Michelangelo claimed that he did not create a sculpture. Rather, the form was contained within the block of marble; he merely removed the excess, revealing the work of art."I feel the same way about music, and about all the projects Im involved in. The projects do themselves; the music comes through me." The same vision Marty had when he launched the Jefferson Airplane is present today. In fact, nearly everything he has worked on over the years has been fueled with his vision of art and music as vehicles for expressing a positive message. 'I still have the same attitude. "I still love the positive, uplifting songs, and I believe in songs with those qualities. I believe that music can help change the world for the better\"
Born Martyn Jerel Buchwald in Cincinnati, Ohio, on January 30, 1942, Marty was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area by parents Joe and Jean Buchwald. Joe became an important part in the 60s San Francisco music scene. As a lithographer, he was responsible for printing more than 200 different posters for shows at famous clubs like the Matrix, the Fillmore and Avalon Ballrooms. Jean started and kept the Jefferson Airplane scrap books featuring many of the photos and newspaper clippings that are exclusive to this site.
Growing up, Marty was always involved in art and music. He attended San Francisco State University; initially pursuing a career as a painter. After appearing in a production of West Side Story, Balin turned to music with the encouragement of his good friend Ralph's brother, Johnny Mathis.
In 1962 Marty renamed himself Marty Balin and began recording with Challenge Records, releasing the singles "Nobody But You' and "I Specialize in Love". They gained little attention, but his interest in music did not diminish and by 1963 Balin was leading a folk music quartet called The Town Criers, followed by a brief stint with the Gateway Singers in 1965.
Ultimately Marty wanted to electrify the folk sound. "I wanted to play with electric guitars and drums, but when I mentioned that notion in clubs that I played, the owners would say, "We would\'t have you play here, not with drums and electricity. This is a folk club. So I decided to open my own club" Balin opened the Matrix night club on August 13th 1965 featuring his new band Jefferson Airplane.
Marty met singer/guitarist Paul Kantner at the local club the Drinking Gourd, and together they formed Jefferson Airplane. Initially a folk-rock venture, the group came to epitomize the psychedelic scene, scoring a gold record with their 1967 second album, Surrealistic Pillow. Although vocalist Grace Slick was the focal point of hits such as "Somebody to Love" and "White Rabbit," Balin\\\'s soulful tenor proved a pivotal element of their sound as well. He also wrote key compositions including "Its No Secret" "Today," "Comin' Back To Me" "Plastic Fantastic Lover" 'Share a Little Joke," and\"Volunteers."
"Marty was the one who started the San Francisco scene," says Bill Thompson, Balin\\\'s roommate back in the mid-'60s and former manager of both the Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship. "Back in those days Marty was quite the businessman' said Paul Kantner. "He was the leader of the band on that level. He was the one who pushed us to do all the business stuff, orchestrating, thinking ahead, looking for managers and club opportunities. He was very good at it and then he shied away from it. It became offensive to have to deal with it." "In my formative rock days, Bill Graham was my manager, and you couldn't have a better teacher." – Marty Balin
Marty was the founder and featured vocalist for Jefferson Airplane from 1965 to 1971. He appeared with the group during their performances at Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, Woodstock, and the disastrous Altamont Speedway concert in 1969. Balin was knocked unconscious by a biker from the Hells Angels motorcycle club while he was trying to save a couple of fans from being beaten by the Hells Angels. (This event was captured on film in the Rolling Stones documentary Gimme Shelter).
In 1971, after departing Jefferson Airplane, Marty produced an album for the Berkeley, California group Grootna, featuring vocalist Anna Risso and guitarist Vic Smith. In 1973 Grootna went through some personnel changes. Marty took over lead vocals recording an album with the group under its new name Bodacious D.F.. In 1974, he contributed "Caroline", to Dragon Fly the first album released by Jefferson Airplanes follow up group, Jefferson Starship. Marty joined Jefferson Starship permanently in 1975 for the second album Red Octopus featuring the hit "Miracles."
"I wrote Miracles about my girlfriend at the time, and also about the miraculous powers of Sai Baba. I went to Puttaparti with her and saw Sai Baba. We journeyed through the South Indian desert to the village; the song emerged from that darshan, that experience. When I wrote Miracles,' I had my love for my girlfriend and my love for Sai Baba, two very different forms of love running through me. So the song is about both of them. I picked up my guitar and I started singing 'If only you believe, if only you believe like I believe, we\\\'ll get by. The words flowed one after another, along with the music. I got the song written down in one draft, on a sheet of yellow paper."
During 1978 Balin produced singer songwriter Jesse Barish\\\'s first album Jesse Barish. This album included Jesse own version of "Count on Me "."We had a great time. It was fun to work with my favorite writer on his first album. It was kind of a thrill to see him get the chance to put them all down in the studio."
