commercially credible) act and a popular concert draw.


In June 1984, Paul Kantner, the last remaining founding member of Jefferson Airplane, left Jefferson Starship, and then took legal action over the Jefferson Starship name against his former bandmates. Kantner settled out of court and signed an agreement that neither party would use the names "Jefferson" or "Airplane" unless all members of Jefferson Airplane, Inc. agreed to it (Bill Thompson, Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady). The band briefly changed its name to "Starship Jefferson" while legal proceedings occurred, but ultimately the name was reduced to simply "Starship". Freiberg stayed with the band after the lawsuit and attended the first studio sessions for the next album. However, he became frustrated with the sessions because all the keyboard work in the studio was being done by Peter Wolf (who'd played on the sessions for Nuclear Furniture and briefly joined the band on the road for the follow up tour) and that was the instrument Freiberg was supposed to be playing. [ "Well because they want me in, and I didn’t want to be there because they were doing: "We Built This City" and all. It was at the point where they were going to the studio, and nobody in the band was playing anything. Maybe if they needed a guitar… Craig would play it. It was all producing and it was all hot stuff keyboard players and that is what I was basically playing with them…you know…and that wasn’t me. Why have me around? Why should I be around?"] He left the band and the next album was finished with the five remaining members. In 1984, Gabriel Katona(who'd previously done stints in Rare Earth and Player ) joined the band to play keyboards & saxophone on the road with them through the end of 1986.

The next album, "Knee Deep In The Hoopla" was released in October 1985 and scored two #1 hits. The first was "We Built This City", written by Bernie Taupin, Martin Page, Dennis Lambert, and Peter Wolf; the second was "Sara". No previous incarnation of the band had ever had a #1 hit. The album itself reached #7, went platinum, and spawned two more singles: "Tomorrow Doesn't Matter Tonight" (#26), and "Before I Go" (#68).

In 1987, "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" was featured in the film "Mannequin" and hit #1, although only Slick and Thomas (plus Craig Chaquico's guitar solo) appeared on it. At that time, the song made Slick the oldest female vocalist to sing on a number-one Billboard Hot 100 hit, at the age of 47. She held this record until Cher broke it at the age of 52, in 1999 with "Believe".) The following year, the band's song "Wild Again" (which reached #73 on the "Billboard" singles chart) was used in the movie "Cocktail".

By the time "No Protection" was released, bassist, keyboardist Peter Sears had left the band due to the commercial direction the music had taken. Sears went on to play keyboards with former Jefferson Airplane members, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady in Hot Tuna for ten years. Starship's "No Protection" was not released until well after "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" (its most popular single) had peaked on the charts, but still went gold; in addition to "Nothing's Gonna Stop Us Now" (#1), it featured the singles "It's Not Over ('Til It's Over)" (#9), and "Beat Patrol" (#46). The last song on the album, "Set The Night To Music", would later become a huge hit when re-recorded as a duet between Roberta Flack and Maxi Priest. For the "No Protection" tour, Brett Bloomfield was brought in to replace Sears and Mark Morgan was their new stage keyboardist.

Grace Slick left Starship in 1988, going on to join the reformed Jefferson Airplane, for one album in 1989, before announcing that she was retiring from music. Slick, then in her late forties, was becoming more self-conscious about her age. As Kantner, Sears and Freiberg had left the band, all the new and remaining members were more than a decade younger than her. To this day Grace maintains that old(er) people "don't belong on a rock and roll stage." ["Jefferson Airplane." "Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians®", Centennial Edition. Nicolas Slonimsky, Editor Emeritus. Schirmer, 2001.]

With Slick's departure, Thomas became sole lead singer. The revamped lineup released "Love Among the Cannibals" in August 1989. On September 24th of that year while the band was in Scranton , PA for a show, Donny Baldwin seriously injured Mickey Thomas in a fight. [ [ Starship MP3 Downloads - Starship Music Downloads - Starship Music Videos - Starship Pictures - ] ] Thomas had to have reconstructive facial surgery and Baldwin was fired from the band.


