On April 7, 1938, Spencer Dryden, drummer of Jefferson Airplane, was born in New York City. Dryden also drummed for New Riders of the Purple Sage, The Dinosaurs, and The Ashes (later known as The Peanut Butter Conspiracy).

Some trivia: Dryden’s uncle was Charlie Chaplin. (Chaplin was Dryden’s father’s half-brother.)

In 1966, Dryden replaced Skip Spence as the drummer in the psychedelic San Francisco band Jefferson Airplane. With his jazz background and improvisational skills, Dryden and bassist Jack Casady made a great rhythm section.

Dryden left the band in 1970, partially due to the experiences at the Altamont Festival, during which lead singer Marty Balin was knocked unconscious by Hells Angels bikers, and a festival-goer was fatally stabbed. (The video above shows them performing “The Other Side Of Life,” and the vibe is decidedly uncomfortable. The last minute or so shows some of the violence—be warned.)

Though Dryden didn’t join the band’s 1989 reunion, when Jefferson Airplane was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 1996, he performed with them in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2016, Jefferson Airplane received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dryden died January 11, 2005, from cancer.

Celebrate Dryden’s imaginative fills and steadfast rhythms with the following songs.

“Wooden Ships,” Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock 1969

“White Rabbit,” also at Woodstock
“Somebody To Love,” Live on The Dick Cavett Show


A Grace Slick song penned about her affair with Dryden on his 30th birthday.

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