13 Amazing Bands Similar To Jefferson Airplane

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Jefferson Airplane rose to fame in the 1960s and early 1970s. They made a name for themselves as being one of the pioneers of psychedelic rock.

Hailing from San Francisco, California, the band was the first from the area to achieve international success. Some of the songs that propelled them to fame include “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit.”

Perhaps you’re wondering what other bands contributed to the development of psychedelic rock. You’re in luck! This blog post explores 13 amazing bands like Jefferson Airplane. Let’s get started.

Jefferson Airplane by Noord-Hollands Archief (CC0 1.0)

1. The Doors

One of the most influential American rock bands of the 1960s is The Doors. Formed in Los Angeles, the band was synonymous with counterculture and psychedelic rock.

The Doors’ unique sound combined elements from various genres. The fusion of blues, jazz, and acid rock created an experimental flair that captured audiences worldwide.

Some of their songs include “Light My Fire,” “The End,” and “People Are Strange.” Their discography included six albums and three more after vocalist Jim Morrison’s death.

The Doors’ connection with Jefferson Airplane extends beyond their shared love for psychedelic rock and experimentation in music. Both seminal groups performed together across Europe during this era as part of a wave of American bands captivating international audiences.

2. The Grateful Dead

The American rock band The Grateful Dead is one of the most influential bands in the psychedelic rock genre. They were a pivotal force in shaping the counterculture movement alongside Jefferson Airplane.

Both originating from San Francisco’s vibrant music scene, they played at various acid tests, which were parties advocating the use of the psychedelic drug LSD. The bands also embraced hippie values, which solidified their place within this cultural revolution.

As with most bands, they become known for their unique music in the genre where they belonged. The Grateful Dead, in particular, was known for its experimental music style. It combined elements of folk rock, jam band dynamics, and unique improvisational techniques.

3. Big Brother And The Holding Company

Also emerging from the San Francisco psychedelic music scene in the mid-’60s is Big Brother and the Holding Company. Along with Jefferson Airplane and The Grateful Dead, Big Brother was among the first waves of great bands hailing from this unique cultural movement.

One cannot discuss Big Brother without mentioning Janis Joplin. She is of America’s most iconic female singers, known for her unparalleled voice that oozed emotion and raw energy. She joined forces with Big Brother in 1966.

Like Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother’s music features a combination of psychedelic, acid, and blues rock. They managed to carve out a niche all their own by blending songwriting with exceptional musicianship.

4. The Byrds

Despite not having a long career, The Byrds quickly became one of the most influential bands of their era. This American rock band was formed in Los Angeles in 1964. Like Jefferson Airplane, The Byrds blended folk and psychedelia to create their unique sound.

One thing that made The Byrds popular was pioneering folk rock. They did so by combining the influences of British Invasion bands with traditional folk music. The sound created was evident on their first two albums and the singles “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Turn! Turn! Turn!”

Their music had been a source of inspiration for other bands, such as Jefferson Airplane. The latter drew inspiration from The Byrds to expand their folk roots, ending up with a pop-oriented sound.

The Byrds were true pioneers who left behind an incredible musical legacy for future generations to enjoy.

5. The Mamas & The Papas

The folk-rock group The Mamas & the Papas rose to fame in the 1960s with their unique West Coast sound. The group consisted of two women and two men, including Mama Cass Elliot, who became a beloved icon.

Their influence can be heard in many other psychedelic rock groups. They blazed a trail for others to explore unconventional approaches to music-making and pushed boundaries creatively.

One thing that’s similar between The Mamas & the Papas and Jefferson Airplane is their folk rock influence. The former infused their music with folk, pop, and rock, while the latter combined elements of folk, rock, and psychedelia.

If you’re looking for something similar to Jefferson Airplane’s sound or just want something fun from a bygone era, then consider giving The Mamas & the Papas’ discography a listen.

6. Love

One of the bands on this list that shares a lot in common with Jefferson Airplane is Love. Hailing from Los Angeles, their music was part of the same psychedelic rock movement that swept across America in the 1960s and beyond. In addition, both bands combined elements of folk, psychedelic, and acid rock.

One of Love’s most famous songs is “Alone Again Or.” It features intricate guitar work alongside Arthur Lee’s melodic vocals. Another notable track is “She Comes in Colors,” which showcases their unique sound with an upbeat rhythm section and swirling instrumentation.

If you’re looking for more music like Jefferson Airplane that captures the spirit of San Francisco during its heyday, give Love a listen.

7. The Velvet Underground

The American rock band The Velvet Underground is one of the most influential bands to ever come out of New York City. Their music was experimental, edgy, and raw. Like Jefferson Airplane, The Velvet Underground blended genres to create their sound. They infused their music with elements of avant-garde and art rock.

In the late ’60s and early ’70s, they were an underground sensation, standing in stark contrast to the peace and love movement that was popular at the time. But what set them apart from other rock bands was their willingness to explore taboo topics and hustle through their lyrics.

