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Jefferson Starship

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Jefferson Starship
Jefferson Starship photo 1976.JPG
Jefferson Starship in 1976
Background information
Origin San Francisco, California,
United States
Genres Rock, Progressive Rock, Pop
Years active 1974–1984 (as Jefferson Starship); 1985 –1991 (as Starship)
Labels RCA, Grunt, Sony Music
Associated acts Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, Starship
Members Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Marty Balin, Craig Chaquico, Pete Sears, John Barbata, David Freiberg, Papa John Creach, Mickey Thomas, Aynsley Dunbar, Donny Baldwin
Past members See: List of Jefferson Starship members

Jefferson Starship was a multi-platinum, classic American rock band formed in 1974 by Paul Kantner, Grace Slick, Marty Balin, David Freiberg, Johny Barbata, Pete Sears, Craig Chaquico and Papa John Creach. They wrote, recorded and performed classic hits such as "Ride the Tiger," "Miracles," "With Your Love," "Black Widow," "Runaway," "Jane", "Find Your Way Back" and "Layin' It On the Line." The band name was legally retired by all band members in 1985, when Kantner left the band, and the remaining members continued on simply as Starship, but "Jefferson Starship" resurged once more in the early '90s when only Kantner was given permission to use the name again for his solo projects by Chaquico, and then in 2008, by Slick and the band's ex-manager, Bill Thompson.

Jefferson Starship's Red Octopus - 1975



In early 1974, the band Jefferson Airplane, had been broken up for two years, with guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bass player, Jack Casady having moved on to their own band, Hot Tuna. The band's founder, Marty Balin, had departed before that. Paul Kantner and Grace Slick were now releasing solo albums. Kantner's debut solo album was 1970's Blows Against the Empire which "was credited to 'Paul Kantner/Jefferson Starship,' the first use of the 'Starship,' billing predating the formation of that group by four years."[1] In 1974, Kantner decided to put together a touring band, which he called Jefferson Starship. The new band began with elements of Jefferson Airplane, including Kantner on rhythm guitar and vocals; Slick on vocals and percussion, David Freiberg on vocals and keyboards, John Barbata, who had played with the Turtles and Crosby, Stills and Nash, on drums and Papa John Creach, from Hot Tuna, on electric violin. Jorma Kaukonen's brother, Peter (who had appeared on Kantner's solo album, Blows Against the Empire), was on bass. On lead guitar was Craig Chaquico who had played on three of Kantner and Slick's solo albums, as well as in the band Steelwind. The band began rehearsals in January 1974 and opened its first tour in Chicago on March 19. By April, it was decided that the band would go into the studio to record an album and become an official band. Peter Kaukonen didn't work out, so British veteran Pete Sears, who had worked on Slick's solo album, Manhole, and played with Rod Stewart and John Cipollina, was the new band's bass player.

1974–1978: Original Line-up

In 1974, after touring informally as "Jefferson Starship," Kantner, Slick, Freiberg, Chaquico, Pete Sears, Hot Tuna's electric fiddle player, Papa John Creach, along with former Turtles and Airplane drummer, Johny Barbata, decided to form an official band and record a first album which they called, Dragon Fly. Jorma Kaukonen's brother Peter, had played bass during the group’s spring tour in 1974, but was replaced by Pete Sears (who, like Freiberg, played bass and keyboards). 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 commercially successful with hits like, "Ride the Tiger," (#84 US - Yu, Slick, Kanter) and "Hyperdrive."

Jefferson Starship free concert in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco – May 30,1975
1976 Group Photo of Jefferson Starship

Their second album, 1975’s Red Octopus had even greater success , with hit songs like “Miracles,” (#3 US - Balin) “Fast Buck Freddie” (Chaquico, Slick) and “Play on Love” (Sears, Slick). The album reached multiple-platinum status and No. 1 in the Billboard 100. Creach quietly left the band in August 1975 to pursue a solo career.

