Born: May 28, 1917 | Died: February 22, 1994 Primary Instrument: Violin
Papa John Creach - violin
Papa John Creach was arguably the best known blues violinist of his century, largely because of his association, not with a blues band, but with psychedelic rockers Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship.
Born in Beaver Falls, PA, the 18-year-old John Creach began playing violin in Chicago bars when the family moved there in 1935, and eventually joined a local cabaret band, the Chocolate Music Bars. Moving to L.A. in 1945, he played in the Chi Chi Club, spent time working on an ocean liner, appeared in a couple of pictures, and performed as a duo with Nina Russell.
In 1967, while playing at the Parisian Room, he was discovered by drummer Joey Covington. When Covington joined the Airplane in 1970, he introduced them to Creach, who was invited to join Hot Tuna. The audience reaction to his tune-up alone convinced the rest of the Airplane that he was a worth-while addition to the bands line-up. He would remain with the band, although legally regarded as a hired hand, for the next five years, before leaving in August 1975 to concentrate on his solo career. Despite this, he returned as a guest performer on the spring 1978 Jefferson Starship tour. A year later, he renewed his working relationship with Joey Covington as a member of the San Francisco All-Stars (1979-84), and also Covington's Airplane predecessor, Spencer Dryden, as a member of the Dinosaurs (1982-89). He also continued with occasional guest appearances with Hot Tuna, and was on stage at the Fillmore West that night in 1988 when Casady and Kaukonen were reunited with Kantner and Slick for the first time since the end of the Airplane.
In 1992, he became one of the original members of Jefferson Starship - The Next Generation, and performed with them until suffering a heart attack during the 1994 L.A. earthquake. This led to him contracting pneumonia, from which he died at the age of 76.