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Bill Thompson, Jefferson Airplane Manager, Dies at 70

Michael Ochs Archive / JeffersonAirplane.com

Bill Thompson, who managed Jefferson Airplane, died of a heart attack in Mill Valley, Calif., yesterday. He was 70 years old.

As jambands.com notes, Thompson began managing the group in 1968 and stuck with them through their subsequent name changes to Jefferson Starship and then just Starship. He also managed the Airplane spin-off group Hot Tuna, as well as the solo careers of Airplane membersĀ Paul Kantner, Jorma Kaukonen andĀ Grace Slick.

Thompson was instrumental in making the Airplane one of the Bay Area’s most popular bands during the era. He was around when they played both Woodstock and Altamont, and he was there as the group splintered and transformed from psychedelic folk band to chart-topping pop artists over the years.

He was born Oklahoma City in 1944 and moved to San Francisco for college. His roommate was Marty Balin, who sang with Jefferson Airplane. Thompson served as the band’s press agent at first. After the band went through two other managers (including rock legend Bill Graham), he was asked to take the job. He stuck around through all of the chaos and the hit records.

Thompson also managed other artists throughout his long career (including Neal Schon), but it was Jefferson Airplane and their long, extended family that kept him most busy. He was also a consultant for Polygram Records and booked concerts well into the ’90s.

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