At the end of 1978, after several major hits including "Miracles," "With Your Love,"\"Count on Me," and "Runaway" with Jefferson Starship, Marty left the band. In 1979 he coproduced Jesse's follow-up album Mercury Shoes with producer John Hug. This album featured guitarist Johnny DeCaro who would become Balin's guitar player in the early 1980s. Also during 1979, Marty produced a rock opera, Rock Justice, about a rock star who was put in jail for failing to produce a hit for the record company. The cast recording, produced by Balin, but not featuring him in performance, was released on EMI America. EMI then approached Marty about recording a solo album of his own.
In 1981, he released his first solo album, Balin, featuring two Top 40 hits. "Hearts" and "Atlanta Lady." This was followed in 1983 by a second solo album. Lucky, along with a Japanese-only EP called "Theres No Shoulder." After touring the world, Marty came home to San Francisco in 1984 and put together a new band featuring guitarist Mark "Slick' Aguilar.
Slick had played guitar with KC & the Sunshine Band, Wayne Cochran, Buddy Miles, and David Crosby. "Slick met me and said I'm your guitar player, and I told him I had a guitar player, and he said 'No Im your guitar player' and he gave me his number. He went back home and I was working with guitarist Johnny DeCaro at the time. Slick called me once a week and asked if I needed a guitar player and I'd say I have one. Then I had to let Johnny go and the next day Slick called me and said 'Hey, you need a guitar player, and I said,'Ya know I need a guitar player' It was kind a funny."
In 1985 Balin teamed up with Paul Kantner and Jack Casady to form the KBC Band. \"Paul left the Jefferson Starship. He was frustrated and upset with the current direction of the band. I told him to come over and rehearse with my band. So we\\\'d rehearse my band in the day time, take a break and come back in the evening and rehearse with Paul and Jack. Then Paul went and got a contract with Arista for the KBC Band."
After the breakup of the KBC band, a 1989 reunion album and tour with Jefferson Airplane followed. \"Until we walked out on stage for our first concert, it was the same old B.S.. After the first song, however, I just turned to Grace and it all came back to me suddenly ... and that thing we had between us came back. I started singing my songs right to her and making love to her on stage. The crowd went wild and it became a physical thing. The people who saw the live shows saw the real Airplane. We did not let down the legend.\"
Balin exploded into the 90s with his new band, Wolfpack. "That was a good band. We went to Russia, toured around and played a lot of good gigs. Kerry Kearney played lead guitar and was a dynamite player." Wolfpack also featured three women musicians, who doubled on harmony vocals including Marty's wife Karen Deal on keyboards and vocals. During their U.S. tour, Balin recorded his third solo album, Better Generation.
In 1993, Marty reunited with Paul Kantner in Jefferson Starship - The Next Generation, and in 1997 he recorded a fourth solo album, Freedom Flight. Followed in 1999 by Jefferson Starship's Windows of Heaven. Also that same year Marty recorded the cover album Marty Balin's Greatest Hits with guitarist Mark "Slick" Aguilar.
Marty, who is also an accomplished painter, entered the new millennium painting and exhibiting his work at various art galleries. He continued touring on and off with Jefferson Starship and released four albums of his own: Nashville Sessions, Mercy of The Moon, Nothin' 2 Lose, and Time For Every Season. In 2009 Balin spent the year on and off in the studio with Slick Aguilar recording new songs for the album Blue Highway to be released in the summer of 2010.
Jefferson Airplane's debut show was on August 13, 1965 at the Matrix nightclub in San Francisco. The first performance featured Marty Balin on vocals, Paul Kantner on vocals/rhythm guitar, and Jorma Kaukonen on lead guitar. Signe Anderson, (who sang on Jefferson Airplane's first recording "Jefferson Airplane Takes Off') also performed. The bass player, Jack Casady and drummer Skip Spence, (who was later one of the original members of Moby Grape) joined the band two months later. Spencer Dryden became the drummer in June of 1966 and Grace Slick joined as vocalist in October of 1966. The band performed the first concert for Bill Graham at the legendary Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco in February of 1966.
Jefferson Airplane performed at the Berkeley Folk Festival, Monterey Jazz Festival, Monterey Pop Festival, Woodstock, and Altamont. They had hit singles White Rabbit and Somebody to Love, from the album "Surrealistic Pillow". They were on the cover of Life Magazine in 1968. The band co- headlined with the Doors in Europe in the summer of 1968. Many legendary bands opened for the Airplane: Grateful Dead, Santana, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Creedence Clearwater Revival, The Who, Janis Joplin, Steve Miller, and many others.
The band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.