Hot Tuna – Feb 22
Hot Tuna (Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady) – A Living Legend – in American Music The name Hot Tuna invokes as many different moods and reactions as there are Hot Tuna fans — millions of them. To some, Hot Tuna is a reminder of some wild and happy times. To others, that name will forever be linked to their own discovery of the power and depth of American blues and roots music. To newer fans, Hot Tuna is a tight, masterful duo that is on the cutting edge of great music.
Jorma Kaukonen – In a career that has already spanned a half century, Jorma Kaukonen has been the leading practitioner and teacher of fingerstyle guitar, one of the most highly respected interpreters of American roots music, blues, and Americana, and at the forefront of popular rock-and-roll.
Jorma graduated from high school and headed off for Antioch College in Ohio. There he met Ian Buchanan, from New York City, who introduced him to the elaborate fingerstyle fretwork of the Rev. Gary Davis. Jorma was hooked.
A work-study program in New York introduced the increasingly skilled Kaukonen to that city’s burgeoning folk-blues-bluegrass scene and many of its players. He would leave college and undertake overseas travels before returning to classes, this time in California.
There he earned money by teaching guitar. A friend who taught banjo mentioned to Jorma he and another friend were thinking of starting a band — was Jorma interested? Though he was less interested in rock than in the roots music that was his passion, Jorma decided to join. It would turn out he would even have something to do with the naming of the band. An acquaintance liked to tease his blues-playing friends by giving them nicknames which parodied those of blues legends. Jorma, he had decided, was “Blind Thomas Jefferson Airplane.” When the new band needed a name, Jorma mentioned this, and thus the Jefferson Airplane was christened.
He sent word back to Washington, where his teenage musical partner Jack Casady had taken up electric bass. Did Jack want to come to San Francisco and be in a band?
The Kaukonen-Casady duo created much of the Jefferson Airplane’s signature sound, and Jorma’s lead and fingerstyle guitar playing characterizes some of the band’s most memorable tracks. The two would often play clubs following Airplane performances. A record deal was made and Hot Tuna was born. Jorma left the Jefferson Airplane after the band’s most productive five years. Hot Tuna had become a full-time job.
Jack Casady – Few musicians have the opportunity and skill to create an entire style of playing, but Jack Casady has done exactly that with the electric bass. With roots as a lead guitar player, Jack broadened the range and scope of the bass, taking it out of the rhythm category and bringing to it a world of complex and complementary melodies.
The son of a Washington, D.C.-area dentist, Jack fell in love with music at an early age and took full advantage of the wide cultural experience the city had to offer, from classical and jazz concerts to the strong southern musical influence to the small blues and jazz clubs not normally populated by children.
“One night I’d be down at the Howard Theater seeing Ray Charles,” he remembers, “and the next night I would be at the Shamrock Tavern in Georgetown, hearing Mac Weisman, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, and other bluegrass people. And the next night it would be jazz — people like Eric Dolphy and Roland Kirk.” He took up guitar and became friends with an older boy, a guitar novice named Jorma Kaukonen.
Together they explored the area’s music scene.
When Jorma went to college, young Jack continued his methodical study of guitar, often sitting in with local club bands. One night he was asked to play the bass, and thus began a love affair with the instrument that has endured for close to a half century.
Jack has played bass with numerous groups and legendary performers, from Jimi Hendrix to Government Mule and beyond. His signature bass sound was front and center in his critically acclaimed solo CD, “Dream Factor.”
The inventor of the Jack Casady style of bass playing devotes much of his time to passing on what he has learned and invented, by teaching several times each year at Jorma’s Fur Peace Ranch.