Formed in 1970 by drummer Ginger Baker (b. Peter Baker, 19 August 1939, Lewisham, London, England), this ensemble included Steve Winwood (b. 12 May 1948, Birmingham, England; keyboards) and Ric Grech (b. Richard Roman Grech, 1 November 1946, Bordeaux, France, d. 16 March 1990, Leicester, England; bass), ex-colleagues from the ‘supergroup’ Blind Faith. The initial Airforce line-up also featured two of Baker’s early mentors, Graham Bond (b. 28 October 1937, Romford, Essex, England, d. 8 May 1974, London, England; saxophone/keyboards/vocals) and Phil Seaman (drums), as well as Denny Laine (b. Brian Hines, 29 October 1944, Jersey, Channel Islands; guitar/vocals), Chris Wood (saxophone), Harold McNair (b. 5 November 1931, Kingston, Jamaica, West Indies, d. 7 March 1971, London, England; flute), Bud Beadle (horns), Remi Kabaka (percussion) and Diane Stewart (Bond’s wife; backing vocals). Although Airforce included the unit’s promising, if ragged, interpretation of the Peter Yarrow and Paul Stookey song, ‘Man Of Constant Sorrow’, the set was marked by the leader’s predilection for lengthy percussive interludes. Bond’s guttural jazz rock was another influential factor in a largely self-indulgent approach that precluded commercial success.
The departures of Winwood, Wood, McNair, Kabaka and Seaman undermined an already unstable act and although the remainder of the band was augmented by eight new members, Airforce 2 was a largely undistinguished collection. Having dissolved the band, Baker moved to Lagos to study African drumming, while Bond and Stewart pursued elements of the Airforce sound in a new venture, Holy Magick.