Under the Hood: Paul Pena and “Jet Airliner”

Paul Pena may have been a blind, sickly, blues singer, but he did not lack ambition and drive.  When he moved to San Francisco 1971, he cold-called the Grateful Dead’s office, and wound up being the opening act for Jerry Garcia whenever he performed in the Bay Area.

Pena’s most famous song “Jet Airliner” was from an album produced by Steve Miller’s keyboard player, Ben Sidran.  A dispute with the owner of the label not only put that record on hold, but left Pena unable to record for anyone else.  Then Ben Sidran gave a copy of the album to Steve Miller. He liked the song “Jet Airliner,” and in 1977 it became a huge hit for the Steve Miller Band.

And here is Paul Pena’s original version, from his album NEW TRAIN.  First recorded in 1973, the album was finally released 27 years later, in 2000, in the wake of his fame from the documentary GENGHIS BLUES.   Paul Pena.  “Jet Airliner.”