When Grace Slick Crashed Her Car After a San Francisco Street Race
Jefferson Airplane singer Grace Slick narrowly avoided disaster after she totaled her car while speeding home from a late-night recording session in the spring of 1971 — and walked away with little more than a few bumps and bruises.
At the time, the band was in the midst of recording its sixth studio LP, Bark. Tracked during a typically turbulent period for the Airplane, the album was their first without co-founder Marty Balin, who left partway through the sessions, complicating efforts to make a comeback after a two-year hiatus.
The group was already six months into recording at Wally Heider Studios in San Francisco when Slick and guitarist Jorma Kaukonen decided to blow off some steam by racing each other home from a late-night session on May 13. The duo sped up on Doyle Drive, a stretch of road notorious for inviting accidents, and before she knew it, Slick found herself added to the list. "A number of people like me have thought that this straight, wide road would be a good place to not only go faster than the speed limit," she later recalled. "Unfortunately, I found out the hard way that it's called Deadly Doyle Drive for a reason."
According to Slick, a recent rain mixed with oil on the road to make Doyle even more dangerous than usual, and she careened off the road into an embankment at 80MPH. "The impact threw me over to the passenger's seat, so I was one of those rare exceptions to the seat belt rule. If I'd been wearing one, I'd be dead today because the driver side of the car was crushed," she claimed. "It must have scared Jorma having to go up to a crushed car, wondering what kind of mangled mess he'd find."
Fortunately, Slick only ended up in the hospital for a handful of minor injuries, and after a brief delay, the band resumed recording Bark in time for a September release — after which Rolling Stone summed up the after-effects of the crash as "three concussions and a still-hurt right side of the mouth." She'd later attribute persistent memory problems to the crash, but she lived to speed again — although if she wants to put the pedal to the metal these days, Doyle Drive is no longer an option: the road has since been "re-envisioned" as Presidio Parkway.