The revolution began in the 50's and it was televised. Artists like Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly appeared on prime time, jolting the well-groomed homes of white Americans with their interpretations of black music, while the real stuff - Lightnin' Hopkins and Chuck Berry - infested suburbia through records, assailing young kids like Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady in the musical jugular. The Delta Blues sound spawned Hot Tuna; a three decade wonder band with one of the most faithful audiences in popular music, spanning 25 years and a prodigious recording longevity of over 27 albums.
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Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady began their musical courtship in Washington, D.C. in the late 1950's. As musical accomplices in high school, they listened to records that belonged to Jack's older brother Chick, an avid blues collector. Inspired by what they heard they formed a teen garage band, the 'Triumphs', a timely name which presaged their future success.
Jorma attended Antioch College where he met friend and mentor, Ian Buchanan and future blues man, John Hammond. This remarkable triad listened and copied the blues style of the greats: the rags, marches, old popular songs and sacred music of the Reverend Gary Davis, the visionary work of Robert Johnson, the acoustic duet Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee and the quick-fingering rags of Blind Blake - but it was the vast Davis repertoire and legacy which left the greatest impression on Jorma.
Kaukonen reunited with Jack when he transferred to the University of Santa Clara. A thriving folk scene was in progress, a "folk troupe" of notables: Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia, and Pigpen centered around the coffee house, the Folk Theater. Folk met the future when Paul IKantner, Marty Balin and Jorma formed Jefferson Airplane. Signed to RCA, the band recorded its debut album, JEFFERSON AIRPLANE TAKES OFF, with Jack Casady on bass. Airplane's trajectory went straight to the rock and roll heavens with nine top 20 albums and two top 10 singles. The Airplane represented a new musical vitality and creativity; an image that would come to embody the essence of the West coast alternative culture of the 60's.
Throughout the Airplane days, Jorma and Jack continued to play out as Hot Tuna - but as Casady later remarked, "it got pretty complicated." Wanting to make the blues their number one priority, Jorma and Jack officially left Jefferson Airplane in the early 70's.
Hot Tuna's first album, HOT TUNA, is a classic among a generation of kids growing up in the 70's looking, for an alternative to REO Speedwagon, et al. The self-titled debut is a straight acoustic guitar/bass album - recorded live, it is a pure, unadulterated distillation of their laid-back blues sound, On their second album, FIRST PULL UP - THEN PULL DOWN, many of the riffs were transposed from acoustic blues onto a heavy stringed Stratocaster. The result is a natural evolution and transition to their third album, BURGERS, an all-electric album. Legendary electric violinist Papa John Creach joined the band for BURGERS bringing an oldtimey, ragtime feel to the group. Kaukonen said, "It blew my mind when I first saw him. I knew he would fit in; he was just incredible." In 1973 PHOSPHORESCENT RAT marked Hot Tuna's official departure from Jefferson Airplane and ushered in a new era of purely electric guitar sounds very different from what Jorma has called the "cloned acoustic sounds" of their past.
After an extended musical hiatus and many personnel changes, native New Yorker, Michael Falzarano, guitarist and songwriter, joined the band. Drummer Harvey Sorgen, a percussion master of many styles, has played with artists like Ahmad Jamal, NRBQ and Bill Frizell. Pete Sears, Hot Tuna's newest member started out like Jorma and Jack listening to Leadbelly and Jack Dupree and playing with folk/rockers and fellow Brits, Rod Stewart, and Long John. Pete was also a member of Jefferson Starship. His work on the piano and accordion, is, according to Casady, "inspiring and exciting."
The recent Hot Tuna, LIVE AT SWEETWATER I and II, first recorded in 1992, began a series of critically acclaimed releases on Relix Records containing the first new songwriting material in 23 years. Recorded without over dubs, LIVE AT SWEETWATER is Hot Tuna's first acoustic album in eight years. A reminder of the freshness and innovation of their musical vision, LIVE AT SWEETWATER I & II includes such classics as "Embryonic Journey," "Genesis" and "Hesitation Blues."
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