Papa John Creach

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Papa John Creach
Papa John Creach - Jefferson Starship - 1974.jpg
Performing with Jefferson Starship in 1974
Background information
Birth name John Henry Creach
Born (1917-05-28)May 28, 1917
Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania United States
Died February 22, 1994(1994-02-22) (aged 76)
Los Angeles, California United States
Genres Blues, blues rock, psychedelic rock, classical, jazz
Occupation(s) Musician
Instruments Violin
Years active 1935–1994
Associated acts Jefferson Airplane (1970–1973)
Hot Tuna (1970-1974)
Jefferson Starship (1974-1976; 1978 [touring member])
Jefferson Starship - The Next Generation (1992-1994)
San Francisco All-Stars (1979–1984)
The Dinosaurs (1982–1989)
Steve Taylor

John Henry Creach (May 28, 1917 – February 22, 1994),[1] 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.[2] Early in his career, he performed as a journeyman musician with such luminaries as Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Stuff Smith, Charlie Christian, Big Joe Turner, T-Bone Walker, Nat King Cole and Roy Milton.[2]

Following his rediscovery by drummer Joey Covington in 1967, he fronted a variety of bands (including Zulu and Midnight Sun) in addition to playing with Jefferson Airplane, 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 guested at several 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.[3]

Life and career[edit]

Creach was born at Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania.[1] As a child, he was introduced to the violin by an uncle, and he received both tutoring in the instrument and conservatory training.[2] 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.[2] At one point, he joined a local cabaret trio called the Chocolate Music Bars, and toured the Midwest with them.[1]

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.[2]

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,[2] appeared in several films,[4] including with Nat King Cole in Fritz Lang's The Blue Gardenia,[2] and performed as a duo with Nina Russell.

Creach initially met and befriended drummer Joey Covington at a union hiring hall in Los Angeles in 1967. When Covington joined Jefferson Airplane in 1970, he introduced Creach to them. In the fall of 1970, he was invited to join both Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady's side band. He remained with both groups for four years while also recording and touring as a solo artist for Jefferson Airplane's Grunt Records; during this period, his backing band Zulu included guitarist Keb' Mo'.

In 1974, he left Hot Tuna to join Jefferson Starship following the dissolution of Jefferson Airplane. Creach toured and recorded with Jefferson Starship from 1974 to 1975, a period exemplified by his performances on the mammothly successful Red Octopus (1975). Around 1976, Creach left the band to focus on his solo career. Nevertheless, he remained on amicable terms with the group and briefly returned as a touring member for the band's spring 1978 engagements.

A year later, Creach renewed his working relationship with Covington as a member of the San Francisco All-Stars. He also performed with Covington's Airplane predecessor Spencer Dryden as a member of The Dinosaurs. Creach continued to make 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.[5]

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.

Discography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c "Creach Papa John". Encyclopedia of Popular Music (4th ed.). Oxford University Press. 2006. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g 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
  3. ^ Volunteer Jam compilations III and IV
  4. ^ Papa John Creach on IMDb
  5. ^ "Papa John Creach, A Violinist Versed In Pop, Dies at 76" New York Times (February 23, 1994)
  6. ^ "Live At Long Branch Park, 1983 - Papa John Creach - Songs, Reviews, Credits". AllMusic. Retrieved November 15, 2017. 

External links[edit]