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SOH: An evening with Hot Tuna, the acoustic trio


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Kathrine Warren, Sheridan Arts Foundation

970.728.6363 x3


An evening with Hot Tuna, the acoustic trio

Acoustic folk, rock

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Sheridan Opera House, Telluride, Colo.


The Sheridan Arts Foundation is proud to present an intimate evening with rock, folk legends Hot Tuna, the acoustic trio, at the historic Sheridan Opera House on Sunday, July 22 at 8 p.m.

The acoustic trio features Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady the founders and continuing core members of Hot Tuna. Reserved seating tickets are $30 and the show is more than half way sold out. Tickets are available online at or by calling 728-6363 ext. 5.

Kaukonen and Casady began playing together while growing up in the Washington, D.C. area. The two were four years apart and played professional gigs throughout high school and college.  

Early on, Kaukonen became enamored of, then committed to, the finger-picking guitar style exemplified by the now-legendary Rev. Gary Davis. Casady meanwhile took an interest in the electric base at the time a controversial instrument in blues, jazz and folk music circles.

In the mid-1960s, Kaukonen 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; thereafter he summoned his young friend from Washington, who now played the bass. Thus The Jefferson Airplane was created. While in The Jefferson Airplane, the pair remained loyal to the blues, jazz, bluegrass and folk influences of the small clubs and larger venues they had learned from years before. Casady and Kaukonen would play together and worked up a set of songs that they would often play at clubs in the Bay Area and while on the road, often after having played a set with the Airplane.

This led to a record contract; in fact, they had an album recorded before they decided to name their band Hot Tuna. With it they launched on an odyssey, which has itself continued for more than 35 years, always finding new and interesting turns in its path forward. The first thing an early Hot Tuna fans discovered at their concerts of the early 1970s was that the band was growing louder and louder. In an era in which volume often overtrumped musicianship, Hot Tuna provided both. The second thing a fan would discover was that Casady and Kaukonen really loved to play.

Album followed album — more than two dozen in all, not counting solo efforts, side projects, and appearances on the albums of other bands and performers — and they continued to develop their interests and styles, both together and in individual pursuits. In an era in which old bands reunite for one last tour, Hot Tuna can't because Hot Tuna never broke up.  

After two decades of acoustic and electric concerts and albums, the 1990s brought a new focus on acoustic music to Hot Tuna. More intimate venues with a more individual connection to the audience became increasingly frequent stops. Soon, the loud electric sound (and the semi trailer load of equipment) disappeared entirely from Hot Tuna tours. Maturity brought the desire to do things not instead of but in addition to being a touring band. Both had become interested in teaching, passing along what they had learned and what they had uniquely developed to a new generation of players. For the last few years, Kaukonen and Casady have been joined in most of their Hot Tuna performances by the mandolin virtuoso Barry Mitterhoff. A veteran of bluegrass, Celtic, folk and rock-influenced bands including "Tony Trischka and Skyline" and "Bottle Hill," Mitterhoff has found a new voice in working with Hot Tuna, and the fit has been good — watching them play, it's as if he's been there from the beginning and they're all having the time of their lives.

Beginning in 2004, Hot Tuna returned to some of its own roots by adding an electric set to their acoustic one. For the electric sets, they are joined by Erik Diaz, a sharp young second-generation drummer with the energy, talent and sill to match anything that Casady and Kaukonen — once famous for working drummers nearly to death — throw at them. While the days of the six-hour uninterrupted sets are long over, Diaz does much to help rekindle the feeling that permeated the legendary Hot Tuna concerts of decades ago. It is in the electric sets, too, that Mitterhoff brings out a wide array of electric mandolins and similar instruments that most people have probably never seen or heard before. It's all a real treat. Casady and Kaukonen certainly could not have imagined, let alone predicted, where playing would take them. It's been a long and fascinating road to numerous exciting destinations. Two things have never changed: They still love to play as much as they did as kids in Washington D.C., and there are still many, many exciting miles yet to travel on their musical odyssey.

Hot Tuna, the acoustic trio, will play the historic Sheridan Opera House on Sunday, July 22. Reserved seats are $30 and tickets are on sale at The doors open at 7:30 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m.


Tickets and additional event information are available at or 970.728.6363 x5. 


The Sheridan Arts Foundation was founded in 1991 as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization to preserve the historic Sheridan Opera House as an arts and cultural resource for the Telluride community, to bring quality arts and cultural events to Telluride and to provide local and national youth with access and exposure to the arts through education. The Sheridan Arts Foundation is sponsored in part by grants from the Telluride Foundation and CCAASE.