The Shade River from the A-Frame Trail... Jan. 8, 2017

The Shade River from the A-Frame Trail... Jan. 8, 2017

Jarhzeit For My Father
Jorma Kaukonen,
October 24, 1910-January 8, 1997

Dad on the fridge gallery... circa 1944

Dad on the fridge gallery... circa 1944

Twenty years ago I had driven over from Hillside Farm to the property on St. Clair Rd. where the Fur Peace Ranch would bloom the following year. Though it was January, it was not an exceptionally cold day like it is today. Ranch construction was already under way and the following year we would open for the first time. I was down at the little A frame which at the time was a functioning studio. I don’t remember why I was there on that winter day, or what I was doing. We had been in California over the New Year and had spent time with mom and dad and my brother Peter. We had only been home a couple of days.

Dad circa 1995

Dad circa 1995

This was before any of us had cell phones, if you can imagine such a thing. I had just returned to Hillside Farm and as I got out of my truck and walked across the driveway in front of the barn, Vanessa called out, ‘Your father just died,’ Vanessa told me. ‘You have to go back to California.’ Mortality is always with us but sad to say, for me up to this point it was an abstract concept. Friends of the family had passed… true. My grandparents had passed… also true… but for some reason in the order of things that’s just the way it was.

This was different on many levels.

Vanessa couldn’t leave the farm untended at that time soI was on a plane back to California the next day. I got together with my brother Peter and our dear friends Chuck and Donna and along with my Mom, went to the funeral home where there was a viewing. The moment was so surreal. We had just seen dad the week before, and here he was in a funeral chapel…

My father was as human as any of us. In life he was, as I am, an imperfect man. That said, he always did the best he could and loved his family with a passion all his own. In life that kid who was born in 1910 in Ironwood, Michigan in Gogebic County to Finnish Immigrants would stride across the world with very long legs. My relationship with him as a young man was always contentious and in retrospect that is more on me than it is on him. Late in life I was blessed to be able to call him friend. We were often able to show love for each other… to be able to say, ‘I love you!’ Death leaves many things left undone, unsaid… but this was not one of them.

I remember so well the last time I saw my father. After our time with mom and dad over those Christmas holidays Vanessa and I stopped by their house in Mill Valley to say goodbye. Dad already had a far away look in his eyes, as if he could already see another place waiting for him. I did not see it then… but over they years I have came to recognize that look when I see it today. We all hugged each other and as I was getting into the car dad went up to Vanessa. He looked at me and then at her and said, ‘Is the kid going to be all right?’ I don’t know what Vanessa answered but I can tell you today, ‘Yeah dad, the kid is all right.’

I miss you dad.

May your memory be a blessing!

Jormason and Maverick contemplate the world

Jormason and Maverick contemplate the world

Foto by Vanessa Kaukonen


  1. Comment made on January 25, 2017 by PJK

    This moved me. made me think of my Dad. May their memories be a blessing.


  2. Comment made on January 16, 2017 by John B

    Thank you for sharing this with us Jorma. When you write from the heart like this it always pulls at the strings attached to my heart . Tears do flow as I recall the times with and words from my Dad .

  3. Comment made on January 15, 2017 by johno

    My father died 10 years ago last month. It seems to me he never died – like he’s still alive. I have great memories of my dad. A kind, gentle soul – a happy man. I know he’s in a good place.

  4. Comment made on January 15, 2017 by HOGAN

    Hey Jorma,

    I had the pleasure of briefly meeting your Dad once at a show with Harvey back in the day. He seemed like a nice man with a kind face. My Dad has been gone three years in February and it still is hard at times. He was one of the best, simple, hard worker, funny, served our country, and true to his word. When I was very young my parents divorced and Mom left and Dad raised my brother and myself and that was so unheard of then and he did a great job, he would always tease me about going to see Yarma and Hot Tuna but knew that I enjoyed it. He built memories with us as you are doing with your children that no one can ever take away. He held me when I took my first breath and I held his hand when he took his last. Depending on what your beliefs are I know that I will see him again some day.

