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Gerald Carpenter: Lobero Live to Serve Up Hot Tuna Blues

Thursday's concert adds Charlie Musselwhite and Jim Lauderdale to the mix

As part of its Hot Licks & Frets series, Lobero Live will present a concert by Hot Tuna Blues with Charlie Musselwhite and Jim Lauderdale at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 10 at the Lobero Theatre, 33 E. Canon Perdido St. in Santa Barbara.

Hot Tuna back then — Jack Casady, left, and Jorma Kaukonen in 1972.
Hot Tuna back then — Jack Casady, left, and Jorma Kaukonen in 1972.

One of the extraordinary things about 1960s bands is the way they spawned so many second- and third-generation groups. Out of The Byrds came The Flying Burrito Brothers, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, the Dillard & Clark Expedition, The Desert Rose Band and the Souther-Hillman-Furay Band.

Out of the Buffalo Springfield came CSNY, Poco, SHF, Manassas, Neil Young and Crazy Horse, and Loggins and Messina.

But The Byrds and Buffalo Springfield were both Los Angeles bands, formed from a vast pool of independent professional musicians. San Francisco bands tended to be more organically connected — when they broke up, it was like an extremely messy divorce, with violent recriminations and nervous breakdowns, but few reformations.

Hot Tuna, formed by Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady while they were still the musical backbone of Jefferson Airplane, is in just about every way an exception. They started performing as a group, apparently, so they could play as long as they felt like it, without interference by the needs of other members (one of their early sets lasted six hours without a break). In one combination or another, but always with Kaukonen and Casady as the core, they have continued playing together since.

Kaukonen is No. 54 on Rolling Stone’s ranking of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. He doesn’t make it onto Gibson Guitars’ Top 50. (As different as these two lists are from each other, Jimi Hendrix is No. 1 on both.) Yet those of us who value the guitar mainly as a part something much more involved, such as a song, such rankings are merely partisan obsessive bickering.

For all their albums through Volunteers, at least, the sound of Jefferson Airplane, instrumentally, was largely the work of Kaukonen. (“We want to lay down the music like a big hand,” Marty Balin said.) No one who has heard Kaukonen live can doubt that he is in absolute, confident command of his instrument, can do whatever he likes with it and does it beautifully. There is no greatness greater than that. There is only taste. As Mikhail Baryshnikov’s character says in Company Business: “It isn’t better — I just prefer it.”

From the title “Hot Tuna Blues Tour” and the inclusion of exemplary blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite, they have apparently narrowed their focus as a band. In the early days, when I used to go to their concerts around the Bay Area, they were as likely to play religious tunes or psychedelic rock or folk songs as straight blues (if that isn’t an oxymoron). On the other hand, the inclusion of Jim Lauderdale — whose latest album is a collaboration with Grateful Dead lyricist Robert Hunter — suggests that Kaukonen and Casady are still up to their eclectic tricks. It should be a beautiful, bountiful evening.

Tickets to the Hot Tuna Blues show are $45 and $35 and can be purchased from the Lobero box office at 33 E. Canon Perdido St. or 805.963.0761. Click here to order online.

— Gerald Carpenter covers the arts as a Noozhawk contributor. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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