By Don Aters, Photos by Chuck Holloway
John William Casady and Jorma Kaukonen began their musical sojourn long ago on the streets and venues of Washington, DC. More than fifty years later, Hot Tuna continues to mesmerize and captivate audiences across the globe. The duo became a paradox of traditional Blues during the Hall of Fame tenure with Jefferson Airplane. The departure of psychedelic folk/rock in 1969 would ultimately lead to various incarnations of the band but in 2014, the constant seems to be Casady, Kaukonen and Barry Mitterhoff.
The tunes have varied from subtle and emotive to a fault and eventually the untrammeled lyrics of self-penned tunes as well as the inevitable covers of Reverend Gary Davis. The extraneous Hot Tuna name is now San Francisco Folklore but apparently derived from a comment “What’s that smell?” and a response of “Hot Tuna.”
The performances are legendary, a melodic bass player, one of the three greatest lead guitarist in the annals of contemporary music and now augmented with virtuoso mandolin player Mitterhoff. Collectively they delineate Delta Blues, the idiom that now defines the lengthy career of the band. A temporal band of The counter Culture & Woodstock Nation, the insatiable quest to become a noted blues band has led Casady and Kaukonen to the echelons of Rock N’ Roll Royalty, the segue from psychedelia to blues hierarchy.
Casady remains as the evocative bass player, noted antics and eye movement have been duly noted and Kaukonen remains a more stoic, emulated and admired master of his chosen instrument. These are the scions of The Musical Revolution, remnants of the glory “daze” of free performances in Speedway Meadow in Golden Gate Park, The Fillmores, The Matrix, Winterland and others of note.
The years are similar to shooting stars, flashing by in what seems to be moments in the sands of time, the impact of what Hot Tuna has accomplished is now perceived as the paragon of unlimited talent, a musical and spiritual journey of two famed musicians who continue to expand the boundaries of their chosen genre.
Full Photo Gallery From Hot Tuna Performance at Variety Playhouse Jan. 15