Paul: Spencer

Spencer died last night

Requiescat in Pace

among other things...

Paul
San Francisco

carry on


Sally Mann Dryden (Romano): Spencer 

Paul - thanks for posting this. Get in touch if you have a minute. 
Love always, Sally.



Chris Hager: Very Sad

Paul: Thanks for telling us. I'm saddened to hear this. All my thoughts go out to Spencer's friends, loved ones, and JA (and other) associates. Chris Hager



Tom Troccoli: I only met the guy once...

It was at a club called The Starry Nights in Portland. Our band was playing cross town, and we were invited to drop by after our gig and see 'The Dinosaurs.'
Well, most of the people in our touring party were most assuredly NOT into going, what with the Punk thing and all.
I went though. It was amazing. The band was tight, and Hunter was singing so strong and pure. Cippolina as always was blowing my mind.
After the set I went back and said Hi to a few people. I spent most of my time with Cippolina as he was a guitar hero to me for (at that time) 15 plus years.
John was great, but not well. We had a great old chat session, and at the end, we traded T-shirts.
Spence was hanging close by and would join our chat from time to time.
One thing that rarely is said about the original Haight musicians. Once you get past the usual obvious rock star posings, they are generally very nice people. Not true for most rockers, but the SF scene seemed to incite a certain familial atomosphere (I tried channeling in my own career with some luck). 
Anyhow, the point being that Spence seemed to me to be a perfect gentelman, and in truth his drumming THAT night at least (as well as a few other times I saw The Dinosaurs) was wonderful.
There are just NOT enough guys out there like Cippolina and Dryden any longer.
Thanks for breaking the sad news Paul, it's always tough to lose family, and bandmates are.
Please take good care of yourself. All of us. And our families too...
Tom ( now playing Chushingura for Spence) Troccoli



Terry in Virgina: Love and sympathy

Love and sympathy to Spencer's family and friends. Just some kind thoughts from someone who enjoyed his music immensely.

Terry in Virginia

wd: Deepest sympathy for Spencer's family and friends

Deepest sympathy for Spencer's family and friends We will miss him
We will miss him

wd



Dave Diamond: Spencer Dryden

Paul,

You have my prayers, thoughts and deepest condolances for the loss of your brother & friend. He will be missed.....
God Bless you all.

http://wildmansworld.homestead.com/Dinosaurs.html




Ms.B: Peace

to Spencer and family...

You will be missed.



Rick: A great force

Spencer is gone -

his influence will be here forever



steve turtl: He held the BEAT

a true master of drums. he was the backbone. and will be sorely missed.

LOVE to all family, JA, fans and friends.

steve



Graham S: Just "heard" the news

A sad day.

Saw Spencer twice ('68 & '03, latter time managed to speak briefly).

It seems so sudden since the announcement of just how ill he was.

Goodbye Lather.


Do A Line: Spencer

A very sad day. I'll always remember Spencer as a very thoughtful person. He always had time to say hello, take a photo or just shake a hand. My life has been enriched by having met him. Carl



Stevie D: Sad news

Been too busy at work to come up for air until today and the words Spencer Dryden and his picture hit me right in the solar plexus. 

I hope his journey across the Great Water to the Other Side of This Life is smooth.

R.I.P. Spencer Dryden



Adrian: Spencer

What can you say, except sympathy to all his family and friends.

Adrian.



Gee-Bee: Crown Of Creation.......

Very sad news tonight.Sympathy to the family & friends.........g-b.



MC: In honor of SPENCER DRYDEN, I utter The Sacred Word:

CHUSHINGURA!

May he find perfection in the center of The Lotus.


Scot: Spencer has touched more lives that he probably realized

His music is everywhere!

We're so lucky to be able to
lose ourselves in such poetry
and music...today and for a long
time to come.

Peace be with Spencer.



Scot

W7: Fly away >>>>

So sorry to hear this news....

John Murray: Rest in peace my good friend.

I will never forget the kindness you showed me.
The world is indeed at a loss without you.
Your memory will live on in our hearts forever.
Hope you now are at peace....
and making one hell of a joyfull noise
jammin with jimi, janis & bill

Your friend and fellow dinosaur,
John Murray



Wayne R: Peace

A wonderful drummer and as others have said, part of the soundtrack of my life.

Wayne

kevin r schmidt: spencer

no words ever seem right at a time like this ...

peace ... 

reflect ...



Rick Martin: My deepest sympathies

I never got a chance to meet Spencer, but, always enjoyed his music. My sympathies go out to his family and all of his friends...

Rick Martin



Valerie: Oh dear ...

My deepest sympathy and condolences to all those who loved him and were closely connected to him.

His contribution to the music of JA has brought me a lot of happines over the years.

I hadn't been on A-deck for some time and hate it when I finally come back and then read of sadness like this. I feel very miserable indeed about it.


Lisa: RE: Sad News In Regard To Spencer Dryden

Hi!