The next album, Spitfire, was released in June 1976 and went platinum, spending six weeks at No. 3 on the Billboard charts, and including the hit song "With Your Love" (#12), and the haunting "St. Charles," written by Chaquico, Balin and Kantner, with its soaring guitar solos. Regardless of this success, the band considered the album's sales to be relatively disappointing compared to its predecessor and requested an audit from RCA Records, distributor of their Grunt label.[2] RCA subsequently put a reported $500,000[2] into the next Jefferson Starship project. Earth was released in March 1978, and included the hit songs "Count on Me" (#8) and "Runaway" (#12). Tours of the U.S. and Europe would soon follow.

Balin's reluctance to tour had kept the band off the road for over a year, and Slick's alcoholism increasingly became a problem, which led to two consecutive nights of disastrous concerts in Germany in June 1978.[3] On the first night, the band was scheduled to perform at the Lorelei Amphitheater in Germany, on the bill with Leo Kottke and the Atlanta Rhythm Section, but Grace was too ill to perform. In spite of the rest of the band’s willingness to go on without Grace, in various configurations and playing a set not dependent upon her vocals, and so as to avoid disappointing the audience, Kantner insisted the show be cancelled. “He has made his decision; if Grace would not perform, the Starship could not perform. ‘Look, man,’ he said, raising his eyes to the others. ‘We can't play, It would be like the Stones without Jagger. I don't want to fool our audience. Balin and Sears, who were back at the hotel with Kantner and Slick, protested, but Kantner was adamant.”[4] “The three Starship musicians at the gig - Freiberg, Barbata, and Chaquico - discussed the possibility of the three of them performing alone. That was ruled out because there wasn't a singer amongst them.[4]” There was an announcement made to the fans that the band would perform for them on July 2, but the crowd would have none of it. Bottles and stones began flying, and the stage was ransacked and set ablaze. “They had lost virtually everything. The gear they had spent 12 years tuning to perfection. All their guitars; Chaquicos 1959 Les Paul Sunburst, his '57 Gold Top. The Fender Jazz bass Pete Sears had played exclusively for 16 years. Barbata's vintage cymbals. Guitar losses alone totalled five Gibsons, five Fenders, two Rickenbackers, an Ibanez double neck, a custom bass, two Guild accoustics and a pair of Ovation acoustic / electrics. The Starship had brought $160,000 of equipment into Germany. About $15,000 remained, including three mixers heroically saved by the sound engineers.[4]” A shell-shocked band, who had scrambled to find replacement gear, made it to the show in Hamburg the next night. Slick, in a drunken stupor, shocked that audience by swearing and making sexual references throughout most of her songs. She also reminded the audience that their country had lost World War II, repeatedly asking "Who won the war?", and implied that all residents of Germany were responsible for the wartime atrocities.[5][6]After the debacle, Kantner asked for Slick's resignation from the band.

Towards the end of 1978, Jefferson Starship (now without Grace Slick) recorded the single "Light the Sky on Fire" (music and lyrics by Craig Chaquico) for television's Star Wars Holiday Special. It was released as a promotional tie-in to the special (backed with "Hyperdrive" from Dragon Fly), and was also included as a bonus with their greatest hits album Gold (1979), which highlighted their work from 1974's Dragon Fly to 1978's Earth.

1979–1984: Second Line-up

In October 1978, the core musicians in the band were intact, but vocalists were shifting. Grace was gone and now Balin left the group, leaving the band without a lead singer. After auditioning vocalists for weeks, band crew member and Chaquico’s guitar roadie, Eric Van Soest, heard vocalist, Mickey Thomas (who had previously sung lead on Elvin Bishop’s “Fooled Around and Fell in Love”) singing at the club, Uncle Charlie’s in Marin County, California. He suggested Craig go in and check him out. Craig Chaquico says, “I thought he looked like Tony Orlando in a leather jacket, and sang like a cross between Paul Rogers and Robert Plant—bluesy and soulful but with a high range. Perfect for the songs I was writing for the band at the time.” Thomas was invited to audition and then joined the group in April 1979. Barbata had been seriously injured in a car accident in October 1978 and was replaced by Aynsley Dunbar, who had previously played with Journey.

