John Cipollina

John Cipollina

Infobox musical artist
Background = non_vocal_instrumentalist
Instrument = Guitar
Name = John Cipollina

Img_capt = Cipollina (Middle Left) with Quicksilver Messenger Service.
Born = August 24, 1943
Berkeley, California
Died = death date and age|1989|5|29|1943|8|24
Birth_name = Johnathan Cipollina
Genre = Psychedelic rock, acid rock, jam
Associated_acts = Quicksilver Messenger Service
The Dinosaurs
Label =
Notable_instruments =
Years_active = 1964 - 1989

John Cipollina (August 24, 1943 - May 29, 1989) was a lead guitarist best known for his work with the San Francisco rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service. He pronounced his surname with the Italian "C" (Chipollina).

Born in Berkeley, California, he attended Tamalpais High School, in Mill Valley, California (as did his brother, Mario Cipollina). He showed great promise as a classical pianist in his youth, but soon switched to the guitar as his primary instrument. Cipollina had a unique guitar sound, mixing solid state and valve amplifiers as early as 1965. He is considered one of the fathers of the San Francisco psychedelic rock sound.

Throughout his career, Cipollina usually played Gibson SGs, but in the late '70s and into the '80s could also be seen playing a Carvin DC150, which was similar to a double-cutaway Les Paul, but with more modern factory installed electronics. He played with finger picks, thumb picks, and used a whammy bar extensively which, he explained to Jerry Garcia, was to make up for his weak left (tremolo) hand. Even more unusually, he attached six wurlitzer horns to the top of his distinctive amplifier stack.

His style was highly melodic and expressive. Cipollina's classical past no doubt influenced his guitar style, which was miles beyond the usual blues-scale, pentatonic work of many of the other psychedelic-era guitarists. His work on fellow dueling guitarist Gary Duncan's electric arrangement/adaption of Dave Brubeck's "Take Five", retitled "Gold and Silver," which appears on the self-titled first album of Quicksilver, is an excellent example of how Cipollina took rock to places it usually didn't dare to venture.

Cipollina died on 29 May 1989 at the age of 45 from chronic emphysema. Quicksilver Messenger Service fans paid tribute to him the following month in San Francisco at an all-star concert at the Fillmore Auditorium which featured Nicky Hopkins, David Freiberg, and John's brother Mario, an original member of Huey Lewis and the News.

In 2003, Rolling Stone magazine ranked him 32nd of the greatest guitarists of all time.


Quicksilver Messenger Service

* "Quicksilver Messenger Service"
* "Happy Trails"
* "Shady Grove"
* "Just For Love"
* "What About Me?"
* "Solid Silver"


* "Copperhead"


* "Dinosaurs"


* "Raven"


(Guest artist)
* "Maximum Darkness"

Merrell Fankhauser

* "Dr. Fankhauser"


* "Freelight"

Nick Gravenites

* "Live At Rodon"


* "Here Goes Nothin, Go Hear Nothin(Live)"

External links

* [] - Memorial website
* [] - 'John Cipollina: The Life And Death Of San Francisco's Most Prolific Guitarist', William Ruhlmann
* [] - All-Music Guide Entry
* [] - John Cipollina at the Wayback

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