What SAD, SAD NEWS!! I too am sorry to hear this!!!

Lisa



Tim Lucas: Blues for Spencer

I am heartbroken to learn of Spencer's death. We corresponded briefly by e-mail a year or so after I first came online, and I found him a responsive, enthusiastic and utterly unpretentious correspondent.

He didn't have much patience for "mushy" talk about the Airplane, but I will always value his letters for the wisdom they showed in introducing me to the best in modern jazz. Knowing this was Spencer's background, I mentioned to him that I had always been wary of getting into jazz and he told me what I should be listening to in order to get my feet wet. I now love jazz of various periods and have a collection the size of one wall. I owe that, in part, to his guidance.

I'm a professional writer and, last year, I started writing screenplays and managed to get my first effort optioned by a major Hollywood director. For my second project, I decided to write a biopic about the Airplane, titled JEFFERSON AIRPLANE: LOVE & HAIGHT -- which is based in part on Jeff Tamarkin's book GOT A REVOLUTION!. I say this so that readers will understand that Spencer was not just an acquaintence of mine, but in a strange way, he became a character of mine. The script is making the rounds and I'm proud of it, not least of all because it plays fairly with Spencer, whom I have always considered to be an important and undervalued component of a band saddled with, perhaps, too much talent for its own good. I think he was one of the most elegant rock drummers of that era, up there with Ringo Starr and Charlie Watts. Both Bill Thompson and Jeff Tamarkin have read my script and seem to approve of it. My agent tells me she has met a cable television producer who is interested in the project, so cross your fingers. But I am saddened to know that Spencer probably died without knowing of the project and won't be seeing that film, if it ever gets made, because part of me wrote it for him. 

I'm gonna play some jazz tonight in Spencer's honor, and I'll think of him every time I hear Gene Krupa, Art Blakey, Elvin Jones or Tony Williams. He was one of their number.



Dave: Sad News Indeed

Glad I saw him at the Marin show in 2003. I thanked him for the music when we met. He will be missed. 

Dedicate the Feb JS tour to him. 

Dave



twilight double leader: sad news, sad day, the sky cries

Looking back, Spence wrote his own epitaph in an interview before the benefit show last year:

His eyes brimmed with tears as he talked about the [Slim's] benefit.

"I'm gone," he said. "I'm out of it. I've left the building." 

(From http://www.shns.com/shns/g_index2.cfm?action=detail&pk=AIRPLANEDRUMMER-05-27-04)

We shed a few tears in your memory as well. May you go gentle ..



Marin Paul S.: FLY ON SPENCER>>>>>>>>>>>>

>>>>>>>>>>>



Space Skythian: She will always have funny cars

You made my life a little brighter. I am sure I am not alone in saying that. If he asks please tell that to St. Peter.



Eth: Just in...it's also nice to recall....

...that the community came out in force for Spencer last year, to honor and support him at a benefit wonderfully organized by Pete Sears.
Spencer was present there, and he was also able to enjoy the JA DVD release party in SF where many old friends obviously connected......... 


My best to all,
Ethel



Juicy Brucie: Jorma's words, as I received them

"The times of a man's life. Sometimes the scenes flit by your eyes like the 3D images in a viewmaster. I just heard that my old band mate and friend, Spencer Dryden, died last night. I was so fortunate that I was able to talk to him several times in the past couple of months. We joked together that some of our contemporaries considered us in late middle age... late middle age if you plan on living to be 130 years old. Yes, we were two older men talking together from the perspective of our age... and it felt like home. For me, the incarnation of the Airplane I liked best was the one with Spencer, Paul, Marty, Jack, Grace and myself. We struggled together... occasionally lived together... argued together... loved together... and made some great music together. A time past... a time of being young together... a time that only exists today in our mind's eye. Indeed... What a time! Spencer had been so sick for such a long time. It is easy of course, to say that he is in a better place, but I believe it to be so. When the quality of life diminishes beyond acceptability if we are lucky, we get to move one. 

Spencer, you were a part of my youth, my growth... my journey. In the last year we became reacquainted again and you became a part of my journey once more. I will treasure the things you said to me when Friends used Embryonic Journey for their closing episode. There are many who will always be a part of my life, living in my heart and my memory... You are in that grand company for sure. Your pain is gone... that jaundiced eye with which you always looked at the world is bright again... No one could say 'Awww man,' with more dripping disdain than you. It was in a class with my Grandmother saying 'Feh!' to the world.

Your door into summer has opened... enjoy the journey old friend. Ride free to the edge of the world!"


Ron S: Jorma on Spencer

Jorma has a nice remembrance of Spencer on the "thoughts" page of his website.

Ron S



E Jung: Art Quote of the Day ( for Spencer)

"Often the hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain." 