In 1979, the band released the highly successful album, the first without Marty Balin or Grace Slick, Freedom at Point Zero went Gold. Among many successful songs on that album, such as “Rock Music” (Chaquico) and “Just the Same” (Chaquico, J. Sears, Van Soest), the hit single "Jane,” (Freiberg, McPherson, Chaquico and Kantner), peaked on the Billboard Hot 100 at #14 and spent three weeks at #6 on the Cash Box Top 100.[3]

In early 1981, Grace Slick returned to the band, rejoining in time to sing on one song, "Stranger," (P. and J. Sears) #48 on US Billboard Charts, on the group's next album,Modern Times (1981). Modern Times, which also went Gold, included the hit song "Find Your Way Back" (Chaquico), #29 on US Billboard Charts, as well as the humorous "Stairway to Cleveland", in which the band defended the numerous changes it had undergone in its musical style and personnel. Slick remained in the band for Jefferson Starship's next two albums, Winds of Change (1982) and Nuclear Furniture (1984). Winds of Change, featured the hit, “Be My Lady,” (P. Sears and J. Sears) which reached #26 in the US. The album featured Aynsley Dunbar on drums; however, by the time the tour came around, he’d been replaced by Donny Baldwin who had performed with Thomas in the Elvin Bishop Group. Produced by Ron Nevison, Nuclear Furniture reached #28 and featured the hit single, “Layin’ It On the Line” (Chaquico and Thomas).

Around this time, the band began enthusiastically embracing the rock-video age, making elaborate videos typical of the era's superstar bands. They would appear frequently on MTV and other music-oriented television shows as Solid Gold, and 1984’s Super Night of Rock and Roll, giving the band a high visibility in the MTV era. The band continued to release Top 40 singles like "Winds of Change" (#38 – P. and J. Sears), "Be My Lady" (#28 – P. and J. Sears), and "No Way Out" (#23 – P. and I. Wolf). The band also remained a gold-selling (and thus a commercially credible) act and a popular concert draw. During this year, band groupie Patricia Lang helped establish a large "groupie following" with over one million fans using BBS services, which at the time was very progressive. It is believed[by whom?] to be one of the first uses of online services for gathering a large fan base support.

1985 Lawsuit and Settlement

Knee Deep in the Hoopla - 1985

While Marty and Grace had come and gone over the years, after the release of Nuclear Furniture, Kantner, the last remaining founding member of Jefferson Airplane, left the band due to disputes over the group's artistic direction. "I think we would be terrible failures trying to write pop songs all the time. … The band became more mundane and not quite as challenging and not quite as much of a thing to be proud of", said Kantner.[5] He took legal action, in 1985, preventing the remaining members from using the name Jefferson Starship. As a result, the remaining band members signed a legal agreement, agreeing to not use the name and paying Kantner a sum of money to leave the band. They renamed themselves Starship, and continued to tour and record music, including hits such as 1985’s “Sara” (#1 US – P. and I. Wolf), 1986’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” (#1 US and #1 UK and Golden Globe and Academy Award -nominations for Best Original Song – Hammond and Warren) and 1985’s “We Built This City”, which, in spite of being on many “Worst Song” lists in recent years was in fact #1 in the US and #12 in the UK and nominated for a Grammy Award (Taupin, Page, Lambert and P. Wolf).

On September 24, 1989, touring the tour for the Starship album, Love Among the Cannibals, a fight broke out between long time friends and musical partners, Donny Baldwin and Mickey Thomas and “by the time it was over, Mickey Thomas would need facial reconstructive surgery and his longtime friend Donny Baldwin would be out of the group.[6]" By this time, Grace Slick and Pete Sears had left the band and only Craig Chaquico remained from the original core Jefferson Starship band. When he departed in 1991, the Starship band went dark and the name was retired. A few years later, Mickey Thomas picked up the name and set out on his own, with his own band, calling it Starship featuring Mickey Thomas, a vehicle for himself.

