Acoustic Hot Tuna! Hot Tuna hits the road for some sizzling summer fun.
Sponsored by KFAI
About Hot Tuna
From playing together as teenagers to their current acoustic and electric blues, probably no one has more consistently led American music for the last 50 years than Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, the founders and continuing core members of Hot Tuna.
The two met while growing up in the Washington, D.C. area. Four years younger, Jack was in junior high, then high school — while playing lead guitar at professional gigs at night — while Jorma, who played rhythm guitar, started college in Ohio, accompanied his family overseas, then returned to college in California.
Along the way, Jorma became enamored with the fingerpicking guitar style of the legendary Rev. Gary Davis, while Jack had taken an interest in the electric bass.
In the mid-1960s, Jorma auditioned for a new band in San Francisco. Though an acoustic player at heart, he grew interested in the electronic gadgetry that was beginning to appear on the popular music scene — particularly in a processor brought by a fellow named Ken Kesey. Soon thereafter Jack joined on bass. Thus was created The Jefferson Airplane.
While in the band, the pair remained loyal to the blues, jazz, bluegrass, and folk influences from years before. They worked up a set of songs they would play at clubs in the Bay Area and while on the road, often after a show with the Airplane. This led to a record contract; in fact, they had an album recorded before they named the band Hot Tuna. With it they launched an odyssey that has continued for over 40 years.
Hot Tuna’s early 1970s shows grew ever louder. In an era in which volume often trumped musicianship, Hot Tuna provided both. And Jack and Jorma really loved to play. “Look around for another band that plays uninterrupted three- to six-hour sets,” wrote reviewer Jerry Moore. Album followed album, more than two dozen in all, not counting solo efforts, side projects, and guest appearances, as they continued to develop their styles, both together and individually.
Along the way, they have been joined by many talented musicians: drummers, harmonica players, keyboardists, backup singers, violinists, mandolinists, and more. And there was never a list of outstanding guitarists that didn’t include Jorma, nor was there anyone who seriously thought there was a better bass player than Jack.
The 1990s brought a new focus on acoustic music. More intimate shows with closer connection to the audience became increasingly frequent. The loud electric sound (and the semi-trailer load of equipment) disappeared entirely from Hot Tuna tours. And both Jorma and Jack grew interested in passing along what they had learned and uniquely developed to a new generation of players. In 1998 Jorma and his wife Vanessa opened Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp in the beautiful Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio. Here, Jorma, Jack, and other extraordinary players teach aspiring musicians in intensive workshops on different styles of playing, songwriting and storytelling.
Hot Tuna still keeps a busy schedule, individually and as a band. Jack released his first solo CD, Dream Factor, in 2003. Jorma has achieved enormous critical acclaim and a Grammy nomination for his 2003 solo album, Blue Country Heart. Both are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for their pioneering work in The Jefferson Airplane.
For the last few years Jorma and Jack have been joined by mandolin virtuoso Barry Mitterhoff. A veteran of bluegrass, Celtic, folk, and rock-influenced bands including Tony Trischka and Skyline and Bottle Hill, Barry has found a new voice with Hot Tuna.
Jorma and Jack certainly could not have imagined, let alone predicted, where music would take them. It’s been a long and fascinating road to numerous exciting destinations. Two things have never changed: they still love to play as much as they did as kids, and there are still many, many exciting miles yet to travel on their musical odyssey. In a time when bands go on reunion tours, Hot Tuna can’t, as the band never broke up.
What Other People Have Been Saying...
“slowly percolating … it radiates a sense of music arising out of the song” – All About Jazz
“Kaukonen’s highly inventive guitar work rocks tough and articulate, clean as a cat’s whiskers. He still sings with that slightly strange, quintessentially laid-back voice,…waxing wry with an existential bent. His melodies, even mean as a snake, have warmed over the years with a bluegrass influence. Casady is Casady, one of the most unorthodox and profoundly gifted bassists ever known to rock music. They’ve always been a fascinating pair…” – Dwight Hobbs, Twin Cities Daily Planet
“Timeless music from ageless Hot Tuna” – Patriot Ledger
“…dramatic and typically blistering…” – AllMusicGuide.com