Joey Covington protested the Vietnam War as a drummer with the rock band Jefferson Airplane.

In the past week, the Johnstown native said, some of the old feelings came back – thanks to a stance by a congressman from his hometown.

Covington read about U.S. Rep. John Murtha’s call for a withdrawal of troops from Iraq in the Los Angeles Times.

The newspaper reported that the Democrat from Johnstown had fired a shot across the bow of the White House, and Covington called The Tribune-Democrat to learn more.

The Iraq ordeal took Covington back to the late 1960s and early ’70s, when Jefferson Airplane and other bands opposed the war in Vietnam and spoke out against the actions of another administration.

“(Murtha) is calling for changes,“ Covington said.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on. … I think this guy upset the apple cart.

“Thank God it was somebody from Johnstown who stood up for something.”

Covington was born at Lee Hospital in 1945, the son of a World War II veteran. His given name is Joseph Michno.

Two sisters and a brother still live in Johnstown, Covington said.

He attended East Conemaugh High School and got his musical start playing with polka bands around the Johnstown region.

He was a long way from peace, love and tie-dyed clothes. But he was already beginning to understand what combat was all about.

“One time, when I was playing at the VFW in Conemaugh, I met a guy who had lost his leg during World War II in France,“ Covington said.

“He had this prosthetic leg, and he just took it off and put it up on the bar. That was my introduction to war. Hey, you’re 10 years old – what do you know?”

In 1965, Covington left home for New York City. A few years later he headed to the West Coast, and became friends with some of the top performers of the day.

He played drums with the band Hot Tuna, and released a solo album – “Fat Fandango” – in 1973.

But it was the days with Jefferson Airplane – from 1970-72 – that Covington said opened his eyes to the power of music, and the responsibility to speak out when you don’t agree with what is going on.

“I got more into the political scene after joining the Airplane,“ he said. “It kind of rubs off on you. You get off the political fence.

“Everybody wants to have a good time, make some money. But sometimes you have to stand for something.”

Covington credited former bandmate Grace Slick with first calling President Nixon “Tricky Dick.”

“We were anti-Nixon, and anti-Vietnam,“ he said. “We took a stand.

“History proved us right. It only took about 30 years.

“Now we get Iraq. AndI’ve seen it go down once before.”

Covington said he has good memories of a childhood in Johnstown, in a quieter time before Vietnam, war protests and psychedelic rock music.

And he was proud to see his hometown in the national spotlight.

“I love Johnstown,“ Covington said. “It was a wonderful place to grow up.”

Chip Minemyer is the editor of The Tribune–Democrat. You can reach him at 532–5091 or

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