Sat December 15, 2012
Marc on the Blues

Nine O'clock Blues: Hot Tuna

Each era seems to have someone who has the ability to draw fans of the primary music choice of the times toward the Blues.

Count Basie brought the Blues to Swing fans. The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton were among the British Invasion artists that got American Beatle maniacs hooked. Many other eras have had similar situations.

In the San Francisco Psychedelic days of the late 1960's, the acoustic group Hot Tuna offered fans of acid drenched Psychedelic Rock a taste of the Blues. Jefferson Airplane members Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassidy found entre to the Blues through their Reverend Gary Davis inspired version of acoustic Blues.

In early 1969 Jefferson Airplane vocalist Grace Slick was forced into hiatus by surgery for throat nodes.   The break in The Airplane’s recording and touring schedule gave guitarist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Cassidy a chance to explore their love of Country Blues artists like The Reverend Gary Davis, Blind Blake, and Blind Boy Fuller. They were joined off and on by other musicians including Paul Kantner, Joey Covington and Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane.

A number of concerts Hot Tuna played in September 1969 were recorded and released as their 1970 eponymous album. To devoted Tuna-philes that first album is affectionately known as the “breaking glass album” because of the sound of breaking beer glasses during the recording of “Uncle Sam Blues.”

Despite repeated breakups and reunions, the band is together again and is a force in the Blues again. The band migrates back and forth between acoustic and electric and has run through an impressive list of members. The common factor of Hot Tuna remains stalwarts Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Cassidy.  

Here’s just a few of the names that have joined them over the years:

  • Will Scarlett
  • Peter Kaukonen
  • Joey Covington
  • Papa John Creach
  • Sammy Piazza
  • Greg Douglass
  • Michael Falzarano
  • Shigemi Komiyama
  • Joey Stefko
  • Galen Underwood
  • G. E. Smith
  • Charlie Musselwhite

Long after the demise of San Francisco bands like Jefferson Airplane, Quicksilver Messenger Service, and even The Grateful Dead, Hot Tuna continues to delight audiences around the World.

Also on this week’s show we’ll hear from Marty Grebb. As Leon Russell has said, “He is astonishing on all instruments… he has the soul and voice of an angle.” Born into a musical family in 1946 in Chicago, Grebb had success in the 1960s with the Buckinghams and the Fabulous Rhinestones. He has been a top session player ever since. Marty has worked with a lot of top artists including Paul Butterfield, Mike Bloomfield, Rosanne Cash, Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Willie Nelson, Stevie Nicks, Otis Rush, and Leon Russell.

His contributions to records by Bonnie Raitt and Maria Muldaur were quite significant. His own albums have included appearances from people like Raitt, Leon Russell, Taj Mahal, and Steve Cropper.

Find out why so many great artists have been drawn to Marty Grebb this week on the Nine O’clock Blues.


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