Archive for December, 2010

Into The Light On A Cold Fall Day

December 15th, 2010 14 comments

Into The Light
Jorma Kaukonen
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Over the years I have periodically found myself constrained to ask myself questions relating to my source and my destination… I guess we all do from time to time. When I was a kid in the first half of the last century I just wanted to be old enough to leave home and be on my own. I can’t blame my Mom and Dad for this, they were beset by their own demons and that’s just the way it was. As for me, I just wanted that dream of a walk in the sun as, well if not as an adult, at least as some sort of autonomous creature.

I don’t think I gave much thought to the responsibilities that go with such freedom… that would come much, much later. In any case, I bounced around emotionally from pillar to post until one day the guitar entered my life. What was that really all about? I mean I had studied music and a number of instruments from an early age, but the guitar and its attendant music opened a very real door into the world for me. Now it is impossible to separate the guitar as a prime mover from the music of the time, much of which was not guitar music. Think of the Sam Cooke song written by Sam as well as Lou Adler and Herb Alpert.

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the french I took

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be

Don’t know much about geography
Don’t know much trigonometry
Don’t know much about algebra
Don’t know what a slide rule is for

But I do know that one and one is two
And if this one could be with you
What a wonderful world this would be

Now I don’t claim to be an “A” student
But I’m trying to be
So maybe by being an “A” student baby
I can win your love for me

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the french I took

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be

La ta ta ta ta ta ta
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh
La ta ta ta ta ta ta
(Science book)
Ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh ooh
(French I took)

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me too
What a wonderful world this would be

I mean think about it, for this was deep poetry for an adolescent boy. I still can’t listen to that song today without being transported to another time when I, wrapped in the body of youth thought that the riddle of life might just be that simple.

Well, needless to say, that’s not exactly how it played out but I was certainly hardwired to see the world accompanied by a sound track. Of course, time moved on and something else happened along the way. I started out learning some stuff on the guitar… bluegrass like Jimmy Brown The Newsboy, murder ballads like Down In The Willow Garden, Banks Of The Ohio, bluesy offerings like Worried Man Blues… I still remember my Father getting on my case about some of my favorite material. ‘Worried man! What do you know about worries? Shackles on your feet… what do you know about shackles?’ Well, of course I wanted to say, ‘Dad, I’m a teenager in the 50’s, I know lots about shackles and worry,’ but due to some divine intercession this was one of those rare moments in my life when I chose to hold my tongue. Anyway, playing songs for myself was grand… the natural room echo in my parents tile bathroom couldn’t be beat, but this wasn’t good enough. I remember my best friend, Bill Haile (may he rest in peace) euchred me into going on a Presbyterian Retreat. I had just gotten my driver’s license, I was the proud owner of a 1950 Studebaker Starlite Coupe as well as a Gibson J-45 guitar there would be girls there and I knew a couple of songs.

Ah, that innocent passion of youth… indeed. So, on Saturday night they had a ‘talent’ show and of course I signed up… my first public performance. I played Worried Man Blues… it was a smash hit. The applause got me right where I lived. They wanted another song. I followed it up with Champion Jack Dupree’s Dirty Woman Blues. They were not quite so excited about this choice of material and out came the hook. I didn’t even get to finish the song but that was OK. I got that taste of applause and I have to tell you I liked it.

Time marched on as it is wont to do and I continued to pursue a musical path… it was no longer my choice, it was something I had to do. I remember going to see such memorable artists as Pete Seeger as well as Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee at Constitution Hall (maybe it was Lisner Auditorium, I don’t remember) and I would be sitting there in the dark waiting for the concert to begin. A hush would fall over the audience, the curtain would go up and the musicians would walk into the light and start to play. That moment of walking into the light… coming from darkness into crystal clarity was a grand epiphany. I knew then that I needed that moment to be a part of my life.

As the years began to unravel, I played open mikes from Gerde’s Folk City in New York in 1960 to the Offstage in San Jose, California a couple of years later. One moment you’re in some murky tuning room, and then you take the stage. The room might still be murky in reality but to be there with instrument in hand with a microphone in front of you are part of a celestial ascension.

A couple of years ago I was on a CAMI tour with Ruthie Foster and Robben Ford and we all sort of rotated off and on the stage as the production demanded and I remember sitting in the darkness in the wings with my guitar in hand waiting for my moment to walk into the light. Last year with David Bromberg as we would take turns on the stage I remember the same feeling… waiting to walk into the light and present myself to the audience. What a strange anomaly that all is having little or nothing to do with the world we all inhabit most of the time. Taking a kid to school, or their show or a trip to the doctor certainly does not offer a trip into the light to the taker.