Between 1974 and 1991, many well-known bands and musicians opened for Jefferson Starship; bands such as, Fleetwood Mac, Heart, Santana, Ted Nugent, Billy Joel, Jeff Beck, Marshall Tucker, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Night Ranger, Journey, Foreigner, Tom Petty, Commander Cody, Survivor, The Tubes, .38 Special, Greg Kihn and more.

They also recorded with some of the world’s best rock and roll record producers such as, Ron Nevison, Mike Clink, Kevin Beamish, Keith Olson, Peter Wolf, Narada Michael Walden, Larry Cox and others.

1992–present: The Next Generation

Paul Kantner, Diana Mangano, and Marty Balin performing in 1996

Shortly after leaving Jefferson Starship, Kantner formed the KBC Band with (among others) his former band mates Marty Balin and Jack Casady. They released an eponymous album in 1986, but soon broke up after Balin lost interest. In 1988, Kantner toured with Casady in Hot Tuna. This led to a full Jefferson Airplane reunion in 1989, which also resulted in an eponymous album and a breakup.

In 1991, Kantner toured with an acoustic ensemble called "Paul Kantner's Wooden Ships," a trio that included Slick Aguilar and Tim Gorman from the KBC Band. The group was soon reestablished as "Jefferson Starship: The Next Generation," for which Kantner recruited Casady and Papa John Creach; former Tubes drummer Prairie Prince; and former World Entertainment War vocalist Darby Gould. In 1993, Balin joined. Creach died in February 1994, weeks after touring Europe. Concurrently, vocalist Diana Mangano joined the group (after a brief spell by original Jefferson Airplane singer Signe Toly Anderson) as Gould's replacement.

1993 Arbitration and Settlement: It was around this time that Paul Kantner dropped the use of "The Next Generation" and began to perform using the name of the original band, Jefferson Starship, once again, which violated the 1985 Agreement which had been signed by the band when Kantner left, had received money and the name was retired. Craig Chaquico, the only band member who had been on every album, single, tour and video for the Jefferson Starship and Starship duration, sought to legally enforce the Agreement, but this was settled between himself and Kantner, in Arbitration, and Chaquico allowed Kantner to use the name for his solo projects.[7] About this agreement, Chaquico said, "I gave him permission to use the name because he invited me into the band originally and the eight of us started it together. We went way back, and he was always the other guitar player onstage with me when we had two guitars."[8]

In 1995 they released Deep Space / Virgin Sky, a live album recorded at the House of Blues in West Hollywood, California on January 21, 1995. The album featured eight new and seven classic tunes. Grace Slick joined the band for five songs, "Lawman", "Wooden Ships", "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" and "Volunteers". 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. 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, twenty years after leaving, David Freiberg rejoined the group.

2007 Lawsuit and Settlement: Jefferson Starship played three songs on NBC's The Today Show on June 30, 2007 and began working with corporate sponsors. “Slick, along with manager Thompson, also sued Kantner for touring under the Jefferson Starship name, citing their initial separation agreement in 1985. (All parties later agreed that Kantner could go forward, after paying Slick and Thompson an undisclosed fee.)” [9]

Mangano was replaced by vocalist Cathy Richardson[10] in early 2008, and Prince was replaced by the reinstated Baldwin.

In March and May 2008, tracks were recorded for the new studio album released on September 2, 2008, Jefferson's Tree of Liberty.[11][12] 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.

In July and August 2008, they played a two-part UK tour, including three nights at the 100 Club in London and an appearance at the Rhythm Festival.[13]

In 2009 they toured as part of the Heroes of Woodstock tour with Jeff Pevar (Jazz Is Dead, Crosby, Pevar & Raymond) on bass. Other musicians included in this tour were Canned Heat, Ten Years After, Country Joe McDonald, Tom Constanten, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Melanie, John Sebastian, Mountain, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Levon Helm Band, although not all artists appeared at every show.

On June 5, 2011 Jefferson Starship (Kantner, Freiberg, Richardson and Smith) performed with the Contemporary Youth Orchestra at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica in Cleveland, OH. The show was broadcast live on HDNet for the HDNet Concert Series.

