Hot Tuna 1970
from top: Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, Marty Balin, Joey Covington)
and Margareta, Jack and Melissa, Joey, Marty and Paul Ziegler
and his wife arrived in shifts in early June, staying together
in a rented house in Runaway Bay. Maurice secured the necessary
work permits to record at a club in Ocho Rios and arranged for
RCA to ship down the necessary recording equipment.
But by the time they left Jamaica, the future of Hot Tuna was
in doubt. What exactly transpired on the island is another one
of those Airplane-related sagas recalled differently by all
involved, but something unpleasant definitely happened. It wasn't
all fun in the tropical sun.
Casady: We were kind of feeling our way around about how
to do this Hot Tuna thing, because it was starting to get very
tough with the Airplane. We went to Jamaica to rehearse, to
play and put an album together. I think we saw it more as a
respite from Jefferson Airplane, a chance for us to vacation
and see what was going to happen, see if the personalities would
Kaukonen: It was just a way to get a free vacation. We really
didn't have anything to record. Everybody took their families
down. It was classic rock and roll stuff. We had dinners together,
and we pretty much did everything together.
people were always bitching. I remember we were having breakfast
one morning and I was busting Marty's balls about something,
and whatever it was just sent him over the edge. I remember
him throwing his plate on the floor and screaming, "Same
jokes, year after year," and he walked out. And I remember
thinking, hey, if you can't practice on your friends, who can
you practice on? But he was very upset with me. I'm sure that
every single one of us, myself included, was guilty of histrionics.
I look back at this and I think, I really must have been an
obnoxious prick. I thought I was hysterically funny.
Thompson: Marty was getting more and more bitter about things.
All he did was complain and bitch and moan and groan. He was
putting people down. He was calling Grace a slut and insulting
everybody. He was drinking. He started growing a beard and he
kind of looked like Charlie Manson. Jorma didn't talk to him.
Jorma and Jack I don't think really liked him that much at that
time. And it was probably because of Jamaica. A lot of arguments
there. There were a lot of problems with Joey too. Joey would
just go along with what Marty said, but he should have kept
his mouth shut. He's got a big mouth.
Covington: Jorma brought in a guy named Paul Ziegler, who
couldn't play for shit but was an old friend of Jorma's. Marty
and I went, "Hey, it's time to talk to Jorma." We
went in and told Jorma, "We don't want to play with this
Marty said, "Let's go in and tell him, Joey." Then
of course Marty didn't say a thing. So I went in and told Jorma,
"Hey, I'm part of this band too. We should have some kind
of say here as to who we're gonna play with."
His wife, Margareta, said, "Joey, don't make waves."
I said, "This has nothing to do with you." Jorma goes,
"This is my band. I'll do what I want. And I'll hire and
fire who I please." So that's when I knew the shit had
hit the fan.
Kaukonen: My ex-wife would not have said, "Don't make
waves." She would have said, "Get the fuck out of
here, you're nothing but a drummer." And he would never
have had the balls to say, "This has nothing to do with
Thompson: Jorma had a great idea, which was to go to Jamaica
and record with the Rastafarians. This was before Bob Marley
or any of that.
Kaukonen: That might have been my idea but I don't remember
it. I have a lot of great ideas. I'd like to be an astronaut
Thompson: We were going to record with this guy called Count
Ossie, who was a famous Rastafarian, up in the mountains.
Covington: We were supposed to go to the Blue Mountains
and smoke with this Count Ossie guy and hang out and maybe he
was going to come and do something reggae with us.
Kaukonen: There was a trip in the mountains because that
was a romantic thing to do. The stuff that was happening in
the mountains was the stuff you'd expect to be happening in
the mountains in those days. There was a trip but I didn't do
all of this had so little to do with the music. And I don't
remember Count Ossie. Doesn't mean it didn't happen, but I don't
remember that. You need to know somebody to play with those
people and that really wasn't happening.
Covington: We weren't there to record with any Jamaican
guys, we were just there to make a Hot Tuna record.
"Maurice" Ieraci: I set the freaking thing up!
The Rastafarians were coming down to the club, they were bringing
all their steel drums and everything.