Carl Gustav Jung 


Art quote of the night: On Death (Thanatos)

On the day I breathe my last
Rend the Veil and let me pass
I don't ever want to be where I'm unwanted

I have lived in this Vale of Tears
Walked alone for many long years
DEATH will be the day of my rejoicing

bridge from "Paean to Thanatos" by
the unruly censured free artist of many names


Andy Jones: The Greatest Recovery

So sorry to hear about Spencer's passing . he was a great drummer ...wonderful style .

In my view , he 'owns' the greatest 'recovery' ever put on a rock n' roll record ....his lead into the second verse of 'Fat Angel' on 'Bless it's Pointed little Head'...it's simply masterful.I could go on about other favorite moments but that's the best .

Rest in peace



Tim Silven: Spencer

I feel unusually saddened by Spencer's passing. I knew it was coming but for some reason I felt he might pull out of it. 

I am happy that alot of us got to hang with him at the Marin show and the Benefit at Slim's in San Francisco last May and again at the Airplane DVD Release Party at the Great American Music Hall. I am glad that Spencer felt comfortable and had enough strength to get out and be among those that loved him. I remember him driving up to the load in at the Marin Civic in his silver PT Cruiser and out he stepped.....the legendary Spencer Dryden.....Jefferson Airplane, New Riders and Dinosaur drummer of great renown. It was too cool to actually see him up on stage again, even if only for a brief stint at the drums that night. He was gracious backstage and hung out at the table with Paul and others. He appeared to enjoy getting out and mingling with us all.

Much thanks to Pete Sears and Steve Keyser for getting together and throwing the very TIMELY Benefit for Spencer last May. That made Spencer extemely happy and put tears in his eyes several times that night. 

My thoughts go out to Sally and Jesse and I hope they are doing well.

Spencer....may your memory live forever. Journey in peace amigo.

Tim 




E: It would..........

When Tim spoke of Marin, and the Galactic Reunion, it caused me to recall that that was a very poignant Tribute to the whole Experience, with many involved, Signe, Jack Traylor, David Freiberg.........Darby, Diana and Prairie, Chris and Slick, Marty and Paul, and Spencer. 

Thanks Michael, again, for your efforts with the promoter to bring that event together for all.
It's a nice memory to reflect on.

E




Right this MINUTE David Gans is playing 3/5 of a Mile Fun ...on his live radio program on KPFA.


MadMan: My regrets

This is difficult to hear for most of us. Hopefully an appropriate JA memorial tribute will take place at some time. Wouldn't that be nice?
MM

Jes: With regards to my father's passing...

As the news travels, we are starting to get quite a few phone calls and e-mails regarding things such as services, cards, flowers / donations, our needs, and the such. Unfortunately, with the somewhat quick timing of recent events, we have not yet had a chance to work all of these details out. As things are finalized, information will be posted to www.spencerdryden.com. Nothing much other than a guestbook at the moment, but we hope to have something up within the next few days or so.

~ Jes

P.S. I am posting this to 2400Fulton and A-Deck. If there is some other central point of discussion that may benefit from this information, please feel free to repost.



tomv: mourning and legacies

it is sad to hear of spencer's passing; even more sad to know of his suffering beforehand. my deepest sympathies go out to the friends and family of spencer.

spencer has clearly touched a lot of people with his humor, music, and friendship as evidenced here and other places & boards where people have been mourning his passing and reminiscing tales of old. both the music and the memories will live longer than we do.

what a wonderful legacy to have left behind.

thank you, spencer.
peace.



Plain Keith: Why does it hurt so....?

I never met the guy. Though he was a very, very good drummer, I liked Barbata's technique better - and I thought Joey's songwriting contributions were far superior.

But Spencer sure was an interesting character. Who else would have got Zappa involved with the Airplane?!?

A lot of the movie/theatre kind of stuff the Airplane were on the fringes of 68-69 was influenced by Spencer.

Importantly, he brought a welcome, rather gouche sense of humour to a group of poeple rather prone to take themselves over-seriously.

And, of course, he was at the heart of that 18 months or so when the Airplane really did rewrite the concept of 'improvisatory rock' -something so extraordinary that neither they nor successor line-ups have ever truly equalled it. Perhaps unequalled in the media of rock since?

But I never saw that line-up - have only 'POINTED HEAD' and a couple of bootlegs to remind me just how incredible they were during that peak phase - and it's all so many years ago now. 

Spencer was a part of the Airship for less than 4 years.

So why does it matter so much?

I'm still wrestling with that one.

Is it because the Airship have been the soundtrack to my life - and now the most publicly-revered of the drummers is gone? If that's so, how will I feel when Paul or Marty head off? [God help me!]

Is it because so many of the Airship have been larger-than-life characters to match their beyond-normal talents?

...and we sort of feel we know them even if we don't?

I look at the picture of Spencer on spencerdryden.com and go 'That is so Spencer!'

What the fuck am I on about? How do I know what was 'Spencer'?!?!? 

Yet it means and it matters and it hurts...and I am sad.

It is like a family member I wasn't close to but loved nonetheless has passed.

