Hot Tuna

During the late 1960s, guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady already had their time pretty much filled as founding members of pioneering (and popular) San Francisco psychedelic group the Jefferson Airplane. But while indulging in all forms of Owsley lab hallucinogens, the pair, who'd been friends since their teens, also had a hankering for musical moonshine whiskey. In 1970, they formed Hot Shit -- a moniker not surprisingly revised at the request of promoters and record companies -- and played acoustic versions of traditional blues, ragtime and folk/country, at times even gigging during intermission between Airplane sets. Even after they packed their chutes and bailed out of the 'Plane, albums like Hot Tuna, First Pull Up, Then Pull Down and The Phosphorescent Rat made them a cult fave, particularly as a touring act, through the '70s. The duo would eventually add more players, go electric, drift off for years, return and play whenever their laid-back selves wanted to. Today's version of Hot Tuna is an acoustic trio (Kaukonen, Casady and mandolinist Barry Mitterhoff), one rightfully embraced by Jammies and Relix subscribers who've enjoyed both their reissues and their newly released vintage live recordings. Kaukonen is also coming off critical acclaim for his recent old-time country/blues record Blue Country Heart.

And while we're handing out the props, both Casady and Kaukonen score big simply for not being part of the execrable 'Plane mutation Jefferson Starship, or even worse, the plain ol' Starship of "We Built This City" infamy. So be nice, spin dancers and hemp heads -- at the show, don't scream out for a banjo version of "White Rabbit" or ask how well Grace Slick gives head.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero