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My New Flammang J-35

January 14th, 2020 Jorma 10 comments
Like a walk back in time

Like a walk back in time

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

So last year early in the FPR season one of our students came down from Toronto and he had this J-35 looking thing built by a guy out in Iowa named David Flammang. I picked this guitar up and started to play and in a bizarre way it was like being twenty years old again. It had the same feel my ‘58 J-50 had when I got it in 1960. The way it played, the way it responded to my right hand and the way it felt perfect with .013’s. Tom Feldmann was on board for that class and he knew David… of course. He had used one of David’s L-00’s for a Robert Johnson instructional. He put me in touch with David and I ordered one immediately. He made two which he brought to a Tuna gig in St. Paul and I chose the one with the torrified top.

Now, I’ve already been asked, ‘Is it better than your M-30,’ and the liked. These are ridiculous questions. It’s apples and oranges. Martins sound like Martins, Gibsons and Gibson-like guitars have characteristics all their own. For that bass string sound so evident on the first Hot Tuna LP and Quah, you need a J-50 or something like it. That’s the deal. The M-30 is a long scale guitar and as such there is a certain sonorous quality short scales don’t have. But they have something else. Now, on the final FPR workshop of last year I had my old J-50 in the room, and it is still a really great guitar. She’s an old girl though and I would never take her on the road.

Is the Flammang better?

The Flammang is different… and in an interesting way hearkens back to another time. My Martins are magnificent and I’m not getting rid of any of them. I’m a lucky guy. I’ve got it all.

And speaking of having it all, the LSU/Clemson game last night was more that awesome. Joe Burrow, the QB that Ohio State overlooked, went to the high school where my daughter goes. Athens High School. Go Bulldogs!

Joe is awesome. All of us Southeast Ohio folk are so proud of him.

Life is darned OK!

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Seventy Nine Comes And Time Reminds Me Of Its Passing

December 24th, 2019 Jorma 31 comments
Lower 40 under water

Lower 40 under water

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

I got home from the Hot Tuna tour to find the Shade River well over its banks and neighbor Donnie’s field under water. These things come and go around here. At least with floods, there are few surprises. It was nice to be back home with the family. The tour wasn’t that long, but somehow it seemed as if a minor eternity had passed. On Saturday the girls took me up to Columbus for a birthday Ramen lunch at Meshikou.

I passed the egg off to Vanessa, but the rest disappeared!

I passed the egg off to Vanessa, but the rest disappeared!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

By the time I got home from Milwaukee I had a pretty good cold going and the spice in the Ramen broth helped suppress some of the symptoms, at least till I got home. On December 19th I got an email from an old friend, Mike Slater. He sadly informed me that Steve Farzan had passed. I had not seen Steve for a number of years but back in the mid 80’s we were band mates in a most idiosyncratic band, There Goes The Neighborhood. Somehow I briefly hooked up with Jaco Pastorius who I met one night at a gig at My Father’s Place in Roslyn, LI. I don’t really know how this happened but synchronicity is an amazing thing. Through Jaco I met Steve Sacher who played bass and replaced jaco when he disappeared, Ben Prevo who played guitar and was Steve’s roommate at that infamous apartment at #1 Lispenard Street. Rasheid Ali a colorful free jazz drummer lived around the corner on Greene St. Thanks to Steve’s connection with Jaco and ‘Sheid he found his way into our company. Last but not least, Steve Farzan came out from San Francisco… and there went the neighborhood.

We literally crossed the country together in my 1977 half ton sport van… with no air conditioning. We shared rooms, got paid next to nothing and forged the kind of bond that only road dog musicians truly understand. As the eighties evolved, There Goes The Neighborhood was laid to rest, the ‘89 Airplane Reunion was thrust upon me and I met Vanessa and married she, who was and always will be, the light of my life in this world. History has shown that some of these events proved to be more durable than others.

I’m not much of a social butterfly anymore so I miss out on a lot of hang time with old friends. That said, as infrequently as I saw Steve over the years I’m sorry he has moved on.

My 90 year old mother in law asked me at dinner the other night, ‘Does it feel different to be 79?’ The simple answer is, ‘Yes,’ but I’m not quite sure how yet. Life is more fragile, time more precious and friends and family more important. The final vote is still out.

Sunday Nessa, Izze and I drove to town to see the latest Star Wars Movie.

Sailor's Delight

Sailor's Delight

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

The twilight thunder continued all the way to town!

The old man at 79

The old man at 79

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

So far so good…

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Teaching Through Song!

November 17th, 2019 Jorma 15 comments
Adam Remnant and I hold forth...

Adam Remnant and I hold forth...

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

Adam Remnant, a local musician and teacher and I got together to present a little symposium for Creative Teaching Through Song at the 2019 Literacy Conference for the Patton College of Education at Ohio University. Our audience was comprised of OU education students and the onstage class was eighth graders and high school kids. In the space of ninety minutes we forged the kids into a songwriting teams… and they wrote a very cool song.

This was a real treat for me and I have to say, I learned a lot from Adam… who is used to working with kids. A good time indeed.

The A-Team at the end of the session.

The A-Team at the end of the session.

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

This was an honor and a pleasure indeed!

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A Wondrous Milestone… 2019 Season Closes At The Fur Peace Ranch

November 11th, 2019 Jorma 10 comments
Full moon over the Ranch!

Full moon over the Ranch!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Things are always hot at the Fur Peace Ranch but this fine November availed us all of a beautiful weekend. There is snow and an Arctic Blast coming in tonight, but the weekend was golden! Our good friend Tom Feldmann was on hand to help with our closing Level IV class. The room was filled with great players and on Sunday our guitar tech and sound man, Myron Hart came in and gave the class a multi dimensional taste of what it is like for a professional performer to adapt to different environments every night and still come up with a great sound. Thanks Myron!

Saturay night, good old fun loving Hot Tuna closed the Fur Peace Station Concert Series with two rocking electric sets. Our worth compatriot Justin Guip drove down from Upstate New York to play drums and a grand old time was had by all!

Hot Tuna 46, 2019
The Electric Trio
Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady
& Justin Guip

Fur Peace Station
Final Concert 2019
Darwin, Ohio

First Set:
1. Been So Long
2. Day To Day Out The Window Blues
3. I See The Light
4. Ode To Billy Dean
5. Talkin’ Bout You
6. Sea Child
7. Roads and Roads &
8. Bowlegged Woman
9. Come Back Baby

Second Set:
1. Living Just For You
2. Letter To The North Star
3. Serpent Of Dreams
4. Can’t Get Satisfied
5. Hit Single #1
6. Rock Me Baby
7. Sleep Song
8. Trial By Fire
9. Good Shepherd
10. Funky # 7
11. Encore: Water Song

Big thanks to Justin and his son Angus for making the trip. See you both soon at the Town Hall in NYC on the 29th and 30th of this month.

Jack, Tom, the gang at the Ranch and I on Sunday

Jack, Tom, the gang at the Ranch and I on Sunday

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen

I brought out my 1968 Gibson J-50 for the guys to see and play. This guitar was with me every step of the way from 1960 really into the early 80’s. Other guitars may have reared their peg heads, but the old Gibby was never far away!

Tom Feldmann did another stellar Coffee Break Concert in the Beatrice Love Kitchen for the breakfast show!

Another year begins to slip away. Their has been laughter and tears in the course of this year… but we are still alive to wrap ourselves in both.

I expect snow tonight…

Time moves on… as do we…

And last… but not least… I honor all our veterans, past and present. In my family, my dad and his two brothers… all WWII vets. Jorma Sr., USN, Pentti Kaukonen, US Army, Tarmo Leonard Kaukonen, US Army.

Thanks to you all!

As Always… Adrift On The River Of Time

October 30th, 2019 Jorma 39 comments

So much has been going on… both joyful and sorrowful. Births, deaths, weddings… funerals. Quite the emotional landscape.

A walk down by the Shade River

A walk down by the Shade River

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

I was going to go on about this and that, but on second thought I had a great day. I drove our daughter to school… and we talked. I dropped her off and she told me shoe loved me. I came home and spent some time in the woods. It was lovely… now it’s raining and it is truly all good.

My highway to the stars

My highway to the stars

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Life is going on… and I am still here to enjoy it!

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It Is With Great Sorrow…

October 26th, 2019 Jorma 15 comments

…that I note our friend Paul Barrere passed today. I was playing a wedding tonight in Virginia and when I got back to the hotel, Vanessa called me with the news. There is never any good time for bad news. A couple of days ago I was in California for Robert Hunter’s funeral, and now this. It was nice to be at the wedding this evening surrounded by a feeling of beginnings… it is sad to witness an end. We were so blessed to have Funky Feat at the Fur Peace Ranch in June and it was an honor to sit in with the guys.

Here we all are at the Ranch in June in a happier time.

Fred Tackett, Jorma, Vanessa, John Hurlbut, Kenny Gradney and Paul Barrere

Fred Tackett, Jorma, Vanessa, John Hurlbut, Kenny Gradney and Paul Barrere

We’ll miss you Paul…

Fair winds and following seas brother…

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9/11… 18 Years On

September 11th, 2019 Jorma 6 comments

My Uncle Pentti remembered landing at Leyte Gulf to the day he died. The WWII battles in North Africa and Sicily were a part of Uncle Tarmo’s short life. For my father, Jorma Sr. passing through the Philippines and landing in Japan after VJ Day was his story. For me, these are all episodes of Victory At Sea… a show I watched every week on TV as a kid. Rodgers and Hammerstein’s theme music is still burned in my aging brain.

My son was four when that plane hit the Pentagon in Arlington not far from where he and his mom lived. I remember calling to see if they were all right when the lines went dark. Our daughter was not even born yet. She has no memories of 9/11.

I got a call that morning from my friend Michael. I was going into a doctor’s appointment in Columbus. ‘I’ll call you back,’ I said and hung up. ‘Wait a minute. What did he say?’ I called back immediately but the cell service went dark. Nessa and I saw the first tower fall on a wall of TV’s in a Sam’s Club in Canal Winchester and the rest is more than history. Like so many we lost dear friends in the Twin Towers. Nessa went into the pit with Bob… a friend of ours who was a first responder at the time. We had driven to Manhattan that day for a funeral service.

Those days will forever be etched into my memory.

Today in my small way I honor those who fell on that beautiful Fall morning… and those who continue fall as a result of what happened that same Fall morning… September 11, 2001.

I do not forget today… and I will continue to remember.

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Modern Times, Age… And The Apprehensions Of LIfe

August 7th, 2019 Jorma 31 comments

So it’s been a busy week filled with things that were occasionally frustrating, often rewarding and never dull. Last Thursday my pal Smiles and I were working in my barn/shop replacing the ballast in some fluorescent lighting. My phone made that noise that tells me that the Weather Channel was trying to warn us about something. I looked down and there was a warning that a lightning storm was approaching. A lighting event was only four miles away. I looked at the radar. It looked like it was going to just miss us so we kept on working. Looking up, the sky looked like the Mind Flayer from Stranger Things was suddenly hovering over us. I had to rethink my position. A little rain. How bad could it be? The Mind Flayer cloud wrapped itself over the Fur Peace Ranch and in the blink of an eye we were deluged with rain. Hurl was running to his truck to close the sun roof and as we looked out into the rain, the parking lot lit up with the closest lightning strike I’ve ever witnessed.

When we had our first lightning strike in the early 90’s over at Hillside Farm one of my buddies philosophically said, ‘Jorma, lightning goes where it wants to… when it wants to.’ True that. In a millisecond, TV’s were fried… phones were fried… the Ranch internet was fried… and more. The mother board for the Generac fried and the breaker to the pool pump gave up its life to save the pump and the salt generator. Friday we were planning to have a pool party for Izze and twenty of her friends so this was really a potential disaster in the making. Vanessa jumped into Repair Mode as she does and Friday morning Smiles replaced the pool breaker. The party went off as planned and while the kids enjoyed moderate mayhem poolside, Nessa and I sat by the fire.

By the sacred fire pit.

By the sacred fire pit.

Selfie by us

The fire pit sits on the location where Grandpa Wallace Black Elk built a sweat lodge in 1998 and where I heard the Thunder Beings circle the lodge. Wallace Black Elk passed on ‘04 but sharing his spiritual space in ‘98 will never be forgotten.

The space is still sacred!

The space is still sacred!

Timed Selfie

There were no thunder beings today, but the laughter of kids is a good substitute.

Good times!

Good times!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

We found ourselves in an internet free zone, both a blessing and a curse. I had phone service, but I’m not fond of doing internet work on the phone. In any case, Sunday was a beautiful day and I allocated it’s beauty to a motorcycle ride to Ritter Park in Huntington, West Virginia.

Ritter Park

Ritter Park

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Back in the 90’s I had a dear friend named Butch, aka Taylor. When he found he had cancer he had me record a six hour oral history to leave to his family. He lost a lung but kept on talking and playing his harmonica into my microphone. The cancer came back. I guess he figured ‘What the heck,’ so he started smoking again. I remember recording him while he smoked and breathed oxygen. ‘Don’t blow me up,’ I said. In any case, Butch was also an artist and spent the last year or so of his life creating the stainless steel sculpture I had come to see again in Ritter Park. He called it his ‘Earth Portal,’ and indeed it was, as I shall explain.

The Portal... Sunday in the park...

The Portal... Sunday in the park...

