Listen to our complete conversation as this bass legend talks about his musical upbringing, joining Jefferson Airplane, forming Hot Tuna and more!
Exclusive interview with FBPO’s Jon Liebman
January 2, 2012
Jack Casady is a living legend of the bass guitar and a rock & roll pioneer, best known for his work as the bass player for Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. In our recent conversation with Jack, he told us about everything from his early years growing up in Washington DC, his life-changing friendship with Jorma Kaukonen, the the Jefferson Airplane phenomenon, The San Francisco scene, the formation of Hot Tuna and much more.
You can listen to the entire interview below. Here are some excerpts from our interview:
On the formation of Jefferson Airplane:
JC: It started in 1965, through Marty Balin and Paul Kanter. They were on a folk circuit in San Francisco and they teamed up and wanted to start a band. Paul knew Jorma Kaukonen, who had come out to California and had seen him play his finger style guitar … at various folk clubs and asked him to join, July or August of 1965. (Jorma said to me) “Listen, I’d like you to come out and join us. I need an ally in the band!” So I came out in October of 1965, two months after the Jefferson Airplane had been formed. I think I had my first job, at Harmon Gymnasium, October 16, 1965.
On the early recording sessions in LA:
JC: When we came down in 1966 to record our first album, we recorded it on a three-track. That was Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. The second album we did, Surrealistic Pillow, was (recorded on) a four-track. For us, the thrill of getting recorded (was) being able to work on your music and then hear it back and dissect it and hear how you sounded. For me, as a musician, … I got to really say, “Lordy, I’ve got some work to do!” [Laughs]
On the formation of Hot Tuna:
JC: There was a lot of material that Jorma and I started to work out together that didn’t fit within the Jefferson Airplane format, that we had always loved. Usurping and digging down into various more – at the time – obscure musicians, like Reverend Gary Davis and Blind Blake and a number of others, we would somewhat reinterpret that music in the instrumental musical format of acoustic guitar and an electric bass. And that hadn’t been done before. Out of that grew our own compositions and Jorma’s songwriting and, somewhat, our songwriting together. And a direction started to develop, as well as a feeling about the kind of music we wanted to present out to people and what we wanted to do with it. To us, it didn’t have the history or the political connotations that came in the late ’60s and early ’70s … that the Jefferson Airplane had, however, we thought that was just dandy because we really wanted to get back to the purity of the music and explore the interplay between the musicians within the song. That’s what our direction (was) … and (we’ve) continued exploring in that area, to this day.
Hear the entire interview!