Last night I after I had read everything I could find on A-Deck and Fulton and Jorma's page, I sat and drank beer and thought about Spencer and 'Spencer moments'.

And the one that kept coming back to me was in the chopper on the way to Altamont when Spencer and Jorma were rowing about whether the band should play or not.

Was I there? Of course, I wasn't - but it feels like I was and I have my own version in my head of what went on.

That's what I mean about these larger-than-life characters.

I'm pleased that, after all the reported feuding over Bill Graham's sacking, Paul and Spencer made it up enough for Spencer to play at the Galatic Reunion.

Strangely enough, we saw more of Spencer in public in the last year or so of his life than we had probably since the Hall of Fame induction.

I want to play the 'FLY' DVD tonight...to watch and listen to this man who was a part of such a phenomenon. Not sure I can do it yet without blubbering.




ben holden: Spencer Dryden

Spencer was god...

He listened to everything that was going on and 'fixed' the little mistakes.

only met him twice...when the band played for me in oct, 1968...it was spencer who turned the green room into a circus...there was a trampoline in the corner, spencer openned it up and did some real fancy flips, sommersaults and dives...even touching the ceiling...afterword, Spencer said that he'd been a diver in high school and knew all those tricks well...drove the school's gym staff crazy with fear till he nailed a tripple...the band talked for all of twenty minutes about setting up a gym in 2400 and buing a trampoline.

ya see, of all the airplaners, spencer could fly.
peace, love, woodstock
aloha Ben 



Pete: Spencer

Hope is the destination that we seek.
Love is the road that leads to hope.
Courage is the motor that drives us.
We travel out of darkness into faith.

From "The Book of Counted Sorrows" by Dean Koontz

Scot: To me, Spencer was the jazz musician in the Airplane

They all contributed a mix of
sounds and style.

Spencer played drums like a genius
jazz musician.

The AIRPLANE and the AIRPLANE sound...
fucking unique!

I played Surrealistic Pillow so loud
last night that my neighbor had to
complain. I'm up for an encore later
today.

;-)


don aters: Spencer Dryden......thoughts......

He is quiet now, but the cloak of death rings louder from the eerie silence. For most of us, Spencer represented all that was and is great about an era, a generation, and as a product of the counter culture. Above all else, he was truly a good person, a clown Prince and endearing as a personality,the traits that are actually far greater than being an iconic drummer. 
Thanks for the "magic" Spencer, & may you "Rock In Peace", 
your loss is now our loss and you will be missed.
Cheers
Don

Ron S: Rollingstone.com Spencer Obituary

http://www.rollingstone.com/news/story/_/id/6840281/jeffersonairplane?pageid=rs.Home&pageregion=single1


Ron S



Juicy Brucie: S.F. Chronicle article link - Spencer

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/01/13/BAGVGAPF1T1.DTL

That is one of the most beautiful
memorials that I've ever read.

Scot



John Murray: a guest book to sign for Spencer

http://www.spencerdryden.com

Sally Mann Dryden (Romano) 
ARRIVAL: 13.01.2005 - 10:34 - United States of America 


Spencer and I had the quintessential rock-and-roll marriage, and he made so many of my dreams come true. Without Spencer, I probably would not have been dancing onstage at Woodstock and gazing out at a whole new city of beautiful dirty faces, or on a Hawaiian beach at sunset, on a houseboat on Lake Tahoe, or a thousand other places that he took me so generously. Jefferson Airplane has defined my life in so many ways--without Paul, I would not know Jorma; without Jorma, I would not know Spencer, and without Spencer, I would not have my precious, precious friend, Grace; and then there's Jack and Jackie and Thompson and Laudner and Chick--and so many others, and on and on it goes. I love them all and am so incredibly grateful that Spencer and I continued to love each other long after we were physically separated. Most important, Spencer gave me my beautiful son, Jesse James, and I have never been so proud of him as I am now-watching him care for his father has been a truly awesome experience--it's one of the most difficult jobs in the world, and Jesse has done it with elegance and grace, traits passed on from from his dad. I have always thought that Spencer was one of the most under-rated musicians in the world, and it means so much now to see his friends and fans acknowledging his unique talent and the way his music affected their lives. I never stopped loving Spencer, despite his foibles and Lather-like tendencies, which all seem incredibly inconsequential now. We were truly the loves of each other's lives, and that will never, never change. Go Home, Spencer, pure peace and perfect love are waiting for you there. The circle remains unbroken, and your place in it is secure. "Through an open window where no curtains hung,I saw you coming back to me," looking just the way you did when we met at Jorma's in 1968, so impossibly handsome and young. Go on now and take my heart and never-ending love with you. Thank you for all things Airplane, for your humor, your love, your generosity, your art, your lasting friendship, for Jesse, Jackson, and Jeffrey, and for saving my life when it needed saving. I love you with all my heart--forever, forever, forever. I am so looking forward to seeing you on the other side.