Kantner’s Jefferson Starship musicians in 2014 - l to r: Chris Smith, David Freiberg, Cathy Richardson, Paul Kantner, Donny Baldwin, Jude Gold

In 2012, longtime guitarist Slick Aguilar departed the band due to falling ill with Hepatitis C, and was replaced by Jude Gold.[14][15] In November 2015, a new lead vocalist, Rachel Rose, was phased in to replace the departing Cathy Richardson; sharing the stage with one-time Jefferson Starship vocalist Darby Gould until Richardson announced her return to the band in March 2016.[16] The band has featured guest musicians such as Balin, Gould, Gorman, Jeff Pevar, Tony Morley, Richard Newman and original Jefferson Starship bassist and keyboardist Pete Sears.

Following Kantner's death in 2016, Jefferson Starship has continued to tour with a line-up consisting of remaining members David Freiberg (vocals, guitar), Donny Baldwin (drums), Chris Smith (keyboards), Jude Gold (lead guitar), Cathy Richardson (vocals).

2017 Lawsuit: On April 27, 2017 Jefferson Starship original founding member, lead guitarist, songwriter and composer, Craig Chaquico, who had been with the band from the first album until the disbandment of Starship in 1991, had attempted to reunite the original members of the band on several occasions over the years, both before and after Paul Kantner's death in 2016, and he had requested that the current line-up of band members who had continued to perform and sell Jefferson Starship merchandise using the name Jefferson Starship after Paul’s death cease doing so, and to change the name if they chose to continue to perform. After discussions failed, he filed a lawsuit against them for breaching the 1985 contract and for using Craig’s name and likeness in their promotional materials. About this, Craig has said he had only given permission to Paul Kantner to use the name, and by this point, "Freiberg and Baldwin are performing with others who have no connection to the original group, using the name in violation of that agreement. If any of the members who signed the ’85 agreement want to use the name, they need the permission of all the other members who signed the agreement and Freiberg and Baldwin do not have my permission."[8]




  1. ^ Blows Against The Empire, retrieved 2017-05-14 
  2. ^ a b "Strange Times on the Launching Pad". Rolling Stone: 58. May 18, 1978. 
  3. ^ "The 17 Worst Onstage Musical Meltdowns". 2011. 
  4. ^ a b c "Creem". Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  5. ^ Giles, Jeff (August 15, 2014). "How Jefferson Airplane Became Jefferson Starship – And Then Just Starship". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved December 25, 2015. 
  6. ^ "26 Years Ago: Starship Fight!". Ultimate Classic Rock. Retrieved 2017-05-07. 
  7. ^ Cullins, Ashley (April 28, 2017). "Jefferson Starship Guitarist Sues Bandmates over Name Use". Hollywood Reporter. 
  8. ^ a b Tamarik, Jeff (May 4, 2017). "Jefferson Starship's Craig Chaquico Sues Ex-Bandmates". Bestclassicbands. 
  9. ^ DeRiso, Nick (September 24, 2015). "26 Years Ago: Starship Fight". Ultimate Classic Rock. 
  10. ^ Soeder, John (October 21, 2008). "Revamped Jefferson Starship sets course for Cleveland, with Paul Kantner at helm". The Plain Dealer. Cleveland, Ohio. Archived from the original on December 4, 2011. Retrieved March 23, 2011. 
  11. ^ "2005 Jefferson Starship Tour Schedule". 
  12. ^ New Jefferson Starship Album Of Formative Folk Treasures: Jefferson's Tree Of Liberty @ Retrieved August 12, 2011
  13. ^ Rhythm Festival 2008 Archived July 24, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ "Press". Jude Gold. Retrieved 2014-03-12. 
  15. ^ "Rock Legends Gramm, Balin to Team for Benefit Concert for Slick Aguilar - Livingston NJ News". The Alternative Press. 2014-01-22. Retrieved 2014-03-12. 
  16. ^ "Press". Cathy Richardson. Retrieved 2016-03-07. 

External links