From their days playing together as teenagers to their current acoustic and electric blues, probably no one has more consistently led American music for the last 50 years -- yes! -- than Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady, the founders and continuing core members of Hot Tuna.
The pair began playing together while growing up in the Washington D.C. area, where Jack's father was a dentist and Jorma's father a State Department official. Four years younger, Jack continued in junior high, then high school -- while playing professional gigs as lead guitarist at night before he was old enough to drive -- while Jorma (who had played rhythm guitar to Jack's lead) started college in Ohio, accompanied his family overseas, then returned to college, this time in California.
Along the way, Jorma became enamored of, then committed to, the finger-picking guitar style exemplified by the now-legendary Rev. Gary Davis. Jack, meanwhile, had taken an interest in the electric bass, at the time a controversial instrument in blues, jazz, and folk circles.
In the mid 1960s, Jorma was asked to audition to play guitar for a new band that was forming in San Francisco. Though an acoustic player at heart, he grew interested in the electronic gadgetry that was beginning to make an appearance in the popular music scene -- particularly in a primitive processor brought to the audition by a fellow named Ken Kesey -- and decided to join that band; soon thereafter he summoned his young friend from Washington, who now played the bass.
Thus was created the unique (then and now) sound that was The Jefferson Airplane. Jorma even contributed the band's name, drawn from a nickname a friend had for the blues-playing Jorma. Jack's experience as a lead guitarist led to a style of bass playing which took the instrument far beyond its traditional role.