Scot: So beautiful

That is one of the most beautiful
memorials that I've ever read.

Scot



Marin Paul S: My email to Modern Drummer Magazine

To the editor in chief of Modern Drummer Magazine(The worlds most widely read drummer magazine)Moderndrummer.com :

Hi, I would really love to read about this legendary drummer in MD. He was a good man, great drummer. The open taps on the snare alone on '"White Rabbit" secures his place in Rock and Roll history. The older guys will appreciate it, and maybe we can introduce Spencer to the younger generation. Spencer Dryden has been overlooked for long enough! Thanks. PAUL



ethel and ray: A Message from Pete Sears

Pete has requested that one of us carry this over to please post at Fulton.

First posted to Spencer's guest book:

I went to see Spencer the day before he left Marin General. Through the semi-obscuring shrouds of morphine, he spoke to me from his bed about the CD he was planning on putting together. In spite of his obviously debilitating illness, he seemed to be full of determination and enthusiasm for the immediate future. One of Spencer's sons, Jackson, the only other person in the room, sat patiently as two old sods rambled on about music and other mundane things. The young, attractive nurse who had just steered Spencer and his walker through the maze of corridors for a bit of exercise was now off dealing with other things medical, and quietly gearing up for another dose of Spencer's wry sense of humor. Spencer knew his time was near; I could see it in his eyes. He told me earlier this year that he was touched by the outpouring of love and support (my words) he received from the musical community after his house burned down and he fell ill. He hadn't asked for any help.
Spencer's son Jes, with quiet fortitude is attempting to unravel the tangle of red tape created by his illness and a less than sympathetic medical system -- an on going battle. My condolences go out to Sally and the rest of his family and friends for their loss.
I shan't remember Spencer as the young rock drummer with the Jefferson Airplane because, being a part of the British music scene, I didn't know him then.
I will always remember Spencer as the man with a wry glint in his eye, leaning on his walking stick like the old salty sea dog he's always been, and facing his own mortality with resignation and humor.

Pete Sears



Grand Wazoo: Spencer Dryden 1938-2005

from the Ny Times:

Spencer Dryden, 66, Drummer of Jefferson Airplane's Heyday, Dies
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS 

Published: January 14, 2005


ETALUMA, Calif., Jan. 13 (AP) - Spencer Dryden, the drummer for the legendary rock band Jefferson Airplane in its glory years, died on Monday at his home here. He was 66.

His death certificate listed cancer as the cause. 

Mr. Dryden was inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 for his work with Jefferson Airplane, from its breakthrough 1967 album "Surrealistic Pillow" through its participation in historic rock festivals like Woodstock and Altamont.

He was heard on hits like "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit" and on the group's other albums, including "After Bathing at Baxter's," "Bless Its Pointed Little Head," "Crown of Creation" and "Volunteers."

Mr. Dryden retired from performing 10 years ago, although he had not been working much before that.

"I'm gone," he told The San Francisco Chronicle last May. "I'm out of it. I've left the building."

A benefit concert last year featuring Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and Warren Haynes of Gov't Mule raised $36,000 for Mr. Dryden, who had two hip replacement operations 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 learned he had stomach cancer last year.

Born in New York City, Mr. Dryden moved to Los Angeles with his parents when he was an infant.

He attended Glendale High School and graduated from the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad, Calif., in 1955. He played in some early rock bands but soon drifted toward jazz and was working as a drummer at a Hollywood strip club, the Pink Pussycat, when a session drummer, Earl Palmer, recommended him to Jefferson Airplane's manager. He replaced Skip Spence, who went on to start another 1960's San Francisco rock group, Moby Grape. 

During his stint with the Airplane, Mr. Dryden had an affair with Grace Slick, a vocalist in the group, and his marriage to the former Sally Mann was covered extensively in Rolling Stone magazine. He left the band in 1970.

Mr. Dryden replaced Mickey Hart in the country-rock band New Riders of the Purple Sage in February 1971 and stayed with that group until 1978.

In the 1980's, Mr. Dryden joined a group of rock veterans called the Dinosaurs. The band, with former members of Big Brother and the Holding Company, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Country Joe and the Fish, played informally around the San Francisco Bay Area. 

When the other members of Jefferson Airplane reunited in 1989 for a reunion album and tour, Mr. Dryden was not invited.

He last appeared in public in November, signing autographs and shaking hands at a release party for a DVD of Jefferson Airplane video clips.

He was married three times and is survived by three sons; Jeffrey, Jes and Jackson Dryden

Neil: Spencer - London Times Obit

In today's printed version it is almost half a page (with photo).

Words at:-

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/printFriendly/0,,1-45-1440525,00.html



Adrian: Even the BBC have picked up on the story...
From the BBC's text service:

"Jefferson Airplane drummer dies

Spencer Dryden, drummer with rock group Jefferson Airplane in the group's heyday of the late 1960s has died.

