The late Paul Kantner put the "Jefferson" in Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, and he was the one who kept Starship afloat, says the band's current vocalist, Cathy Richardson.
Kantner's legacy continues when Starship's "Carry the Fire" tour stops in Albany Friday night, where the band will perform at the Linn County Fair and Expo.
Jefferson Airplane was the one of the biggest rock bands of the 1960s. The band was one of the headliners at Woodstock and its songs "White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love," with vocals by Grace Slick, were among the most memorable of the era.
The band broke up in 1972, and Kantner launched Jefferson Starship two years later. The group had eight gold and platinum-selling albums and 20 hit singles from 1974 to 1984. Kantner experienced artistic and legal disputes with some members, so the rest of the crew went on without him under the name Starship.
Kantner revived Jefferson Starship in the early 1990s, and the band continues to tour.
When he died in 2016, his daughter, China, told his current bandmates that he would want them to keep playing, Richardson said.
Jefferson Starship created its "Carry the Fire" tour in tribute to Kantner and to continue the legacy for the fans and to introduce the music to the next generation.
In a recent interview with The E, Richardson said fans can expect to hear most, if not all, of the hits by both Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, including Starship's iconic "We Built This City."
And, Richardson said, "We'll probably play our new song."
The new single, "What Are We Waiting For," is from the band's next album, which is currently in pre-production with an expected release in 2019.
The current Jefferson Starship lineup has been together for nearly a decade.
It includes co-founder David Freiberg, a multi-instrumentalist who played in Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. Drummer Donny Baldwin was with the band from 1981-89 and rejoined in 2008 after playing with The Jerry Garcia Band and others. Keyboardist Chris Smith joined in 1998, and lead guitarist Jude Gold in 2012.
Richardson became a member of Starship in 2008 and said it's been more than a dream come true.
"It's amazing. I was such a big fan growing up. I have all of the albums on vinyl and would go to the concerts in the 80s when I was a teenager," she said.
Richardson was a vocalist who released several independent solo albums and with her group, The Cathy Richardson Band, including her Grammy-nominated 2004 album "The Road to Bliss."
Richardson was also involved in theater.
"I was singing as Janis Joplin in a play called 'Love, Janis' and that took me to San Francisco, where I met these guys," she said.
Jefferson Airplane, which formed in San Francisco in 1965 and was known as one of the pioneers of psychedelic rock, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.
Slick, who retired from the band after a 1989 tour, invited Richardson to sing in her place when Jefferson Airplane received the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016 at the Grammy Awards.
"All those years of fronting a band made me the perfect person for this, because I really do love and feel a connection to the music," she said. "It's a weird karma to now be in the band and have the trust of Paul Kantner, who's passed away, and Grace Slick to stand in that spot. Big shoes to fill."
Although Jefferson Starship is creating new music, Richardson said she and her bandmates love to please fans by performing as many hits from the catalog as they can during their 90 minutes on stage.
"We're constantly tweaking it and trying to make the ultimate set list and make everybody feel happy," she said.
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