Kaukonen: There was a black band playing top 40 cover songs
at the club and we went and played a set, but we were there
to do our thing.
did they, or didn't they, do their thing?
"Maurice" Ieraci: We went down to the club to
do a P.A. check, make sure the board is right, do everything.
The last goddamn minute, Jorma ODs or he got laid with some
girl or something.
Kaukonen: I wasn't doing drugs in those days that you could
OD on, and I was with my wife so I didn't get laid with some
girl. The guy that went away with some girl and didn't show
up was Joey. I remember Joey coming to the wives and saying,
"This is what a real woman is like, you dumb white bitches,"
or something like that.
Covington: I met this beautiful Jamaican girl who was 16
and was about to be married to some lord from England, an arranged
marriage. She didn't want to marry the guy. She came to my hotel
room. I had caught some bats in a cave and brought them back
to my room and I was watching them when she came over. I was
smoking a big spliff at the time. She asked me, "Is that
the stuff the Jamaicans smoke?" I told her it was and she
tried some and stayed with me. She said she didn't want to go
back and marry this guy without knowing what it was like to
be with another man.
"Maurice" Ieraci: I would ring Jorma's hotel room,
but he would never answer. Then he says, "Maurice, I don't
feel like going on tonight. I don't want to record tonight."
"What?! I don't feel good, Maurice?' What are you
"Ah, Maurice, I don't wanna. Just tell 'em no."
do you mean, tell 'em no?!"
Kaukonen: First of all, we were living in a house, not a
hotel. And there were no phones in the rooms, so he couldn't
"ring Jorma's room." Maurice might have stayed in
a hotel, but we didn't.
Balin: I couldn't get anybody to rehearse. I said, "Look,
don't bring me to that island to sit around on my ass. I'm not
"Maurice" Ieraci: I was hanging, and Marty and
Joey kept hanging around; they were going to the beach, waiting
for Jorma and Jack. I don't know what they were doing.
Covington: Jorma and Jack never showed. Maurice is going
crazy. Marty is pissed off: "Eh, Jorma and Jack, same shit
again. They've got us all the way down in Kingston here."
we were in Kingston, Maurice, Marty and I went down to the Playboy
Club. But they wouldn't let us in because we had long hair.
We yelled a little and they finally sat us in a back corner.
Flip Wilson, the black comedian, was playing there that night
and heard about the problem and he came over and told them to
take care of us.
Kaukonen: We didn't even stay in Kingston, we stayed in
Runaway Bay. Kingston was hours away. We only went to Kingston
later when someone we knew got caught with something and the
authorities called us down there.
"Maurice" Ieraci: I called up RCA and I said,
"They don't wanna record." This is RCA's gear that
they shipped to Jamaica from New York. There's nothing I can
say to talk them into it. I said, "Jorma, that's the lowest
thing you can do to me, man." We never actually played
any gigs, just rehearsals.
Kaukonen: I'm sure as the guy who was responsible to RCA,
Pat had plenty to be pissed about, but we actually did play
one gig and it was recorded.
the end of their stay in Jamaica, the band finally did manage
to assemble at the club long enough to tape a set. They cut
most of the songs in the electric band's repertoire at the time:
They played cover songs like Lightnin' Hopkins' "Come Back
Baby," Jimmy Reed's "Baby, What You Want Me To Do,"
"I Can Tell," which John Hammond had recorded, and
another old one, "Fool's Blues." Marty contributed
"Emergency," "Drifting," "You Wear
Your Dresses Too Short" and a workout on Peter Kaukonen's
"Up Or Down." Jorma had his "New Song (For The
Morning)," and Joey brought in "Whatever The Old Man
Does Is Always Right" and a new one he'd written, "Bludgeon
Of A Bluecoat (The Man)." In any event, just as they'd
gotten it together to actually play music, the Tuna party found
itself in real trouble, with a capital T. Once again, the memories
are hazy on the details but, they all seem to agree, the long-haired
Americans were forced to beat a hasty retreat from the country.
Thompson: Jorma had a friend who was driving this truck,
90 miles an hour over some road, and he gets stopped by the
police. They find 27 pounds of marijuana in the truck and they
go, "What's this for?"
he says, "Hey, man, I'm working with Hot Tuna over here."