Dryden, who was 66, died of cancer. He joined the band in 1966 and helped them achieve US top 10 hits including Somebody To Love and White Rabbit.

He left in 1970 after performing with the band at the Woodstock festival.

Dryden, whose father was half-brother to Charlie Chaplin, was diagnosed with cancer in 2004 shortly after having hip replacement and heart surgery."

LifeIsChange: Spencer Dryden

Rock on, Sir, rock on..


Jeff Tamarkin

He Had Funny Cars

From the first time I heard Spencer Dryden play the drums in 1967, I knew the guy was way beyond. The rattling snare of “White Rabbit,” the wall-of-sound of “Somebody To Love,” the pounding tom-toms of “She Has Funny Cars”—I was an aspiring drummer myself at the time and those tunes, along with his other contributions to Surrealistic Pillow, turned my ideas about the instrument inside out. I of course knew about Keith Moon and Ginger Baker and Mitch Mitchell, the wild men, and the steady precision of Charlie Watts and Ringo Starr. But Spencer brought a new elegance to drumming. He was no mere timekeeper and he was no show-off—he contributed colors to the music and took it to a level it would not have reached with lesser hands and feet.

It wasn’t till much later, after I Bathed at Baxter’s, Crowned Creation, Volunteered and Blessed My Pointed Little Head, that I really came to understand Spencer’s approach to the drums. He had come from a place few others in the San Francisco scene had ventured—jazz—and he brought that music’s openness to the Airplane, opening doors the others in the group might not have realized were there to be opened. Spencer’s reference points weren’t the folkies and bluesers of the others; his world was one inhabited by jazz cats and Lenny Bruce, Howard Hughes, Douglas Fairbanks, Barbara Eden (!) and Boris Karloff, and characters with names like Athena the Golden Grecian Goddess. He had cut his drumming teeth in the strip clubs of the Sunset Strip, places like the Pink Pussycat, not the beatnik coffeehouses of San Francisco’s North Beach. No one even knew until long after he’d left the fame game that Charlie Chaplin was his uncle, and that he’d hung with Frank Zappa before that mustachioed genius made his considerable mark—Zappa would become a considerable influence on Spencer’s artistic tendencies throughout the Airplane years; that oddness factor you hear on “A Small Package of Value Will Come to You, Shortly” is pure Dryden.

San Francisco was an alien environment to Spencer when he was first brought up there—he never did know how Matthew Katz, the Airplane’s soon-to-be-fired first manager, found him—to audition for the Airplane. But it only took a few minutes for him to fall right in and realize he was home at last. Replacing Skip Spence on the Airplane’s drum stool was not especially challenging for Spencer at first—he was the most experienced musician in the band, after all, and what they were doing wasn’t exactly hard work. He would strive to make it so, always pushing the edge further back. Spencer, lead guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady comprised the power-trio half of the Airplane—Spencer combined muscle and grace and brought the music out of its shell.

Speaking of Grace, their attraction to each other in those early days was natural. When Ms. Slick became the band’s new female singer, she and Spencer gravitated, kindred souls. Their alignment pushed the band’s center outward every which way, both musically and personally, and it’s impossible to imagine that some of the band’s more outré material might even have existed had the pair brought their weird tandem dynamic chemistry into play. Marty Balin and Paul Kantner, along with Grace, might have been the band’s premier singers and songwriters, but Spencer’s role in the realization of their dreams was incalculable.

It’s sometimes hard to believe now that he was only in Jefferson Airplane for some four years and change. But ask anyone when the Airplane’s peak years were and they’ll tell you, without hesitation, that it was the period of 1966-70, precisely coinciding with Spencer’s tenure.

After he left the Airplane, Spencer of course continued to make great music, with New Riders of the Purple Sage and later the Dinosaurs. The man from Hollywood became San Francisco royalty, and eventually a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee. I consider myself fortunate to have known him. In researching and writing my biography, Got a Revolution! The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane, I spent many, many hours speaking with Spencer on the phone and, whenever I could get to the Bay Area, in person. He had a sharp mind for detail, an even sharper wit, and a keen understanding of the Airplane’s place in the rock world and his own place in the Airplane. He was often a lifesaver, sorting out for me some sequence of events that no one else seemed quite able to remember and tossing out anecdotes that illuminated for me the behind-the-music goings-on that made this particular confluence of people what it was.

Most of all though, I just liked the man. Spencer, for all his troubles—and he had more than his share—was a sweetie. He always took the time to lend his help and support and he embraced my project wholly. There was no rock star air about him—there was a tenderness to Spencer; he was a guy you could confide in and count on. Even as he weakened and times got irreversibly tougher for him, I never once heard him complain. When I came to San Francisco to promote my book, I invited him to the reading and although he knew that getting to the city from his home in Petaluma would be a chore, he not only made it but he was the star of the show, answering questions for fans and signing books and album covers, taking the time to speak with anyone and everyone.

