Spencer Dryden (April 7, 1938 – January 11, 2005) was a Jewish American musician who was best known as the drummer for Jefferson Airplane, New Riders of the Purple Sage and The Dinosaurs.


Early life

Dryden was born in New York City to Alice Chapel and Wheeler Dryden, a half-brother of Charlie Chaplin. He moved to Los Angeles, California, as an infant, when his father went to work as an assistant director for Chaplin. Spencer fondly recalled playing at his famous uncle's Hollywood studio as a child. His father was a jazz fan, and took him to LA jazz clubs in the 1950s, which inspired his musical ambitions.

Jefferson Airplane

In mid-1966 Dryden was recruited to replace Skip Spence as the drummer in leading San Francisco psychedelic band Jefferson Airplane. The former jazzer, together with bassist Jack Casady, created an exceptional rhythm section. A feature of live Airplane sets at the time were free-form improvisational jams, with Dryden's licks complementing Casady's fluid style. During this time also, he had an affair with Grace Slick.

The song Lather, appearing on Jefferson Airplane's Crown of Creation (1968), is said to have been written by Grace Slick on the occasion of Dryden's 30th birthday. Its lyrics tell of a boy who stays as young as possible until one day when he is shattered by having to finally grow up. The instrumental sections are wild and purposefully discordant.

Dryden quit Jefferson Airplane in February 1970, motivated in part by the group's unpleasant experiences at the notorious Altamont Festival, during which lead singer Marty Balin was knocked unconscious by Hells Angels bikers and a festival patron, Meredith Hunter, was fatally stabbed.

New Riders of the Purple Sage, The Dinosaurs

Dryden left the music business for a short period, and returned to drumming as a member of the Grateful Dead offshoot The New Riders of the Purple Sage. He performed and recorded with them from late 1970 until 1977, at which point he became the manager of the band. After leaving the New Riders, Dryden went on to play a lengthy stint with The Dinosaurs and Barry Melton's band before retiring from drumming in 1995.

Later life

Spencer did not participate in Jefferson Airplane's 1989 reunion. In 1996, Dryden was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with the rest of Jefferson Airplane.

He had been suffering from a hip replacement and heart surgery in the past few years before his death. In 2004, several musicians, led by Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead and Warren Haynes (Gov't Mule and the Allman Brothers Band), raised US$36,000 to help pay Dryden's medical bills.

Spencer died from colon cancer in relative obscurity, reportedly living in a shack at the back of a rented property in Petaluma, California or Penngrove, California.

He was survived by his three sons Jeffrey, Jesse and Jackson Dryden and his mother Alice..


External links

This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Spencer Dryden. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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