Well, life has a way of balancing things… a way of introducing one to humility like it or not. I am no different in that respect… that is for sure! That said, in my creative life which also overlaps into my working life, I get to walk with angels and every now and then I get to fly. How great is that? I don’t know what the point of all these observations are. At this point in my life I would wish for a little more time to watch my children grow and a few more trips into the light before that final light calls my name. I will answer that call too, as we all must… and the meantime I will try to keep smiling and stay out of the shadows.

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Picking For Martin

December 12th, 2010 2 comments


Yes folks… Barry and I played the Martin show in Easton tonight and here is our set list:

Jorma Kaukonen & Barry Mitterhoff 14, 2010
Martin Guitar Tour
Easton Concert
State Theater Center Of The Arts
Easton, Pennsylvania
Saturday, December 11, 2010

1. Been So Long
2. Izze’s Lullaby
3. Let Us Get Together Right Down Here
4. Second Chances
5. Hesitation Blues
6. Come Back Baby
7. Full Go Round
8. Death Don’t Have No Mercy
9. I Know You Rider
10. Trouble In Mind with the whole gang
11. The Weight with the whole gang

Rory Block, Craig Thatcher, Peter Rowan and Woody Mann were all there as well as Dick Boak and what a time we had! This is a short entry, but suffice it to say that we had a great time and now we’re heading back to our digs in New Jersey! Wasn’t this a time…

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Half The Sky Foundation On 12/17/10

December 11th, 2010 2 comments

Half The Sky Benefit with Jorma Kaukonen, Patty Larkin & Chris Smither

ARLINGTON, MA: Due to a family emergency, Lucy Kaplansky will be unable to participate in the Half The Sky benefit concert at the Regent Theatre on December 17, 2010. The event will go on as planned with master songwriters, musicians and performers Jorma Kaukonen, Patty Larkin and Chris Smither. Proceeds of the event will benefit Half The Sky, an organization supporting orphaned children in China. Doors for the 8:00 PM concert will open at 7:30 PM. Tickets are $35 General Admission, $50 Premier Seating, and $75 Gold Premier (Premier Seating & After Party at Flora Restaurant, Arlington) and are now on sale at the Regent Box Office, by phone 781-646-4849, and online at

I post this because the Half The Sky Foundation is a cause near and dear to my heart. We will miss Lucy at this event and our prayers go out to her and her family. Please come out and support this if you can, check out their website and don’t forget to look into the Legend Of The Red Thread.

Oh yes… my friend Barry Mitterhoff will be playing with me as well. 2010-appeal-banner-home

Thanks folks!

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The Talkhouse At The Tip Of Long Island

December 11th, 2010 1 comment

I have been playing the Stephen Talkhouse in Amagansett since 1987. Peter Hohnerkamp and his friends are quite simply the best as is the audience who frequents this haunt. I got a birthday cake and a lot of good vibes as well as a Japanese dinner… and here is what we gave them:

Jorma Kaukonen & Barry Mitterhoff 13, 2010
Stephen Talkhouse
Amagansett, New York
Friday, December 10, 2010

First Set:
1. Been So Long
2. Hesitation Blues
3. River Of Time
4. Come Back Baby
5. I Know You Rider
6. Second Chances
7. Let Us Get Together
8. More Than My Old Guitar
9. Parchman Farm
10. Keep Your Lamps Trimmed And Burning
Second Set:
1. How Long Blues
2. Blue Railroad Train
3. I See The Light
4. The Terrible Operation
5. 99 Year Blues
6. Good Shepherd
7. Genesis
8. Nine Pound Hammer
9. Encore: True Religion

Now it’s back to our digs in New Jersey… what a night!

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A Night In the Village

December 10th, 2010 2 comments

Last night, Barry Mitterhoff and I went into Manhattan and played a fundraiser for the Greenwich House… which, buy the way has been teaching music to kids for over a hundred years. We got to hang a bit with our friend Tom Colicchio who has a kid who attends the Greenwich House.

greenwich house

We able to help in raising quite a bit of money and we got to play some music. Here is our set list:

Jorma Kaukonen & Barry Mitterhoff 12, 2010
Greenwich House Benefit
New York City
Thursday, December 9, 2010

1. Blue Railroad Train
2. Been So Long
3. Second Chances
4. Hesitation Blues
5. Come Back Baby
6. River Of Time
7. The Terrible Operation
8. Vicksburg Stomp
9. Things That Might Have Been
10. I Know You Rider
11. Good Shepherd
12. Nine Pound Hammer

After the show we headed back to our digs in New Jersey and as I write this, I am in the bus outside of the Stephen Talkhouse where Barry and I are playing tonight. Time for soundcheck. More anon…

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A Hard Day’s Night

December 8th, 2010 8 comments

We’ve been in the Studio every day since the second beacon show and we’re just winding up as I write. It’s been a heck of a session. Time to load the bus and head for New Jersey… More will be written tomorrow. In the meantime, here’s a picture from Saturday night at the beacon…
Jorma 70_2010 12 05_1217

Guess who’s who…

More anon.