The last few years were difficult, what with the surgeries, the illnesses and the house fire. But when I spoke to Spencer during those times, it wasn’t his troubles that came up. It was music, people, family, the world. Now that world is a little bit less interesting to live in.

 

- Grace Slick (Jan 13, 2005)

Though Spencer was the oldest member of our band he was, in some ways, the youngest. He lived in his imagination. A master of "fills" on the drums, he could connect disparate phrases & unify a seemingly impossible leap of time changes. I know because I was often the main offender with my strangely written hybrid tempos. From Los Angeles, he was more "San Francisco" than a lot of people who were born there. His thought processes were almost always from a gentle storybook hopefulness rather than the pragmatic truss that often inhibits creativity. Many of his ideas could not be realized in the paradigm of the times but that didn't stop him from enjoying enthusiastic late night marathons involving lots of paper, pencils & endless ideas for music, movies, books & television. We laughed & talked about an impossibly carefree future. We argued & cried about imposing realities. We loved. And he is loved.

"Lather was 30 years old today, they took away all of his toys." 




By Jorma Kaukonen 
Wednesday, January 12, 2005 Austin, Texas

The times of a man's life. Sometimes the scenes flit by your eyes like the 3D images in a view master. I just heard that my old band mate and friend, Spencer Dryden, died last night. I was so fortunate that I was able to talk to him several times in the past couple of months. We joked together that some of our contemporaries considered us in late middle age... late middle age if you plan on living to be 130 years old. Yes, we were two older men talking together from the perspective of our age... and it felt like home. For me, the incarnation of the Airplane I liked best was the one with Spencer, Paul, Marty, Jack, Grace and myself. We struggled together... occasionally lived together... argued together... loved together... and made some great music together. A time past... a time of being young together... a time that only exists today in our mind's eye. Indeed... What a time! Spencer had been so sick for such a long time. It is easy of course, to say that he is in a better place, but I believe it to be so. When the quality of life diminishes beyond acceptability if we are lucky, we get to move on.

Spencer, you were a part of my youth, my growth... my journey. In the last year we became reacquainted again and you became a part of my journey once more. I will treasure the things you said to me when Friends used Embryonic Journey for their closing episode. There are many who will always be a part of my life, living in my heart and my memory... You are in that grand company for sure. Your pain is gone... that jaundiced eye with which you always looked at the world is bright again... No one could say 'Awww man,' with more dripping disdain than you. It was in a class with my Grandmother saying 'Feh!' to the world.

Your door into summer has opened... enjoy the journey old friend. Ride free to the edge of the world!


Jack Casady 

My friend and partner Spencer Dryden, played drums and percussion during what I believe was the most creative period of Jefferson Airplane. His love of Jazz, and influences of many of the Jazz greats gave his approach to the music of the band such a broad pallet to choose from. For me, some of the best times we shared together were the early RCA Los Angeles recording sessions. That is where he really enjoyed himself and because of our success with Surrealistic Pillow, gave us the extended studio time for albums to follow, where he had the time to experiment and search for unique things to do in the creation of the music. Spencer and I shared a love for some of these music influences form the Jazz world, or for that matter, shared the appreciation of good musicianship in general. We would talk for hours about such things........his knowledge of music was vast and full of depth. But, however, his absolutely wacky sense of humor used to crack us up all the time. We shared so many fine times laughing about silly stuff, and trying not to take the "rock hype" too seriously. I will always remember Spencer for his kind heart, humor, and musicianship. God bless you Spencer. You leave us with so many gifts to contemplate. 




Bill Thompson

I remember the first time I met Spencer. It was in early 1966. Jefferson Airplane's first drummer, Skip Spence, took some acid & split to Mexico with Martha Wax & Girl Freiberg. The band decided that they needed another drummer because, after a few weeks, no one knew if he would ever come back. 

They began auditioning drummers at the flat that Marty Balin & I rented on Haight & Belvedere sts. One day this cool guy showed up wearing a black cowboy hat. He started jamming with Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen & Paul Kantner. Marty & I watched. He was very impressive & got the job. Spencer was a great percussionist & technically one of the best drummers in rock. He was not a powerful drummer like a Keith Moon or a Ginger Baker but his chops were as good as anyone. He had been a jazz drummer and an avid student of the great jazz artists. He helped form the sound of Jefferson Airplane which was unique. They didn't sound like anyone else. I was with the band when they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1996. Everyone spoke at the Ceremony & Spencer thanked jazz greats who had passed on. Spencer, you are jamming at the ultimate club with the "greats" which is where you belong.

Groove! 




