By: Marie Montgomery
Issue date: 12/13/07
If you look up Hot Tuna , you will come across a story about the band
wanting to be called Hot S***, but the record label pushed for a
But when you have been around for nearly 40 years, rumors are bound
to get started.
Hot Tuna, an electric and acoustic blues band formed by Jack Casady
and Jorma Kaukonen , has survived the 1960s and lived to talk about
it. Casady and Kaukonen first gained success as members of Jefferson
Airplane . Since then, Hot Tuna has toured the world, made countless
albums, and Casady and Kaukonen were inducted into the Rock and Roll
Hall of Fame. Before the band plays the Quick Center this Friday,
Jorma Kaukonen took some time to set the record straight with The Mirror.
Starting with the name, which is not the story of corporate upheaval
over profanity, but instead of a group of guys traveling around
listening to music. The band was listening to Blind Boy Fuller song,
"Keep on Truckin'," which it later recorded a version of, when the
lyric, "'What's that smell like fish, oh baby,' and some witty wag in
the car said 'Hot Tuna'," came on the car radio.
"And we said, 'Wow, that's a great name for a band,'" said Kaukonen.
Kaukonen said he doesn't regret the name choice; instead, he uses it
to warn young musicians.
"I say, 'You've got to be very careful when you pick a band name
because if you're lucky and you stick around, you'll be an aging guy
with a really silly band name," he said.
The title may be silly, but the legacy Kaukonen and Casady have left
behind is anything but. Jefferson Airplane was the first group in the
1960s to sign a major label and, since then the group's music has
become synonymous with 1960s rebellion, portrayed in songs such as
"White Rabbit" and "Somebody to Love."
Kaukonen remembers his days with them fondly but says he knew when it
was time to leave.
"When we started to have more band meetings and stuff like that, we
knew it was time to move on," said Kaukonen. "Jack Casady and I will
have played together for 50 years, and we have never had a band
meeting. I think that is why we are still friends."
Kaukonen described a band meeting: "You talk about material, you talk
arrangements, you talk about peoples' egos, you talk. . . . I mean it
is just unresolvable things. Bands that stay together learn to get
past that stuff."
If being a part of Jefferson Airplane wasn't enough to cement
Kaukonen in rock history, he also played briefly for Janis Joplin .
"At this point in time, she [Janis Joplin] was just totally committed
to her music," said Kaukonen. "I think her voice was one of the
greatest female blues voices."
He also hung out with Jerry Garcia and was present at the Summer of
Love - which many see as a pinnacle time in the 1960s.
"It was just another summer where we were just having a really good
time," he said.
In 1996, Jefferson Airplane was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall
of Fame. For Kaukonen and Casady, this was a lifelong dream, even
before the museum existed.
"Jack and I were doing an interview one time and somebody asked him
the same question," said Kaukonen. "Jack said, 'When we were kids, we
always wanted to be in the Hall of Fame.' I told him, 'Jack, when
were kids they didn't have a hall of fame.' But I knew exactly what
he meant; it just felt like it should be in there, and I am glad that
I'm in it. It's an honor to be in it."
Times may have changed but Kaukonen and Cassady, with Hot Tuna, have
continued to capture the attention of music audiences everywhere,
including at Banaroo this past summer. There seems to be no stopping
Kaukonen. Asked about his plans to retire, Kaukonen quickly replied,
"I hope not."