Jack Casady's 10 best bass performances

Jack Casady
(Image credit: Scott Dudelson/Getty Images)

In the hands of Jack Casady, the teen-aged bass guitar soared to unprecedented new heights via the aptly-named Jefferson Airplane and the soon-to-emerge Hot Tuna, in the late ’60s.

In the ensuing 50 years, Casady has continued to leave his indelible mark on bass line construction via taste, tone, dynamics, melodicism, groove, and feel with everyone from Jimi Hendrix, David Crosby, SVT, and Warren Zevon to Gov’t Mule, Rusted Root, Peter Rowan, and of course, various editions of the unstoppable Hot Tuna.

We thought it was high time to look back at Casady’s low-end legacy.

10. Let Me In – Jefferson Airplane, Takes Off [RCA, 1966]

First-Wave Jack: The 21-year-old Casady was bold and bursting with ideas. As one critic wrote, looking back, “No-one was playing bass like this in 1966.”

9. Spare Chaynge – Jefferson Airplane, After Bathing at Baxter’s [RCA, 1967]

Nine-Minute, Free-Form Jack: Thanks to taking on such jazz influences as Eric Dolphy and Charles Mingus in his developing years, Casady has long displayed a sense of improvisation and exploration that helped lay a cornerstone for the still-thriving jam band movement.

Also of note from After Bathing at Baxters is Jack’s work on the horn-intoned meditation, Rejoyce.

Bonus Outtake track:

8. Share a Little Joke – Jefferson Airplane, Crown of Creation [RCA, 1968]

Lead Bass Jack: Casady has always been comfortable playing in the upper-register and with taking on a lead or counter-melody role. It’s all part of his masterful sense of orchestration.

7. Voodoo Chile – Jimi Hendrix, Electric Ladyland [MCA, 1968]

Jack Meets Jimi: In retrospect, this pairing, though rare, made perfect sense and was pure magic. The two also came together for Killing Floor, from Jimi’s Live at Winterland [Rykodisc, 1987].

In this behind-the-scenes footage, you can spot Casady at 3:00.

6. Somebody to Love (Live) – Jefferson Airplane, Bless It’s Pointed Little Head [RCA, 1969]

Jack Of All Trades: One of Casady’s tour-de-force performances, incorporating pretty much all of his stylistic and conceptual signatures. For a complete transcription of the track, see BP Holiday, 2011.

5. Mann’s Fate – Hot Tuna, Hot Tuna [RCA, 1970]

Trader Jack: Casady and his lifelong musical partner, guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, trade ideas on this classic Hot Tuna instrumental.

Bonus live version:

4. Sunrise – Paul Kanter/Jefferson Starship, Blows Against the Empire [RCA, 1970]

Multi Jack: Grace Slick’s singular, chamber-style piece is built upon multiple tracks of Casady’s howling, overdriven bass choir.

3. Water Song – Hot Tuna, Burgers [RCA, 1972]

Fuzz Jack: Always a master of tone and applying different bass sounds, Casady soars with an overdriven growl that somehow blends perfectly with Jorma Kaukonen’s acoustic guitar on this timeless track from arguably Hot Tuna’s best album.

Bonus live version:

2. Watch the North Wind Rise – Hot Tuna, Hoppkorv [RCA, 1976]

Support Jack: A stellar example of Casady’s aptitude for, above all else, supporting a great song.

1. Weight of Sin – Jack Casady, Dream Factor [Eagle, 2003]

Solo Jack: Casady turns up the funk and effects on this bass-led instrumental from his lone solo album. Also check out his huge-toned acoustic bass guitar performance on Outside.

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Chris Jisi was Contributing Editor, Senior Contributing Editor, and Editor In Chief on Bass Player 1989-2018. He is the author of Brave New Bass, a compilation of interviews with bass players like Marcus Miller, Flea, Will Lee, Tony Levin, Jeff Berlin, Les Claypool and more, and The Fretless Bass, with insight from over 25 masters including Tony Levin, Marcus Miller, Gary Willis, Richard Bona, Jimmy Haslip, and Percy Jones.