Sally Mann Dryden (Romano)

Spencer and I had the quintessential rock-and-roll marriage, and he made so many of my dreams come true. Without Spencer, I probably would not have been dancing onstage at Woodstock and gazing out at a whole new city of beautiful dirty faces, or on a Hawaiian beach at sunset, on a houseboat on Lake Tahoe, or a thousand other places that he took me so generously. Jefferson Airplane has defined my life in so many ways--without Paul, I would not know Jorma; without Jorma, I would not know Spencer, and without Spencer, I would not have my precious, precious friend, Grace; and then there was Jack and Jackie and Thompson and Laudner and Chick and Marty--and so many others, and on and on it goes. I love them all and am so incredibly grateful that Spencer and I continued to love each other long after we were physically separated. Most important, Spencer gave me my beautiful son, Jesse James, and I have never been so proud of him as I am now-watching him care for his father has been a truly awesome experience--it's one of the most difficult jobs in the world, and Jesse has done it with elegance and grace, traits passed on from his dad. I have always thought that Spencer was one of the most under-rated musicians in the world, and it means so much now to see his friends and fans acknowledging his unique talent and the way his music affected their lives. I never stopped loving Spencer, despite his foibles and Lather-like tendencies, which all seem incredibly inconsequential now. We were truly the loves of each other's lives, and that will never, never change. Go Home, Spencer, pure peace and perfect love are waiting for you there. The circle remains unbroken, and your place in it is secure. "Through an open window where no curtains hung, I saw you coming back to me," looking just the way you did when we met at Jorma's in 1968, so impossibly handsome and young. Go on now and take my heart and never-ending love with you. Thank you for all things Airplane, for your humor, your love, your generosity, your art, your lasting friendship, for Jesse, Jackson, and Jeffrey, and for saving my life when it needed saving. I love you with all my heart--forever, forever, forever. I am so looking forward to seeing you on the other side. 

Gone From My Sight

I am standing upon the seashore.

A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze

and starts for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength.

I stand and watch her until at length

she hangs like a speck of white cloud

just where the sea and sky come to mingle with each other.

Then, someone at my side says,

“There, she is gone!”

“Gone where?”

Gone from my sight. That is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull and spar

As she was when she left my side

And she is just as able to bear her load of living freight

to her destined port.

Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says,

“There, she is gone!”

There are other eyes watching her coming 

and other voices ready to take up the glad shout,

“Here she comes!”

And that is dying.



(Gone from my Sight by Henry Van Dyke, circa 19th c.)



Pete Sears

I went to see Spencer the day before he left Marin General. Through the semi-obscuring shrouds of morphine, he spoke to me from his bed about the CD he was planning on putting together. In spite of his obviously debilitating illness, he seemed to be full of determination and enthusiasm for the immediate future. One of Spencer’s sons, Jackson, the only other person in the room, sat patiently as two old sods rambled on about music and other mundane things. The young, attractive nurse who had just steered Spencer and his walker through the maze of corridors for a bit of exercise was now off dealing with other things medical, and quietly gearing up for another dose of Spencer’s wry sense of humor. Spencer knew his time was near; I could see it in his eyes. He told me earlier this year that he was touched by the outpouring of love and support (my words) he received from the musical community after his house burned down and he fell ill. He hadn’t asked for any help.

Spencer’s son Jes, with quiet fortitude is attempting to unravel the tangle of red tape created by his illness and a less than sympathetic medical system -- an on going battle. My condolences go out to Sally and the rest of his family and friends for their loss.

I shan’t remember Spencer as the young rock drummer with the Jefferson Airplane because, being a part of the British music scene, I didn’t know him then. I will always remember Spencer as the man with a wry glint in his eye, leaning on his walking stick like the old salty sea dog he’s always been, and facing his own mortality with resignation and humor.





Paul: For Spencer

Spencer

Ad Astra

I went by 2400 Fulton Street the other morn
And in the early morning swirl of fog and light I sat there outside and contemplated 'many a quaint & forbidden volume of forgotten lore' as I watched quietly the ever-changing San Francisco dawn sunrise skies, reflected off the windows of Spencer & Sally's room there

I thought of all we had done and all we still had to do
I looked upon the reflections of swirling sky in the second story windows of Spencer's old room
and I pondered on my own octagonal room directly above

All we had done there, been there, seen there

And I thought of the people who had moved through these halls

And those who had meant so much in my life
_____ in all our lives

I generally don't 'do' death
Preferring instead to concentrate on the life,
the brain-diamonds there

And I well remember the wit and intellect of Spencer's playing, his 'music', and The cleverness of his fills...
His dedication to 'the path'
and I am grateful for the good times we had walking that path together

I am particularly fond of Spencer's final playing appearance with us at our Galactic Reunion last year and his magnificent, standing drumming on "She Has Funny Cars" then

"Spencer," I said. "Where are you now?

We all continue the dance, the thrill of the auld double helix."

Not only in his name but for the good of all of us
Forever and ever ... amen

Our drummer has left the building
"Carry the fuck on
as we can," he might say

"Death is for amateurs!"

And we never did answer the fundamental question of the universe
did we
But then, none of us ever do 
... do they

Now we are five
Carrying on
in our way

Paul 
San Francisco