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Remembering Hot Tuna and Rodney King


Remembering Hot Tuna and Rodney King


Hot Tuna was born of the San Francisco music scene in general, and of the Jefferson Airplane in particular. I have seen Hot Tuna a half dozen times through the years, wonderful concerts all. Soon after my discharge from the Army, I saw Hot Tuna in concert for the first time, at Wesleyan College in Middletown, CT in 1972. The last concert I attended was in 2002, a New Years Eve extravaganza in Oakland where they opened for the Dead.

Once, I had the privilege of meeting and talking with Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady; it was on a memorable night in 1992. The date was April 30 when Hot Tuna played the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, CA.

The day before the concert, on April 29, the Rodney King trial verdict came out and after the police were found innocent of beating him, violence erupted on the streets of Los Angeles and the surrounding cities and towns. Amid the uncertainty and palpable fear that gripped the roads and local communities, few people were at the Hot Tuna concert that night at the Coach House. Undeterred, the band put on a great show, long sets with the people in attendance sitting close around the stage enjoying the intimate setting and easy banter of the musicians and appreciative crowd.

During a break, I talked with Jorma and Jack over a beer (just another nameless and faceless fan) and shared some memories with them. I recalled a 1987 concert at the Capitol Theater in New Hampshire when Hot Tuna played a double bill with The Band, ending the show with a great set of electric jams featuring both groups. One special memory of that show is the blizzard that was shutting down the State of New Hampshire at the time; it took all the driving skill I had, and my 4X4 truck, to make it to Concord that night and I almost lost it going home, a lone vehicle creeping along late at night, the deserted roads covered by deep drifts of snow as the winds howled in the darkness.

These are fond memories of great moments and great artists. I am proud to have loved and lived those times, to have celebrated my generation and its era as best I could. I think I'll sit back in my chair right now and listen to "Genesis" and "Good Shepherd", and recall those years of growth and discovery when all things were fresh and possible.

Hot Tuna New Years Eve Oakland
(for a brief period following the death of Jerry Garcia, the Grateful Dead called themselves "The Other Ones")