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As The World Turns

December 7th, 2010 28 comments

Well, here I am just getting ready to get back to the studio to finish up the project with Jack. There have been lots of comments about the Beacon shows and I appreciate them all. Suffice it to say, that I think people will be truly surprised in a good way by what we are accomplishing in the studio. You know, it’s funny… when you start talking with people about art and performance, everyone is an architect… I do the same thing myself. Some like what you do… some have suggestions. It’s all good, it really is. For us, it’s exciting to start going places we haven’t been before… driving a new road in the old car so to speak. I’m really excited about this new Tuna CD and I hope you all will be too. In any case, as always we try to do our best. We’ll be out of the studio tomorrow and the project will be in the capable hands of Mr. Larry Campbell and Mr. Justin Guip. I don’t have a release date yet. Needless to say we’ll keep you posted.

Last but not least for this entry… Today Vanessa and I have been married for twenty two years! The woman is a saint… and she is indeed the wind beneath my wings.

Off to the studio!

Categories: Diary, Fur Peace Ranch, Thoughts Tags:

Night Two Birthday Bash At The Beacon

December 5th, 2010 38 comments

Well, where to begin? These shows this weekend were just so special to all of us the the Tuna Family. In many respects, New York has always been our musical home… no disrespect to all the other wonderful places that let us play for them… but New York is just, well, New York. To be surrounded by so many musical friends as well as people who have supported us over the years touched me deeply. The years just seemed to cascade over the rocks of my memory. I will truly never forget this one. Here is our set list… reasonably correct, I hope:

Beacon Birthday Bash Day 2
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Set One:
1. Serpent Of Dreams
2. Been So Long
3. Ode To Billy Dean
4. I Wish You Would
5. San Francisco Bay Blues with Pete Sears
6. Big Railroad Blues with Pete Sears & Michael Falzarano & Bob Weir
7. How Long Blues with Pete Sears & Michael Falzarano
8. If This Is Love I Want My Money Back
9. Bowlegged Woman with Oteil Burbridge, Bob Weir & Bob Steeler
10. Walking Blues with Bob Weir and Oteil Burbridge & Bob Steeler
Set Two:
1. I See The Light with Pete Sears
2. 3rd Week In The Chelsea with Pete Sears
3. Nothing Brings You Down Like Your Home Town with Steve Earle
4. Brand New Companion with Steve Earle
5. 99 Year Blues with Oteil Burbridge
6. When I Paint My Masterpiece with Bob Weir, Pete Sears on accordion
7. Talkin’ Bout You with Bob Steeler
8. Hesitation Blues with Bob Steeler
9. AK-47 with Michael Falzarano and Bob Steeler
10. Funky # 7 Bob Steeler, Oteil Burbridge & Pete Sears
11. Come Back Baby with Steve Earle, Bob Weir, Oteil Burbridge, Michael Falzarano
12. Encore: Baby What You Want Me To Do? With the same cast of characters.

Jack and I certainly felt all the fire from the old days coming out of our fingers… well I don’t want to gush too much but we sure got to play some great songs with great people. After the show downstairs they broke out the cake they presented me on stage and it tasted just as good as it looked.


Lookin’ good and tastin’ good!


This morning at breakfast in the diner, I ran into lots of folks who were at the show last night… Bob Steeler and his family were there… it was better than old times. We may have to do this again!

I would be totally remiss if I didn’t give another big thanks to Louis Rosano of Louis Electric Amps. He provided all the amps for the show. thanks buddy!


Back in Woodstock to finish up the new Hot Tuna for Red House Records.

I think I’ll go get some dinner. I love this job!

Night One Birthday Bash At The Beacon

December 4th, 2010 26 comments

Wow… what a night at the Beacon last night. We had so many wonderful guests. Happy Traum was the first one up to join us on stage and he did so with Sportin’ Life Blues. Happy and I go way back and back in the day he was one of the major players in the Big Folk Scare. Happy was and is still… one of the Big Dogs. Our next guest was was my old buddy John Hammond. John and I met at Antioch College in 1960. He and I have been friends for fifty years and he was the first of my musical buddies to be a star… he is still a star! As I said last night at the show, a long, long time ago in a parallel universe when I was in the Jefferson Airplane Bill Kirchen was in Commander Cody’s Lost Planet Airmen. Bill is such a good friend and of course he teaches frequently at the Fur Peace Ranch. The cat was really out of the bag now. Larry Campbell came up for Bill’s ‘Talkin’ ‘Bout Chicken and stayed up for ‘Come Back Baby’ joined by the master musician, Warren Haynes. This first set was over but the evening had just begun.

