Hot Tuna began as an informal side project for Jefferson Airplane members Jorma Kaukonen (guitar, vocals) and Jack Casady (bass), yet ended up far outliving its parent band. Early on, Hot Tuna provided an opening act for the Airplane, giving Kaukonen and Casady the opportunity to perform covers of their favorite American country and blues artists such as Reverend Gary Davis, Jelly Roll Morton, Bo Carter and Blind Blake—a roosty contrast to the psychedelia of Jefferson Airplane. In September 1969, Hot Tuna performed a week-long residency of acoustic concerts at the New Orleans House in Berkeley, California; recorded by RCA, highlights from these shows were released as the band’s eponymous debut album in 1970. After Jefferson Airplane touched down in the early ’70s, Hot Tuna became established as an independent group. Now Kaukonen and Casady’s main outlet, Hot Tuna’s series of albums and particularly their incendiary live shows marked the group as a pioneering ‘jam band.’
Did you know?
- Hot Tuna began as a side project to Jefferson Airplane, intended to mark time while Grace Slick recovered from vocal cord nodule surgery
- The band’s name came from an audience member who called out “hot tuna” after hearing the line “What’s that smell like fish, oh baby,” from the song “Keep on Truckin'”
- While Jefferson Airplane was together for less than 10 years, Hot Tuna has been active for over 50 years