For many, Jefferson Airplane epitomized the psychedelic sound that emerged from San Francisco in the late 1960s.
Formed in San Francisco in 1965 by vocalist Marty Balin and guitarist Paul Kantner, the group’s members were drawn largely from the local Folk scene, and their early recordings featured Folk-Rock inspired by bands like the Byrds and the Beatles. After their debut album failed to make an impact they refined their sound to reflect the ethos of San Francisco’s burgeoning hippie youth culture; in 1966, they also replaced their singer, who left to have a baby, with former model Grace Slick. Their second album, 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow reflected this shift, melding their Folk influences with a more psychedelic sound and lyrics referencing drugs and counterculture ideals. The singles "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" both made the Top 10 in 1967 and helped bring national attention to San Francisco as the center of the “Summer of Love.”
The band regularly appeared on television, toured frequently and was the only band to play at the Monterey International Pop Festival, Woodstock and The Altamont Speedway Free Festival. The band would release five more albums, with their sound growing heavier and more experimental and with songs growing longer and less radio-friendly. Though they would never again reach the singles chart, their albums would do well thanks in part to the budding outlet of FM radio, which favored longer album tracks.
Jefferson Airplane split up in 1972 after creative differences and escalating drug and alcohol abuse caused rifts within the band. Members found success in various solo projects, in Hot Tuna (formed by bassist Jack Casady and guitarist Jorma Kaukonen) and in the offshoot band Jefferson Starship and Starship. The Surrealistic Pillow era group reformed in 1989 for a single record, called Jefferson Airplane, and a tour.