What's in a Name? When Jefferson Starship Took Flight

Jefferson Starship in concert, 1975
Photo Credit
Cathy Murphy/Getty Images

Fans hoping to catch Jefferson Airplane in concert in March 1974 were in for a surprise when they kicked off their first tour: they had a brand spanking new moniker - one which lasted them through the rest of the decade and beyond: Jefferson Starship.
Two years earlier, the Airplane recorded Long John Silver, an album which found the band members in the midst of such a dysfunctional relationship that they eventually laid down tracks in individual studio sessions. This, as you might imagine, is not the ideal great way to maintain a group dynamic. Despite their failure to get along in the studio, however, the band still fulfilled their obligation to tour behind the LP, but when they performed the two final shows of the tour at the Winterland in San Francisco...well, that also seemed to be the two final shows of Jefferson Airplane. And it was...at least for awhile.

After guitarist Paul Kantner and singer Grace Slick spent a couple of years recording together more or less under their own names, the decision was made sometime in early ’74 to revive the old band. When they did so, however, they took on the name Jefferson Starship, which Kantner had previously used for a solo album, 1970's Blows Against the Empire. The line-up featured nearly everyone that was in the Airplane when they took a hiatus: Slick on vocals, Kantner on rhythm guitar, keyboardist David Freiberg (who'd joined during the last Airplane tour as a guitarist) John Barbata on drums and Papa John Creach on violin. Airplane guitarist/co-founder Jorma Kakounen and longtime bassist Jack Casady were the only ones not to join Jefferson Starship; they'd be replaced by Craig Chaquico on lead guitar and Kakounen's younger brother Peter joining on bass.

As noted, the newly-renamed band kicked off their first tour in March ‘74, soon replacing Peter Kakounen with Pete Sears; this line-up released Jefferson Starship's first album, Dragon Fly, later that year. From there, Jefferson Starship would continue recording and changing line-ups, briefly gaining Airplane vocalist Marty Balin, losing both Balin and Slick, and so on. Then in 1984, in the wake of Kantner’s departure from the band, the band dropped the “Jefferson” entirely and continue onward as simply…Starship.

READ MORE: June 1975: Jefferson Starship Release "Red Octopus"

But, of course, you already knew that. What you might not have remembered, however, was that Jefferson Airplane did eventually fly again: in 1989, original members Balin, Kantner, Slick, Kaukonen and Casady (minus original drummer Spencer Dryden) reunited for one last (self-titled) album.

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