The Great Society

From: San Francisco, CA, USA

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.

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.

——–   Courtesy

Tracks played on Psychedelicized…

From the albums Conspicuous Only in its Absence, How It Was & Born To Be Burned
Born To Be Burned

  • Double Triptamine Superautomatic Everlovin’ Man
  • Father [Live ’66]
  • Father Bruce
  • Free Advice
  • Free Advice [Alternate Version 1]
  • Grimly Forming [Live ’66]
  • Right To Me
  • Sally Go ‘Round The Roses [Live 66]
  • Someone To Love
  • That’s How It Is
  • Where
  • White Rabbit
  • You Can’t Cry