Quicksilver Messenger Service (sometimes credited as simply Quicksilver) is an American psychedelic rock band formed in 1965 in San Francisco. They were most famous for the single "Fresh Air", from the album Just for Love, which was their biggest hit, reaching No. 49 in 1970. Quicksilver Messenger Service gained wide popularity in the San Francisco Bay Area and through their recordings, with psychedelic rock enthusiasts around the globe, and several of their albums ranked in the Top 30 of the Billboard Pop charts. Though not as commercially successful as contemporaries Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead, Quicksilver was integral to the beginnings of their genre. With their jazz and classical influences and a strong folk background, the band attempted to create a sound that was individual and innovative. Member Dino Valenti drew heavily on musical influences he picked up during the folk revival of his formative musical years. The style he developed from these sources is evident in Quicksilver Messenger Service's swung rhythms and twanging guitar sounds. After many years, the band has attempted to reform despite the deaths of several members. Recently, original members Gary Duncan and David Freiberg have been touring as the Quicksilver Messenger Service, using different musicians to back them up.
Quicksilver Messenger Service was formed in 1965 by John Cipollina on lead guitar, singer and guitarist Gary Duncan and drummer Greg Elmore who had played together in a group called The Brogues, David Freiberg on bass, a folk-guitarist who had previously been in a band with Paul Kantner and David Crosby, and guitarist Jim Murray. They began to rehearse at Marty Balin's club, the Matrix (who was organizing a band which would become Jefferson Airplane). They played their first concert performance in December 1965, for the Christmas party of the comedy troupe The Committee. It was a band without a name, Cipollina recalled: "Jim Murray and David Freiberg came up with the name. Me and Freiberg were born on the same day, and Gary and Greg were born on the same day, we were all Virgos and Murray was a Gemini. And Virgos and Geminis are all ruled by the planet Mercury. Another name for Mercury is Quicksilver. And then, Quicksilver is the messenger of the Gods, and Virgo is the servant, so Quicksilver Messenger Service."
Guitarist Jim Murray left the group not long after they performed at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June 1967. The band began a period of heavy touring on the West Coast of the United States where they built up a solid following and featured on many star-studded bills at the Avalon Ballroom and the Fillmore West. Sound engineer Owsley Stanley regularly recorded concerts at major San Francisco venues during this period, and his archive includes many QMS live performances from 1966–67, which were released on his Bear Recordings label in 2008-2009. QMS initially held back from signing a record deal at the time, but eventually signed to Capitol Records in late 1967, becoming the last of the top-ranked San Francisco bands to sign with a major label. Capitol was the only company that had missed out on signing a San Francisco psych band during the first flurry of record company interest and, consequently, Quicksilver Messenger Service was able to negotiate a better deal than many of their peers. At the same time, Capitol signed the Steve Miller Band, with whom Quicksilver Messenger Service appeared on the movie and soundtrack album Revolution (1968), together with the group Mother Earth. Quicksilver Messenger Service released their eponymous debut album in 1968.
Harold Aceves, formerly a roadie for the band, was added in 1972 as a second drummer and Mark Ryan was fired and replaced by Roger Stanton. Stanton was then replaced in 1974 for a brief period, by Bob Flurie, who was a well known east coast virtuoso guitar player, who was called upon for this brief period to take on bass player duties after which the group disbanded. In 1975, original members Greg Elmore, Gary Duncan, Dave Freiberg, John Cipollina, and Dino Valenti reunited for the album, Solid Silver featuring performances by Nicky Hopkins on a couple of tracks, plus contributions from various San Francisco area musicians, including Jefferson Starship's Pete Sears. By this time Freiberg had become a member of Jefferson Starship and he had worked with Paul Kantner and Grace Slick as a trio. In the 1980s Gary Duncan resurrected the name and released the albums Peace By Piece in 1986, Shapeshifter Vols. 1 & 2 in 1996, Shapeshifter Vols. 3 & 4, and Strange Trim in 2006, along with several live albums and a website, quicksilvermessengerservice.com. He toured on and off for the next decade or so under names Gary Duncan's Quicksilver and Quicksilver '96. In 2006, Gary Duncan and David Freiberg launched a 40th-anniversary Quicksilver celebration tour as Quicksilver Messenger Service. They still perform, often opening up for Jefferson Starship. The band appeared at the Rhythm Festival in August 2008 alongside their musical contemporaries Jefferson Starship. In 2002, there was a Quicksilver tribute band formed called Quicksilver Gold. They performed the music of the Quicksilver Messenger Service and members included Dino Valenti's son, Joli Valenti, as well as John Cippolina's brother, Mario Cippolina, and some members of Zero. This band broke up in 2004. John Cipollina died in 1989, at the age of 45, from emphysema. Nicky Hopkins died in September 1994 and Dino Valenti in November 1994.
Original band's studio albums
Quicksilver Messenger Service (1968)
Happy Trails (1969)
Shady Grove (1969)
Just for Love (1970)
What About Me (1970)
Comin' Thru (1972)
Solid Silver (1975)