Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady have been performing as Hot Tuna for goin’ on 50 years now (their first shows using the name were in early 1969), with many, many other players coming in and out of the lineup along the way (particularly in the group’s electric configuration). But it really always comes down to Jack and Jorma, who have played together on and off since high school in Washington D.C., before either joined the Jefferson Airplane in 1965.
Since the beginnings of Hot Tuna, when it truly was an Airplane spin-off, “Hesitation Blues” has been a cornerstone of their repertoire. It was first published in the teens (of the 20th century), but it dates back further than that, so anyone who has claimed authorship of it (and there have been many, including W.C. Handy), are more accurately attempting to copyright their arrangement of what is a traditional blues. The song has been recorded often through the years by numerous artists—Duke Ellington, Janis Joplin, Jelly Roll Morton, Willie Nelson, and Doc Watson, to name just a handful; Hot Tuna’s first recorded version appeared on their eponymous live debut album, released in 1970. They credit their version to the arrangement by Reverend Gary Davis.
Chances are, if Hot Tuna comes to your town, you will probably hear this timeless classic. —Blair Jackson