Quicksilver Messenger Service

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."

Early career

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

Dino's song

Gold and silver

It was followed by Happy Trails, released in early 1969 and largely recorded live at the Fillmore East and the Fillmore West. According to David Freiberg, at least one of the live tracks was augmented with studio overdubs and the tracks "Calvary" and "Lady of the Cancer Moon" were recorded in the studio just before Gary Duncan left the band. These two first albums, which have been hailed as "...two of the best examples of the San Francisco sound at its purest," define the classic period in the group's career and showcase their distinctive sound, emphasizing extended arrangements and fluid twin-guitar improvisation. Cipollina's highly melodic, individualistic lead guitar style, combined with Gary Duncan's driving rhythm guitar, feature a clear jazz sound, a notable contrast to the heavily amplified and overdriven sound of contemporaries like Cream. In 2003 Happy Trails was rated at No. 189 in the Rolling Stone Top 500 albums survey, where it was described as "...the definitive live recording of the mid-60s San Francisco psychedelic-ballroom experience..." Archetypal QMS songs include the elongated, continually re-titled suite based on Bo Diddley's "Who Do You Love?" featured on Happy Trails. Duncan left the group not long after the recording of Happy Trails. His farewell performances were the studio recordings that ended up on Happy Trails and a final live performance with the band on New Year's Eve 1969. For their second 1969 album Shady Grove, Duncan was replaced by renowned English session keyboardist Nicky Hopkins, who had played on scores of hit albums and singles by acts like The Kinks, The Beatles, The Who and Steve Miller, among many others. Hopkins' virtuoso piano boogie dominates the album, giving it a unique sound within the Quicksilver catalog.
Joseph's coat

Edward, the mad shirt grinder

Later years

The next two albums, Just for Love and What About Me? both released in 1970, are sometimes called the Hawaiian albums because they were recorded mostly in a studio in that state, and both have a similar Hawaiian motif to their cover designs. They also sound similar to each other and very different from the group's earlier repertoire. Guitarist Gary Duncan is back with the band, but an even bigger change is that Dino Valenti joins and becomes the lead singer and (under the pseudonym of Jesse Otis Farrow) the main songwriter. What had been a jamming guitar band became little more than the backup musicians for a folk/pop oriented singer-songwriter; naturally this alienated some fans, but the records sold relatively well and produced the group's one legitimate hit radio single, "Fresh Air". 


Dino Valenti

Local color

Before the next recordings, John Cipollina and Nicky Hopkins went their separate ways. Cipollina and original member Jim Murray formed Copperhead which resembled Quicksilver updated for the 1970s. In 1974 Cippolina guested with Quicksilver-idolizing Welsh progressive rock group Man, playing with them at their 1974 Winterland concerts and guesting with them on a subsequent UK tour, which resulted in the 1975 live album Maximum Darkness. Hopkins continued his career as a studio musician, including playing with Jefferson Airplane at Woodstock. The band continued with the line-up of Gary Duncan, Greg Elmore, Dino Valenti and David Freiberg until September 1971, when Freiberg was replaced by Mark Ryan on bass and the group added Mark Naftalin on keyboards, and this line-up recorded Quicksilver (1971). Mark Naftalin was replaced by Chuck Steaks on keyboards in 1972 and Comin' Thru (1972) was released, a mere 36 minute album with "Doin' Time in the USA" as the album's most familiar cut. 

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)
Quicksilver (1971)
Comin' Thru (1972)
Solid Silver (1975)

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quicksilver_Messenger_Service