January 28 was a bad day for all Jefferson Airplane fans. Paul Kantner, the guitarist for the band, died and, today, it was learned that Signe Toly Anderson, the original lead singer for the band, also passed away.
No cause of death has been announced although it is understood she had suffered a period of poor health. She was 74.
Marty Balin wrote on Facebook:
One sweet Lady has passed on. I imagine that she and Paul woke up in heaven and said ‘Hey what are you doing here? Let's start a band’ and no sooner then said [late drummer Spencer Dryden] was there joining in! Heartfelt thoughts to all their family and loved ones.Anderson was born in Seattle and grew up in Portland, OR where she became a respected jazz and folk singer. In the mid-1965, she took a trip to San Francisco where she performed at the club The Drinking Gourd where Balin heard her sing. Marty invited her to join the fledgling band he was forming with Paul Kantner and, later, Jorma Kaukonen, Bob Harvey and Jerry Peloquin. Harvey and Peloquin were gone by October 1965 and replaced by Jack Cassidy and Skip Spence, forming the original core of the Jefferson Airplane which recorded their debut album Jefferson Airplane Takes Off.
Signe was the co-lead singer for the group and only sang out front on a couple of tracks, notably Let's Get Together and Chauffeur Blues. While she got along with the bandmembers fine, she didn't trust their manager, Matthew Katz, and demanded an escape clause be written into her contract with the band that would make her a free agent if she decided to leave.
That legal move was smart as, in July 1966, she decided that she no longer wanted to be a member of the Jefferson Airplane as she was pregnant and didn't feel that the atmosphere was appropriate for raising a child Bill Graham talked her into staying until the band could find a replacement and she was finally done with the band by October.
Anderson returned to Oregon where she sang for almost a decade with Carl Smith and the Natural Gas Company before she was diagnosed with cancer. After recovering from the disease, she returned to Smith's band. She also made guest appearances with the KBC Band (Paul Kantner, Marty Balin and Jack Casady) and Jefferson Starship.
Jack Casady said:
She was a real sweetheart with a terrific contralto voice coming from a solid folk background. Listen to how she made the three part harmonies of ‘JA Takes Off’ sound so thick … her wonderful tone between Paul’s and Marty’s.