The band had a short-lived commercial success but became legendary long after they disbanded. Musicians cited them among artists who influenced modern punk rockers like Iggy Pop & Lou Reed’s solo projects.

8. The Yardbirds

Another psychedelic band that deserves to be on our list is The Yardbirds. They were a British band that rose to fame in the 1960s with their blues-based music. However, they quickly began experimenting with different styles and sounds, eventually evolving into an experimental pop-rock group.

One of the most notable aspects of The Yardbirds is the incredible talent that passed through their ranks over the years. Guitar legends Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page all played with the band at various points in time.

Jefferson Airplane likewise had a talented guitarist in its lineup. Jorma Kaukonen was an influential guitarist with his style infusing elements of blues and psychedelia.

Throughout The Yardbirds’ career, they released six albums and several successful singles, including “For Your Love,” “Shapes of Things,” and “Heart Full of Soul.” Rolling Stone ranked them 89th in their list of “100 Greatest Artists of All Time.” And in 1992, the band was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

9. Cream

Up next, we have the British band Cream, which also played a significant role in the development of psychedelic rock. Comprised of three talented musicians–Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker–Cream blended elements of electric blues, folk rock, and psychedelic music to create a unique sound that captivated audiences.

One notable album that Cream released is Disraeli Gears. It produced the songs “Sunshine of Your Love” and “Strange Brew.” This album helped establish Cream as one of the most influential groups in the counterculture movement during the late 1960s.

If you’re a fan of Jefferson Airplane, then you will appreciate the similar unique blend of styles that Cream brought to their music.

10. Santana

Yet another band that we can compare to Jefferson Airplane is Santana. They are one of the most legendary bands that emerged from San Francisco in the late 1960s. The band’s sound was heavily influenced by Latin music, blues rock, and psychedelic rock.

Led by the legendary guitarist Carlos Santana, the band quickly rose to prominence. They performed at several major events in the late ’60s and early ’70s, including Woodstock and Bill Graham’s Fillmore West.

Some of their hit songs include “Evil Ways,” “Black Magic Woman,” and “Oye Como Va.” Some collaborations also contributed to the band’s success. Their single “Smooth,” featuring Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas, and “Maria Maria,” featuring The Product G&B, were all commercial successes.

If one thing appears similar between Jefferson Airplane and Santana, it’s the cultural fusion in their music. Both bands drew inspiration from musical traditions and incorporated elements into their songs. Santana, specifically, featured their Latin American heritage and combined them with rock and blues influences.

11. The 13th Floor Elevators

Next, we have one of the most influential psychedelic rock bands, The 13th Floor Elevators. They were formed in Austin, Texas, in the mid-’60s.

Both Jefferson Airplane and The 13th Floor Elevators are known for experimenting with instruments. The former used electric violin and organ in their music.

The 13th Floor Elevators’ music, on the other hand, was heavily influenced by their use of echoey guitars and Tommy Hall’s electric jug instrument.

The band was also considered the first to use “psychedelic rock” to refer to their music. With their debut album, The Psychedelic Sounds of The 13th Floor Elevators, they quickly rose to fame in both Texas and California.

Their music was not only revolutionary but also had a profound impact on many other psychedelic bands that followed. The bands Primal Scream, Lime Spiders, Television, and Spacemen 3, among others, cited The 13th Floor Elevators as their influence.

12. Quicksilver Messenger Service

Also hailing from San Francisco is the psychedelic band Quicksilver Messenger Service. Formed in 1965, the band combined elements of rock, blues, and psychedelia to create their own sound.

As such, both Jefferson Airplane and Quicksilver Messenger Service were at the forefront of the countercultural movement. They contributed to the development of the “San Francisco sound, which blended rock, blues, folk, and psychedelia elements.

Throughout their career, the band was able to release eight studio albums and numerous live albums. Their acid-rock sound would go on to influence many other musicians who followed in their footsteps.

13. Country Joe and The Fish

Let us end this list with the psychedelic band from Berkeley, California, Country Joe and the Fish. They were one of several influential groups that emerged from the San Francisco music scene during the mid-1960s counterculture period.

Country Joe and the Fish was often associated with fellow San Francisco bands that existed during their time, such as Jefferson Airplane. Both bands became known for their politically charged lyrics and engaging live performances that featured improvisation and experimentation.

Some of the songs they released include “Section 43,” “Not So Sweet Martha Lorraine,” and “Grace.” The last song was a tribute to Jefferson Airplane’s vocalist, Grace Slick.

Summing Up Our List Of Bands Like Jefferson Airplane

If you’re a fan of Jefferson Airplane, then exploring similar psychedelic rock bands is a must. Some of these must be new to you, so you have plenty of music to discover.

From The Doors’ experimentation in music to The Yardbirds’ pop-rock sound, you will not run out of songs to satisfy your cravings for Jefferson Airplane.

Did we miss a band that must be on the list? We always love to hear from our readers! Let us know so we can add it above.

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.