My old friend and colleague, Michael Falzarano, has spent the last seven months choreographing this mad little delight for us and what a great job he’s done. He will be joining us tonight behind his own guitar, but more on that later. Anyway, for the second set we brought up Byron House to join Jack on upright bass. Byron was part of my Grammy nominated CD, ‘Blue Country Heart’ in 2002 and he produced my Red House Records Project ‘Stars In my Crown’ a couple of years later. Speaking of Red House, my friends and colleagues from Red House, Eric Peltoniemi and Ellen Stanley flew in from the Twin Cities and it was really great to see them even for such a short time! Anyway, Byron and Jack are old buddies and they really teamed up together. Larry came out for Genesis and really played some simply beautiful guitar for us. Warren came out and joined Larry and us on Bowlegged Woman… and well, it was quite the notefest.

We welcomed Bruce Hornsby next and Bruce, genius that he is surprised us with a dulcimer… and a mountain version of ‘Children Of Zion.’ I had no idea, but I really dug it. Larry stayed out an played fiddle and for the next number, Bruce got on the Steinway Grand Piano and filled in the blanks on ‘I Know You Rider.’ Back in the stripped down Tuna format we played one of our new songs that we just recorded, ‘If This Is Love, I Want My Money Back.’ My buddy from down home in Meigs County, Mark Markham, penned that romantic ditty and that just set the stage for another dear old friend Chris Smither to come out and play an acoustic version of Blind Boy Fuller’s ‘Step It Up And Go.’ Thanks Chris!

The guitar guys came out for ‘Rock Me Baby’ and stayed of for ‘Funky #7’ with Bruce Hornsby. A twelve and a half minute version with some serious jamming. Here is our set list:

The Beacon
Friday, December 3, 2010

12/3 Guests
Bruce Hornsby
Warren Haynes
Happy Traum
Larry Campbell
Byron House
Bill Kirchen
John Hammond
Chris Smither

First Set:
1. I See The Light
2. Corners Without Exits
3. Talkin’ Bout You
4. Can’t Get Satisfied
5. Sportin’ Life Blues with Happy Traum
6. Ode To Billy Dean
7. Living Just For You
8. John Hammond …I Can Tell
9. John Hammond …. You Know That’s Cold
10. Talkin’ Bout chicken with Bill Kirchen and Larry Campbell
11. Come Back Baby with Kirchen and Warren Haynes and Larry Campbell
Second Set:
1. Water Song with Jack & Byron House
2. 99 Year Blues with Jack and Byron
3. Genesis with Larry Campbell
4. Bowlegged Woman with Warren Haynes & Larry Campbell
5. Children of Zion with Bruce Hornsby, Larry Campbell and the Tuna gang
6. I Know You Rider with Bruce Hornsby and Larry Campbell on fiddle
7. I This I Love I Want My Money Back
8. Step It Up And Go with Chris Smither
9. Rock Me Baby (with Larry Campbell, Warren Haynes, and Bill Kirchen)
10. Funky # 7… Warren Haynes, Bill Kirchen, Bruce Hornsby and Larry Campbell
11. Encore: Hit Single #1

Thanks guys… for sharing your art and friendship! Onward!

Oh yeah… one last thing. The great chef Andrew Zimmern did a Brazilian ceviche in my honor. Thanks Andrew. Click his name and check it out. I will.

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The Pressure’s On

December 2nd, 2010 26 comments

Well, good old Hot Tuna is getting ready to break from our sojourn at the Levon Helm Studios for a trip to New York City for our gig at the Beacon Theater which I have been told will be a 70th birthday celebration for… me! So I’m thinking… at some point I looked something like this:

young dog

A number of years ensued and at an earlier meeting this year with Tommy Emmanuel I found I looked like this:

me and tommy

What the heck happened? In any case, somehow it wound up here:

marquee beacon

Well, in spite of the fact that life is indeed a fragile thread, here we are and all things considered, it’s darn good to be here. I’m reminded of a line from Nicholas Proffitt’s ‘Gardens Of Stone.’

‘Here’s to us and those like us… damn few left!’

Onward… onward…

Categories: Diary, Hot Tuna, trips and journeys Tags: