Oct 16, 1966: Grace Slick Makes Airplane Debut

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Grace Slick made her Airplane recording debut on 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow

She was the acid queen of the San Francisco music scene and the psychedelic underground. And gave the young men of the counterculture “Somebody to Love,” or at least have a crush on. When Grace Slick sang with Jefferson Airplane for the first time at the Fillmore West on this day, it signaled a change in the band’s fortunes.

Slick was, in a way, also a poster girl for “dropping out” into the counterculture. Born Grace Barnett Wing, she was the daughter of an investment banker with ancestors who were among the Mayflower settlers of America. She attended the prestigious finishing school Finch College and was a floor model at the I. Magnin department store.

She started performing music in San Francisco in a band called the Great Society with her then-husband, Jerry Slick, and brother-in-law, Darby Slick, that became popular on the Bay Area scene. When the original Jefferson Airplane singer Signe Toly Anderson left the band after becoming pregnant, Airplane bassist Jack Casady recruited Slick to replace her. In a two-night stand at the Fillmore on October 15 and 16, 1966, Anderson played her last show on the first evening and Grace Slick made her debut as the new Airplane female singer the following night.

Related: Signe Toly Anderson passed on January 28, 2016

Slick brought with her to the Airplane two songs from the Great Society’s repertoire. One, “White Rabbit,” which she wrote, was an ode to psychedelic drugs based on Alice In Wonderland. The other, penned by Darby Slick, was called “Somebody to Love.”

Both songs were recorded on Jefferson Airplane’s second album, 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow, and became Top 10 singles that were the band’s most successful numbers. “Somebody to Love,” which Slick belted out in her powerful contralto voice, reached #5 on the Hot 100. It was followed by “White Rabbit,” which topped out at #8. They made the Airplane one of the most successful classic rock bands to emerge from the rock underground of the late 1960s.

Related: Our Album Rewind of Surrealistic Pillow

Slick fronted the Airplane from late ’66 through 1972. Two years later she and Airplane rhythm guitarist Paul Kantner started Jefferson Starship, which later morphed into simply Starship. With the latter she sang on two #1 singles – “We Built This City” in 1985 and “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now’ in ’87.

Related: Paul Kantner died on the same day as Anderson

On Oct. 13, 2022, Slick reunited with Jorma Kaukonen and Casady as the band was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Best Classic Bands Staff

2 Comments so far

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  1. JohnnyCNote
    #1 JohnnyCNote 17 October, 2017, 04:01

    Dig the groovy lava lamp, man! Far out…

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  2. Gregorio
    #2 Gregorio 18 October, 2019, 03:03

    Grace Slick is the original rock and roll Acid Queen! She along with Janis Joplin and Tina Turner paved the way for female rock singers today. Slick’s vocals were searing and superlative! Her work with the Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, Starship, and solo work were highly underrated and grossly overlooked! I’ve seen Grace Slick in concert in various iterations many times and she blew the roof off the place.

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