RIP Spencer Dryden
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> Spencer Dryden -- Jefferson Airplane drummer
> - Joel Selvin, Chronicle Senior Pop Music Critic
> Thursday, January 13, 2005
> Spencer Dryden, the drummer for the Jefferson Airplane who once appeared
>with his group on the cover of Life magazine but had fallen on hard times,
>died Tuesday from cancer. He was 66 years old.
> Mr. Dryden, who had health problems in recent years, retired from
>performing music 10 years ago, although he hadn't been working much long
>before that. "I'm gone," he told The Chronicle in May 2004. "I'm out of it.
>I've left the building."
> A benefit last year at Slim's starring Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and
>Warren Haynes of Gov't Mule raised some $36,000 for Mr. Dryden, who was in
>the middle of two hip replacement surgeries and was facing heart surgery at
>the time. His Petaluma home and all his possessions had been destroyed in a
>fire in September 2003. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer later last
> Mr. Dryden was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 for
>his work with the Jefferson Airplane during the band's glory years -- from
>the breakthrough 1967 "Surrealistic Pillow" album through historic rock
>festivals such as Woodstock and Altamont. He sat out the band's performance
>at the Waldorf Astoria that night, watching from the table. "He was always
>fragile," said Airplane vocalist Marty Balin.
> Born in New York City, Mr. Dryden moved with his parents when he was an
>infant to Los Angeles, where his father went to work as an assistant
>director for Mr. Dryden's uncle, movie star Charlie Chaplin. One Chaplin
>biographer described a scene of idyllic domesticity at a family Christmas
>party in 1943 when 5-year-old Spencer Dryden read "The Night Before
> After attending Glendale High School, he graduated from the Army and
>Navy Academy in Carlsbad (San Diego County) in 1955. He played in some
>early rock 'n' roll bands but soon drifted toward jazz and was working as a
>drummer at the Hollywood strip club the Pink Pussycat when session drummer
>Earl Palmer recommended him to the Airplane's manager.
> He replaced Skip Spence, who went on to start another Fillmore-era San
>Francisco rock group, Moby Grape. Mr. Dryden conducted an affair with the
>band's female vocalist, Grace Slick, and his marriage to the former Sally
>Mann was covered extensively in Rolling Stone magazine. He recorded on a
>number of the Airplane's most famous albums, "Surrealistic Pillow," "After
>Bathing At Baxter's," "Bless Its Pointed Little Head," "Crown Of Creation"
>and "Volunteers," before leaving the band in 1970.
> He replaced Mickey Hart in the Grateful Dead sideline country-rock band,
>New Riders of the Purple Sage, in February 1971 and stayed with that group
>until 1978, recording a number of albums including the 1973 gold album "The
>Adventures of Panama Red."
> In the '80s, he joined a group of psychedelic rock veterans called the
>Dinosaurs that played informally around Bay Area clubs along with former
>members of Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger
>Service and Country Joe and the Fish. When the other band members reunited
>for a 1989 Jefferson Airplane reunion album and tour, Mr. Dryden was not
>invited to participate.
> "Spencer had a flow," said Mickey Hart of the Dead, "a way of going, an
>impulse power that was irresistible and unique. He was capable of creating
>a churning, loving rhythm machine for ecstatic dancing."
> "He was just the greatest guy," said ex-wife Sally Mann Romano of
>Houston. "He was so quirky, and he never intentionally hurt anyone."
> He last appeared in public in November, after he was already being
>treated for cancer, signing autographs and shaking hands at a release party
>for the recent DVD of Jefferson Airplane video clips at the Great American
> He died at his Petaluma home, little more than a shack really, that he
>rented on the back end of somebody else's property outside of Penngrove.
> He was married three times and is survived by three sons; Jeffrey, Jes
>and Jackson Dryden. Plans for a memorial concert are pending.
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