John Cipollina Biography

24 August 1943, Berkeley, California, USA, d. 29 May 1989. Cipollina was one of the most prominent musicians to emerge from the San Francisco rock scene of the late 60s. Settling into Mill Valley, California, just north of San Francisco, with his family at the age of six, he first learned to play piano, but soon switched to electric guitar. He joined his first band, the Penetrators, in 1959 and the Deacons a few years later. Along with singer Dino Valenti, harmonica player Jim Murray, guitarist/singer Gary Duncan and drummer Greg Elmore he formed Quicksilver Messenger Service in late 1965. Valenti was jailed for marijuana possession shortly after and another musician, who was just getting out of jail, David Freiberg, was recruited into the group. Quicksilver (minus Murray, who had left earlier) became one of the most important of the San Francisco bands, playing at the Fillmore Auditorium, the Monterey Pop Festival and signing with Capitol Records in 1968. Cipollina stayed with the band until October 1970, after which he did session work in San Francisco. In late 1970 he formed a new band, Copperhead, as a loose collection of musician friends, recording one album on Columbia Records with the line-up of Jim McPherson (guitar/bass), Gary Phillipet (guitar/keyboards), David Weber (drums) and Hutch Hutchinson (bass). The band folded in 1973 and from that time until his death in 1989, Cipollina remained prolific, at times an active member of up to four groups at once. Cipollina’s blistering yet flowing guitar style (using a Gibson SG) epitomized the San Francisco hard rock sound. Among the bands with which he worked in the 70s and 80s were Terry And The Pirates, the Dinosaurs, Raven, the Welsh group Man (appearing on the live album Maximum Darkness), Zero, and Thunder And Lightning. Ironically, he never recorded a true solo album, although his guitar work has appeared on dozens of albums.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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