The band continued to tour in support of "Cannibals". A replacement drummer, Kenny Stayripolous, was found and two attractive female backup singers, Christina Marie Saxton and Melisa Kary, were recruited after Grace's departure. After the "Cannibals" tour wound up in 1990, Chaquico, the last remaining original Jefferson Starship member, handed in his notice. Early the following year, RCA assembled a greatest hits album, "Greatest Hits (Ten Years and Change 1979-1991)", which featured two new tracks, one with Thomas & Chaquico(recorded before Craig had left) and the other featuring only Thomas and session players. For a brief period it was thought that Thomas would continue forward as Starship, but manager Bill Thompson then decided it was over and told RCA that the band was done making records. Thomas revived Starship in 1992 as "Mickey Thomas' Starship" or "Starship featuring Mickey Thomas" with different personnel and has toured steadily ever since(see the band's personnel roster at the bottom of the page). The same year, Kantner also revived the Starship name, as Jefferson Starship - The Next Generation.

Jefferson Starship - The Next Generation

In 1992, Kantner established Jefferson Starship - The Next Generation, a group that would, at times, include various former Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship members, to tour and perform. After the first couple of years, the band dropped the use of "The Next Generation", and now perform as Jefferson Starship. The revived band grew out of Paul Kantner’s decision, following the "Unplugged" trend, to hit the road in 1991 with an acoustic ensemble called "Paul Kantner’s Wooden Ships", a trio that included Slick Aguilar and Tim Gorman from the KBC Band, a previous group centered on former Jefferson Airplane/Starship members. The "Next Generation" name is a reference to .

The success of this project prompted Kantner to reinvent his electric band, and Jefferson Starship took off once again. 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 hiatus from the group. Papa John died in February 1994, weeks after touring Europe. Concurrently a young vocalist, Diana Mangano, joined the group as Gould’s replacement after a brief spell by original Jefferson Airplane singer Signe Toly Anderson.

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 member of the reunited band until 2003 and still occasionally joins them in concert as of 2008. In fact, since the late 90s, the band has done annual tours that will feature anywhere from three to as many as eleven players with no one member(with the exception of Kantner) appearing on all shows. Casady remained a member until 2000 and has also(since 1983) played with Jorma Kaukonen in a reunited Hot Tuna. Gorman left in 1995 and was replaced by Gary Cambra(from The Tubes ), Barry Flast and then T Lavitz, who stayed with the band for the recording of "Windows of Heaven" but was replaced by former Supremes keyboardist Chris Smith before the album's release. In 2005, David Freiberg rejoined the group twenty after leaving(for a compete break down of comings & goings in the group, see the roster at the bottom of the page). Jefferson Starship played three songs on NBC’s “The Today Show” on June 30, 2007.

Jefferson Starship continues to entertain audiences worldwide with frequent live appearances. Mangano was replaced by vocalist Cathy Richardson in early 2008, and Prince was replaced by drummer Donny Baldwin, who had played with Jefferson Starship in the 80s. This revived Jefferson Starship can often capture a good deal of the feeling of the original Airplane.

As of 2008 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, Gould, Gorman and former Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten.

In March and May 2008, tracks were recorded for the new studio album released on September 2nd, 2008, "Jefferson's Tree of Liberty" [ [ 2005 Jefferson Starship Tour Schedule ] ] [] .In addition to the current members, Grace Slick made contributions to the bonus track on the album, and Marty Balin and Jack Casady appear on a recording originally made for "Windows of Heaven".

They appeared at the Rhythm Festival in August 2008 [ [ Rhythm Festival 2008 ] ]



External links

* [ Unofficial Starship Home Page]
* Official Home page
* Official page for 2008 studio release Jefferson's Tree of Liberty


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