Kaukonen: That's basically right. The Jamaican government
summoned us to come to Kingston and we went through this process
at the foreign office:
do you like Jamaica?"
because you're gonna spend 20 years here."
next thing I knew they said if you leave Jamaica everything
will be fine. Nothing much ended up happening. Today it's a
funny story, but I remember being scared shitless.
Thompson: I said, "Let's get out of here!" We
got out on the next flight.
Bill Thompson in 1999
by Jeff Tamarkin)
one story, or two, actually. Maurice recalls another completely,
and he's still not laughing. His version is that the arrangements
for the band to record weren't quite as casual as Jorma described,
that impatient Rastafarians were left high and dry at the club
where they were indeed supposed to play together with Tuna,
and that those Rastas didn't appreciate the rockers not showing
up, or simply deciding they didn't feel like playing.
"Maurice" Ieraci: I had to leave town early. I
left before the group. The Rastafarians were after my ass because
no one was showing up at the club. I begged Jorma to go to the
club, but Jorma and Jack didn't want to do it. They absolutely
refused to do it. I said, "Hey, guys, I'm the one who negotiated
tried to reason with the leader of the Rastafarian group, because
he had all these men come down there. I tried to be very apologetic.
I said, "I'll pay you."
He said, "Mon, you better leave, I'm gonna get you."
They were after me. They weren't after Jack and Jorma.
I took off on the next goddamn flight. I said, "That's
it, man, because I ain't gonna die in Jamaica."
Kaukonen: Maurice could have caught some flak but the only
thing the Rastas cared about in those days was making money.
It wasn't about music. It probably was a nightmare for Maurice,
but none of this Jamaican stuff was as traumatic to me as I
guess it should have been, considering how it affected everybody
Marty doesn't recall even sticking around long enough to
witness any of that action-movie stuff. He remembers simply
leaving out of disgust.
the first jab was an argument between Marty and Thompson on
the beach. According to an interview Marty gave to Crawdaddy
magazine in 1972, RCA had allocated $40,000 to Marty personally
for what was to be his involvement in Hot Tuna's first album.
Once they were already in Jamaica, swimming in the tropical
water, Marty told the magazine, Thompson admitted to him that
the others had taken Marty's share to pay for the Jamaica trip.
"I was shocked," he told Crawdaddy. "I
just looked at my manager and walked out of the water, got my
clothes together and I left."
also backed up the version of the story that has the initial
plan for the Jamaica trip being to go into the mountains and
make a recording with the Rastas. He also told writer Eric Rudolph
that Jorma didn't want to do it once they were there. "Joey
and I sat around mostly every day," he said in 1972, "waitin'
to get together. And there wasn't much gettin' together. And
then we never got to the album." Marty Balin:
I went to the engineer and said, "Look, man, I can't get
these guys together to work." So the engineer calls up
Jorma at the house. I'm in the room, listening in on the other
phone. He's talking to Jorma, "Hey, man, you gotta start
getting to work on this record, getting it ready."
Jorma says, "We can't get Marty. He's out there, we can't
get him to do anything." He blames the whole thing on me.
I said through the phone, "Fuck you, asshole. I'll see
you at the next gig." And I left.
Kaukonen: I have no recollection that he ever said, "Fuck
you, asshole." That doesn't mean it's not true, but Marty
never had the balls to ever say anything like that to my face.
any case, dramatic as it is, the veracity of Marty's yarn would
appear to be negated by his vocal presence on the Jamaica tape.
But those tapes, in the end, never were released, and although
copies survive, if Jorma has his say, they never will be.
Kaukonen: Because of the somewhat adversarial relationship
that Marty and I seem to have, I will probably never do anything
with those tapes because I don't want to give myself the headache.
Looking back on it today, the first Hot Tuna band was a joke.
And even though I don't think I had that kind of intellectual
awakening to the fact that the band wasn't gelling, some part
of me knew that, so I didn't pursue it.
truth of the matter is we had no material for the record when
we went to Jamaica. I'm sure our intentions were honorable,
but I was unprepared. If we were more prepared we would have
had something to record.
"Maurice" Ieraci: There's really nothing there
on those tapes to speak of.