From their days 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 pair began playing together while growing up in the Washington D.C. area, where Jack’s father was a dentist and Jorma’s father a State Department official. In the mid 1960s, Jorma was asked to audition to play guitar for a new band that was forming in San Francisco. Though an acoustic player at heart, he grew interested in the electronic gadgetry that was beginning to make an appearance in the popular music scene — particularly in a primitive processor brought to the audition by a fellow named Ken Kesey — and decided to join that band; soon thereafter he summoned his young friend from Washington, who now played the bass.
Thus was created the unique sound that was The Jefferson Airplane. Jorma even contributed the band’s name, drawn from a nickname a friend had given him years earlier. Jack’s experience as a lead guitarist led to a style of bass playing which took the instrument far beyond its traditional role.
While in The Jefferson Airplane, the pair remained loyal to the blues, jazz, bluegrass and folk influences of the small clubs and larger venues they had learned from years before. The duo worked up a set of songs that they would often play at clubs in the Bay Area and while on the road, after having played a set with the Airplane. This eventually led to a record contract, and the launching of the Hot Tuna odyssey – a journey now spanning more than 35 years.
Jorma and Jack certainly could not have imagined, let alone predicted, where playing 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 in Washington D.C., and there are still many, many exciting miles yet to travel on their musical odyssey.