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

As I was walking towards the sculpture from my bike, a father and son stopped to look at the work. They were walking away as I was approaching it and I called to them, ‘My friend built this twenty years ago before he passed. He would be thrilled to know that families are still enjoying it. They regarded me with suspicion, but that’s OK. These are suspicious times, and I said what I had to say. Less than a week after Butch saw the work placed, he walked through his own Earth Portal… and was gone. My friend Jerry was there that day when the statue was placed and he got to spend some time Butch. ‘There are no ripples on my pond,’ he said.

What more could one want.

...and he lives on in a way!

...and he lives on in a way!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

The new week came and each day we worked to fix the burned out items. We have a camp this weekend so it was imperative to get everything back to normal, which we did… an hour ago.

And so it goes, people coming, people going. As my friend Gretchen Peters would say, ‘Good times come, good times go. If it lifts you up, it will lay you low. People leave and they don’t come back. Life is a disappearing act.’

Trials and tribulations notwithstanding, so far so good.

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A Stay Off Blue Ridge Parkway

July 13th, 2019 Jorma 32 comments

Nessa and I have known Jerry Weiner for over thirty years. Well, Nessa has known him longer than that. He was Nessa’s best bud in Key West before we met and he was her ‘maid of honor’ at our wedding on the Schooner Wolf in 1988. Jerry has done and been many things in his life, but he is also a master masseuse currently in residence at the Westglow Resort And Spa in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. The Kaukonens travel together a lot… that’s what we do, but we rarely get true family time. We had a couple of days after I got back from Hawaii so Ness conspired with Jerry to book us into the Westglow. We climbed into my big truck and drove on down.

It had been a while since I had been on the Blue Ridge Parkway and it’s easy to forget how beautiful it is. Five hours later we were there checking into the Fleur De Lis house.

The girls walking up Daingerfield.

The girls walking up Daingerfield.

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

A delicious dinner in the Rowland House and a good night’s sleep in preparation for a morning trip to the Mile High bridge at Grandfather Mountain.

Here we are!

Here we are!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

I’d been to Mt. Mitchell, but Never Grandfather Mountain. It was truly awesome!

The girls on Mile High Bridge

The girls on Mile High Bridge

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Some consider that Appalachian Mountains to be among the oldest in the world. This is awesome stuff!

Speaks for itself!

Speaks for itself!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Straight down...

Straight down...

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

This is better than my drone! What a view!

Nessa... standing on top of he world!

Nessa... standing on top of he world!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

The back to Westglow and the Rowland for another five star dinner and sunset!

This is au naturel!

This is au naturel!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Another restful night at the Fleur De Lis, breakfast and a goodbye to Westglow and Jerry.

Izze, Nessa and jerry

Izze, Nessa and jerry

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Like I said, to just get away on a trip that is not surrounded with work… well, it just never happens.

Goodbye view from the porch at Rowlands.

Goodbye view from the porch at Rowlands.

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Short but sweet… and now back home on a hot, hot July day!

Onwards!

My Heart Is Heavy…

June 9th, 2019 Jorma 25 comments

It’s been a tough couple of days. As noted, My friend Dr. John passed, Madeleine M. passed and earlier today I found that my friend of almost thirty some years, Spencer Bohren passed yesterday. Vanessa and I met Spencer in Fort Collins, Colorado in the very early 90’s and we were all kindred spirits in the blink of an eye. Spencer was a complete artist on so many levels that frankly I hardly know where to begin. He was one of the most understated examples of humanity that I hardly know where to begin… and he was my friend. He does not need me to eulogize him, his life speaks for itself and all of us who were honored to know him an call him friend, know exactly what I’m talking about. He was ten years younger than I and although his life was cut far too short, he made the most of it… always!

When he was diagnosed with cancer he and his wife Marilyn faced that harsh reality with a pure grace I’m not sure I could have mustered. I know that I will miss him on so many levels and who knows, his next gig may be the most amazing one of all. You are so missed my brother and I shall never take for granted the blessings of your friendship.

As if this wasn’t enough reality for one day as i was driving to New York for my gig with Phil Lesh Tuesday and Wednesday, I got a call from Vanessa. Our young friend Andrew, the same age as our daughter Izze, passed from cancer. When our Izze was first with us, Andrew was one of her very first friends. We all Trick Or Treated together and well… they were very young together. Andrew had been fighting an aggressive cancer for a couple of years. He was one of the toughest humans I have ever known. His family is one of the strongest families I have ever had the honor to know. I cannot possibly walk in their shoes… I hope I never have to. There is not much more I can say except I love them all and hope they can find whatever peace they need to find. As a parent, it is unthinkable to me that I should outlive my children.

Spencer, play a couple of songs for Andrew… in fact, show him how to play the guitar.

Fair winds and following seas you guys… fair winds and following seas!

You will be missed…

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