|Birth name||John Holland Mallet III|
August 24, 1943|
|Died||May 29, 1989
San Francisco, California
|Genres||Rock, psychedelic rock, blues, jazz, art rock|
|Instruments||Guitar, bass, piano|
|Labels||Capitol, Line Records, Music Box Records|
|Associated acts||Quicksilver Messenger Service, Copperhead, The Dinosaurs, Man|
John Cipollina (August 24, 1943 – May 29, 1989) was a guitarist best known for his role as a founder and the lead guitarist of the prominent San Francisco rock band Quicksilver Messenger Service. After leaving Quicksilver he formed the band Copperhead, was a member of the San Francisco All Stars and later played with numerous other bands.
- 1 Early Years
- 2 Equipment and technique
- 3 Career After Quicksilver Messenger Service
- 4 Death
- 5 Discography
- 6 Videos
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Born in Berkeley, California, in 1943, John Cipollina attended Tamalpais High School, in Mill Valley, California (as did his brother, Mario Cipollina, born 1954). His mother Evelyn, and godfather José Iturbi, were concert pianists and John showed great promise as a classical pianist in his youth, but his father gave him a guitar when he was 12 and this quickly became his primary instrument.
Equipment and technique
"I like the rapid punch of solid-state for the bottom, and the rodent-gnawing distortion of the tubes on top."
To create his distinctive guitar sound, Cipollina developed a one-of-a-kind amplifier stack. His Gibson SG guitars had two pickups, one for bass and one for treble. The bass pickup fed into two Standel bass amps on the bottom of the stack, each equipped with two 15-inch speakers. The treble pickups fed two Fender amps: a Fender Twin Reverb and a Fender Dual Showman that drove six Wurlitzer horns.
Cipollina used a custom foot switch setup to select reverb, tremolo, Maestro Echoplex (the unit mounted on the right of the Twin Reverb), and Standel Modulux (on the left of the twin reverb). 12 volt automotive running lights indicated which effect was being used. In the 1980s, he used a series of standard stomp-box pedals, including a chorus and a Boss Spectrum SP-1.
Cipollina also employed a Gibson Maestro Fuzz and Vox wah-wah/volume pedals. For slide effects, he favored a plastic Bic lighter for precision work, or ran his guitar against the mike stand for more dramatic effects.
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, a double-cutaway with more modern electronics. He played with finger picks, a thumb pick, and used a whammy bar extensively which, he explained to Jerry Garcia, was to make up for his weak left hand. For slide playing, he often switched to one of his Les Paul guitars, played lap-style, using his leg on a monitor for support.
Career After Quicksilver Messenger Service
After leaving Quicksilver, Cipollina formed the band Copperhead with early Quicksilver member Jim Murray (musician) (who was soon to leave for Maui, HI), former Stained Glass member Jim McPherson, drummer David Weber, Gary Phillipet (AKA Gary Phillips (keyboardist), later a member of Bay Area bands Earthquake and The Greg Kihn Band), and Pete Sears, (Sears was shortly thereafter replaced by current Bonnie Raitt bassist James "Hutch" Hutchinson who played on the Copperhead LP) who went on to play with the original Jefferson Starship and later Hot Tuna.
Experience with Man
In 1975, the Welsh psychedelic band Man toured the United States, towards the end of which, they played two gigs at the San Francisco Winterland (March 21 and 22), which were such a success that promoter Bill Graham paid them a bonus and rebooked them. Whilst waiting for the additional gigs, the band met and rehearsed with Cipollina, who played with them at Winterland in April 1975. After this, Cipollina agreed to play a UK tour which took place in May 1975, during which their "Roundhouse gig" was recorded. Rumors that Micky Jones had to over-dub Cipollina’s parts, as his guitar was out of tune, before their Maximum Darkness album could be released are exaggerated; only one track, "Bananas", was to have his track replaced, per Deke Leonard. "Everything ... which sounds like Cipollina is Cipollina."M. Jones tribute
The album eventually reached #25 in the UK album charts.
Cipollina died on 29 May 1989 from at the age of 45 after a career in music that spanned twenty five years. His cause of death was alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency, which he suffered from most of his life, and which is exacerbated by smoking.
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, Pete Sears, David Freiberg, and John's brother Mario, an original member of Huey Lewis and the News. Cipollina's one of a kind massive amplifier stack was donated, along with one of his customized Gibson SG guitars, and effects pedals, for display in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in 1995.
With Quicksilver Messenger Service
RAVEN 1. Rock & Roll Nurse 2. True Golden Touch 3. Do What You Do 4. Unvicious Circle 5. True Reward 6. Grass Is Always Greener 7. Clouds 8. All Worth The price 9. Ride (Highway Song) 10. Burning Corte Madera 11. The Truth 12. Bad News 13. Razor Blade4 & Rattlesnake 14. Prayers 
Maximum Darkness LP (1975) United Artists: CD (1991) BGO CD 43: CD Re-mix (2008) Esoteric ECLEC 2061 Micky Jones, Deke Leonard, Martin Ace, Terry Williams, John Cipollina Recorded at The Roundhouse, Chalk Farm, 26 May 1975
- Dr. Fankhauser
- 1980: Blue Star (Line Records)
- 1982: Monkey Medicine "The Nick Gravenites John Cipollina Band" (Line Records)
- 1991: Live At Rodon "Nick Gravenites and John Cipollina" (Music Box)
- 1972: Papa John Creach: Papa John's Friends (Grunt Records)
Terry and the Pirates
- 1979 Too Close For Comfort (Wild Bunch)
- 1980 Doubtful Handshake (Line Records)
- 1981 Wind Dancer (Rag Baby, Line Records)
- 1982 Rising of the Moon (Rag Baby, Line Records)
- 1987 Acoustic Rangers (Sawdust Records)
- 1990 Silverado Trail (Big Beat Records)
With other artists
- Leonard, Deke (2012). The Twang Dynasty. Bordon, Hants: Northdown Publishing. pp. 263–275. ISBN 978-1-900711-18-0.
- Official website/rock. "John Cipollina". Memorial Website. Retrieved 2009-06-03.
- Sievert, Jon (January–February 1973). "John Cippolina, interview". Guitar Player.
- Buckley, Jonathan, Jonathan; Ellingham, Mark (1996). Rock: The Rough Guide - Man ((1st ed.) ed.). London: Rough Guides Ltd. pp. 539–540. ISBN 1-85828-201-2.
- "Chart Stats for Man Albums". Archived from the original on 2013-01-19. Retrieved 2009-06-01.
- John Cipollina at Find a Grave
- Arcadia Label, 2006
- See the the album webpage at Discogs.
- JohnCipollina.com - Memorial website
- John Cipollina MySpace
- Bay-Area-Bands.com - 'John Cipollina: The Life And Death Of San Francisco's Most Prolific Guitarist', William Ruhlmann
- allmusic.com - All-Music Guide Entry
- John Cipollina collection at the Internet Archive's live music archive
- John Cipollina at the Internet Movie Database