Papa John Creach
|Papa John Creach|
Performing with Jefferson Starship in 1974
|Birth name||John Henry Creach|
May 28, 1917|
Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania United States
|Died||February 22, 1994
Los Angeles, California United States
|Associated acts||Jefferson Airplane (1970–75)
Jefferson Starship - The Next Generation
San Francisco All-Stars, (1979–84)
The Dinosaurs (1982–89)
John Henry Creach (May 28, 1917 – February 22, 1994), better known as Papa John Creach, was an American blues violinist, who has also played "classical, jazz, be-bop, R&B, pop and acid rock" music. Early in his career he played with Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Stuff Smith, and Charlie Christian as well as Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker, Nat King Cole and Roy Milton,
Later, he played for Jefferson Airplane (1970–1972), Hot Tuna, Jefferson Starship, Jefferson Starship - The Next Generation, the San Francisco All-Stars (1979–1984), The Dinosaurs (1982–1989) and Steve Taylor. Creach recorded a number of solo albums and was a frequent guest at Grateful Dead and Charlie Daniels Band concerts. He was a regular guest at the early annual Volunteer Jams, hosted by Charlie Daniels, which exposed him to a new audience that was receptive to fiddle players.
Life and career
Creach was born at Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania. As a child, he was introduced to the violin by an uncle, and he received both tutoring in the instrument and conservatory training. He began playing violin in Chicago bars after his family moved there in 1935, and also did some symphonic work when he was in his early 20's, which was unusual for a black musician at the time. At one point, he joined a local cabaret trio called the Chocolate Music Bars, and toured the Midwest with them.
According to Creach, knowing how to play in a variety of style was a necessity to survive as a musician in Chicago at the time:
[B]ecause of all the nationalities [there], I had to learn to play everything. At some jobs it was strictly German music, or Polish. Now, they used to dance and knock holes in the floor.
He had some difficulty in learning to play jazz violin, having to adjust his bowing technique, but was helped when he purchased an electric violin in 1943.
Moving to Los Angeles in 1945, he played in the Chi Chi Club, worked on an ocean liner for five years, appeared in several films, including with Nat King Cole in Fritz Lang's The Blue Gardenia, and performed as a duo with Nina Russell.
In 1967, Creach met and befriended drummer Joey Covington. When Covington joined the Jefferson Airplane in 1970, he introduced Creach to them, and he was invited to join Hot Tuna, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady's side band. Though regarded as a session musician, he remained with the band for four years, before leaving in 1974 to join Jefferson Starship and record on their first album, Dragon Fly. Creach toured with Jefferson Starship and played on the band's hit album Red Octopus in 1975. Around 1976, Creach left to pursue a solo career. Despite this, he was a guest musician on the spring 1978 Jefferson Starship tour.
A year later, Creach renewed his working relationship with Covington as a member of the San Francisco All-Stars, as well as with Covington's Airplane predecessor, Spencer Dryden, as a member of The Dinosaurs. He also continued occasional guest appearances with Hot Tuna, and was on stage at the Fillmore Auditorium in 1988 when Jack Casady and Jorma Kaukonen of Hot Tuna reunited with Paul Kantner and Grace Slick for the first time since Jefferson Airplane disbanded.
In 1992, he became one of the original members of Jefferson Starship - The Next Generation and performed with them until he succumbed to congestive heart failure on February 22, 1994. A heart condition had been causing bouts of pneumonia from continual fluid build-up in his lungs. He was 76.
Jefferson Starship performed a benefit concert to raise money for his family after his death, and released tracks from their performances as the album Deep Space/Virgin Sky.
- First Pull Up, Then Pull Down (1971) – Hot Tuna
- Bark – Jefferson Airplane (1971)
- Sunfighter – Paul Kantner & Grace Slick (1971)
- Papa John Creach (1971)
- Burgers – Hot Tuna (1972)
- Long John Silver – Jefferson Airplane (1972)
- Filthy! (1972)
- Thirty Seconds Over Winterland – Jefferson Airplane (1973)
- Baron Von Tollbooth & the Chrome Nun – Paul Kantner, Grace Slick & David Freiberg (1973)
- Playing My Fiddle for You (1974)
- Dragon Fly – Jefferson Starship (1974)
- Red Octopus – Jefferson Starship (1975)
- I'm The Fiddle Man (1975)
- Rock Father (1976)
- The Cat and the Fiddle (1977)
- Inphasion (1978)
- Historic Live Tuna – Hot Tuna (1985)
- I Predict 1990 – Steve Taylor (1987)
- Papa Blues (1992)
- Best of Papa John Creach (1994)
- Long Branch Park 1983 (2011)
- "Creach Papa John". Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. 2006.
- Washburn, Jim (May 25, 1990) "In Touch, in Tune : Papa John Creach Continues a Career That's Ranged from Armstrong to the Airplane" Los Angeles Times
- Volunteer Jam compilations III and IV
- Papa John Creach at the Internet Movie Database
- "Papa John Creach, A Violinist Versed In Pop, Dies at 76" New York Times (February 23, 1994)