Originating from San Francisco, the classic lineup of the group consisted of founder Marty Balin (vocals), Jack Casady (bass), Spencer Dryden (drums), Paul Kantner (vocals, rhythm guitar), Jorma Kaukonen (lead guitar, vocals), and Grace Slick (vocals, keyboard, woodwinds).
In the late 1960’s, San Francisco was to rock music what Liverpool had been in the early 60’s. And Jefferson Airplane was the quintessential San Francisco band. Mixing folk, blues and psychedelics, the theatrical group was known for unpredictable live shows. They also mixed politics and activism in with their brand of rock and roll.
As The Ed Sullivan Showattempted to remain current and attract a young audience, they continued to book rock and roll acts. When Jefferson Airplane was invited to perform on September 29, 1968, the director used a blue screen for effects. As the group performed, they projected psychedelic images behind them. The only problem was that the group had shown up wearing blue jeans, so their legs disappeared in front of the blue screen. That evening they sang two songs written by Paul Kantner, “The Crown of Creation” and “Won’t You Try”. The group was never invited back to the show mostly due to their refusal to change their wardrobe.
Following their turn at “Sullivan,” Jefferson Airplane went on to tour with another band that only made one Ed Sullivan Show appearance – The Doors. The two bands performed together at both Woodstock and Altamont.
In the early 1970s, The Jefferson Airplane audiences had grown to love was still flying, though the group began phasing into side projects. Due to drug problems, Dryden quit the band in 1970. Casady and Kaukonen took part in a side group named Hot Tuna and Kantner created Jefferson Starship on the side.
1974 brought the formal transformation of Jefferson Airplane into Jefferson Starship and the group continued to have success in the 1970s. As Jefferson Starship, the group had nine Top 40 hits. But personnel changes continued through the years. Balin left the group in 1979, followed by Kantner in ‘84, and the final original member to leave was Slick in ’88. The original group, Jefferson Airplane, was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.