Bill Thompson, a former journalist and manager of the Jefferson Airplane for the last 46 years, died Monday (January 12) in Mill Valley, CA after having a heart attack. He was 70.
Thompson was a copy boy for the San Francisco Chronicle and a roommate of Marty Balin before the creation of the Jefferson Airplane. Balin formed the group with Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen, Signe Toly Anderson, Spencer Dryden and, eventually, Jack Cassidy. When the group started to make noise in the San Francisco area, they began to be represented by Matthew Katz. During the time, Thompson acted as the press agent, promoting the group with local publications.
Katz was fired in August 1966 and Thompson stepped in as a temporary manager until January 1967 when Bill Graham took over the reins. It was during Grahams time that the band had its greatest success with singles like Somebody to Love and White Rabbit but new lead singer Grace Slick did not get along with him and Graham was fired in January 1968 when Grace put out a me-or-him ultimatum.
Thompson then permanently took over the group, a position he held until his death. During the ensuing decades, he was responsible for convincing RCA to allow the band to leave the label to form their own Grunt Records while staying a part of RCA’s distribution business. When the Airplane broke up in 1972, Thompson continued to represent their interests for merchandising and use of music in other media, and owned a share and managed the Jefferson Starship. He also oversaw the career of Hot Tuna and, outside the Jefferson Airplane universe, Bill Champlain, Neil Schon and other artists.
Thompson is survived by his wife and a son from a previous marriage.
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