The Great! Society

 

Although The Great! Society lasted for one year only, they are one of San Francisco's important bands. Their style helped define the early San Francisco sound and tracks like "Somebody To Love" and "White Rabbit", which later became the only Top 10 hits for Grace Slick and Jefferson Airplane, are widely known today.

The band was founded by brothers Darby and Jerry Slick and Jerry's wife Grace who all came from a wealthy bohemian background, i.e. they did whatever they liked to do and once they decided to start a band they did just that. In the beginning Jerry would play the drums, Grace sang harmonies and played guitar as did Darby who had already played guitar in several bands.

Subsequently Darby Slick became the driving force in the band and especially his musical eastern influences (Ravi Shankar), paired with Grace's outstanding vocals, became one of the band's trademarks. The band recruited Bard Dupont as bass player - actually Bard couldn't play bass but his long hair made him look like one and when he promised to learn how to play he got he job. Bard also brought in guitarist David Miner who worked with him at the Post Office. It was Bard's friend David Freiberg who came up with the name The Great Society (in sarcastic honour of LBJ). The exclamation mark which can be seen on early posters and handbills was originally added by Bard's girlfriend Michele.


Jerry Slick, David Miner, Grace Slick, Bard Dupont, Darby Slick

With this line-up and the name The Great! Society they started to rehearse, write songs and had their first gig in October of 1965. The gig was a success and shortly after they managed to get an engagement at Tom Donahue's short-lived Mother's nightclub and a recording option with Donahue's Autumn Records.


Jerry Slick, David Miner, Grace Slick, Peter Vangelder, Darby Slick
From October to December 1965 they recored several tracks for Autumn Records at Golden Gate Studios which were produced by Sly Steward. Tracks included "Free Advice" and "Somebody To Love" which were used as the bands first single (Northbeach 1001). The single didn't do much but "Somebody To Love", which was written by Darby Slick, would later become a major hit for the Jefferson Airplane who recoreded the song when Grace joined them. Other songs recorded at those sessions were not used and only released several years later - see discography ("Born To Be Burned").

The Great Society continued to play places like the Matrix, the Fillmore and the Avalon Ballroom. Selections of the Matrix sessions were released on two albums when Grace became famous with the Jefferson Airplane - both albums were later combined on one CD (see discography).

Bard Dupont was fired from the band March 1966 simply because his bass playing never matched his good looks. The band recruited bass player Peter Vangelder who like Darby was heavily influenced by Indian music. Thus The Great Society's music added even more elements of eastern music. David Miner left the band in summer of 1966 and even though the band had just agreed to sign a contract with Columbia Records, they totally collapsed after a gig on Halloween night, when Grace left to join the Jefferson Airplane who were looking for a new vocalist.

The Great Society's history can now be found in various publications, including the liner notes of the published CD booklets, a great article written by Alec Palao with the help of Darby Slick and Bard Dupont in Ceam Puff War magazine and the book "Don't You Want Somebody To Love" written by Darby Slick. Plus, you can still get their music on CD and catch the early San Francisco sound.

Additional info: Bard Dupont who also was manager of The Outfit died January 20, 2005. He was 64.

 

Discography:

  • 1966 Conspicious Only In Its Absence
  • 1967 How It Was
  • 1989 Live At The Matrix
  • 1990 Collector's Item
  • 1995 Born To Be Burned

    The Great SocietyConspicious Only In Its Absence
    The Great Society

    (Columbia Records 1966)
    Sally Go 'Round The Roses -- Didn't Think So -- Grimly Forming -- Somebody To Love -- Father Bruce -- Outlaw Blues -- Often As I May -- Arbitration -- White Rabbit

    Musicians: Grace Slick (vocals); Darby Slick (guitar); David Minor (guitar); Peter Vandergelder (bass); Jerry Slick (drums)

    See
    Collector's Item.
    The Great SocietyHow It Was
    The Great Society

    (Columbia Records 1967)
    That's How It Is -- Darkly Smiling -- Nature Boy -- You Can't Try -- Daydream Nightmare -- Everybody Knows -- Born To Be Burned -- Father

    Musicians: Grace Slick (vocals); Darby Slick (guitar); David Minor (guitar); Peter Vandergelder (bass); Jerry Slick (drums)

    See
    Collector's Item.
    The Great SocietyLive At The Matrix
    The Great Society

    (Edsel/Demon Records 1989)
    Sally Go 'Round The Roses -- Didn't Think So -- Grimly Forming -- Somebody To Love -- Father Bruce -- Outlaw Blues -- Often As I May -- Arbitration -- White Rabbit -- That's How It Is -- Darkly Smiling -- Nature Boy -- You Can't Try -- Daydream Nightmare -- Everybody Knows -- Born To Be Burned -- Father

    Musicians: Grace Slick (vocals); Darby Slick (guitar); David Minor (guitar); Peter Vandergelder (bass); Jerry Slick (drums)

    Contains the same songs as "Conspicious Only In Its Absence" and "How It Was". CD is out of print.

    The Great SocietyCollector's Item
    The Great Society

    (Sony Records 1990)
    Sally Go 'Round The Roses -- Didn't Think So -- Grimly Forming -- Somebody To Love -- Father Bruce -- Outlaw Blues -- Often As I May -- Arbitration -- White Rabbit -- That's How It Is -- Darkly Smiling -- Nature Boy -- You Can't Try -- Daydream Nightmare -- Everybody Knows -- Born To Be Burned -- Father

    Musicians: Grace Slick (vocals); Darby Slick (guitar); David Minor (guitar); Peter Vandergelder (bass); Jerry Slick (drums)

    Contains the same songs as "Conspicious Only In Its Absence" and "How It Was".

    The Great SocietyBorn To Be Burned
    The Great Society

    (Sundazed Music 1995)
    Free Advice -- Somebody To Love -- You Can't Cry -- That's How It Is -- Girl -- Where -- Heads Up -- Free Advice -- Father Bruce -- Born To Be Burned -- Double Triptamine Superautomatic Everlovin' Man -- Love You Girl -- That's How It Is -- Right To Me -- Where -- Free Advice -- Daydream Nightmare Love

    Musicians: Bard Dupont (bass); Grace Slick (vocals); Darby Slick (guitar); David Minor (guitar); Peter Vandergelder (bass); Jerry Slick (drums)

    Sessions recorded for Autumn Records at Golden State Recorders (October through December).

     

    Further Links:
  • Darby Slick's comeback CD "Sandoland"

  • Darby Slick's 2nd solo CD "King Of The Fretless Guitar"

  • Grace Slick @ Wikipedia.org

  • Grace Slick @ JeffersonAirplane.com
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