    Take Care

  5. Comment made on January 13, 2017 by Chuck

    April 14, 1999 for my Dad. Love you Dad!

  6. Comment made on January 13, 2017 by JD

    December 9. 2014 for my dad. It still feels deep and hard.

  7. Comment made on January 12, 2017 by Jim Bacon

    Hey Jorma, my dad also didn’t quite make it to 87 – born 4/7/1915 died on 1/2/2002 – lived long enough also so I could get to know him better – my son Griffin was then born exactly 5 years later 1/2/07 – funny how things like that happen – enjoy every day and make sure the ones you love know it and on we go – working on some good Blind Blake stuff, it’s crazy how that guy could play – all the best to Vanessa and the FPR crew

  8. Comment made on January 11, 2017 by Brian Doyle

    We’re all just castaways in an ever expanding universe man…

  9. Comment made on January 11, 2017 by Barbara Jacobs

    He was looking for the White Rabbit.

  10. Comment made on January 11, 2017 by Brian Doyle

    I played Bathing At Baxter’s loud in my garage when unpacking the groceries. When I came back later to get something I saw the big brown rabbit that was in the garden when I pulled in deep in the back of the garage where he never goes. I think he dug the Airplane and checked out the garage.

  11. Comment made on January 10, 2017 by Barbara Jacobs

    Jorma’s right when he compares himself, looking like Jorma Sr. at this age.
    I have some wonderful photos of Jorma Senior hanging out with us at a SEVA benefit concert, 1994.
    I placed the photo of Jorma sitting next to Jorma Sr., next to current photos of Jorma. Jorma is his father’s son.

    Jorma Senior’s memory really is a blessing for me. I only need to look at those photos and it makes me feel happy.
    I showed the photos from that day, to Mr. and Mrs. Ham’nEggs:
    They remarked: “Look how young Jorma looks there!”
    I told them about how, on that day, I was looking at photos from 1969 with various guests/performers in attendance. We all exclaimed:
    “Look how young we look there!”

  12. Comment made on January 10, 2017 by Jack Blind

    Boy, You are the spittin’ image of dad. I think of my dad and what he would do when I have something to figure out. It is all a part of the grand plan.

  13. Comment made on January 9, 2017 by Mitch Spector

    God rest your dads soul Jorma. May only good things come to you and your family in 2017 and beyond.
    Peace and love always !!

  14. Comment made on January 9, 2017 by John R.

    Thank you for these thoughts, Jorma. Each of us can relate to them in his or her own way. Wonderful photo of you and Maverick.

  15. Comment made on January 9, 2017 by Tom Grall Jr

    Thank-you Jorma for the poignant memories of that awful and painful time in your life. My father and your acquaintance Coach Tom Grall passed away peacefully this Friday January 6th 2017, on a rainy day in San Diego, Ca. God Bless, thank-you for sharing. Tom Jr.

  16. Comment made on January 8, 2017 by Mark Kran

    Seems like he had a Full Go Round

  17. Comment made on January 8, 2017 by Rick dickerson

    That was a very humble look at the way life is. I lost my son 7 years ago, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. This time of year makes us be still and look at our lives. The biggest reason I love coming to fur peace ranch is that my dad my son and I all play music (poorly) and we love the outdoors. FPR has all of that. He would have loved the place. I have an old Yamaha guitar hanging on the wall that I pick up and play. Nothing but good memories when I do. Thanks Jorma for sharing about your Dad and creating a safe place for me to go that makes me reflect. We are all human and mortal

  18. Comment made on January 8, 2017 by Joey Hudoklin

    It’s great you were able to have your Dad as a friend.
    That’s something I wished for with mine, but never happened.
    Thank you for sharing this Jorma.
    Yah, your alright.
    I look forward to Santa Barbara Lobero, and San Francisco Electric!

  19. Comment made on January 8, 2017 by jim hitchcock

    Been 10 + years since moving from L.A. to Carson City.

    Time to visit my folks at Inglewood Park Cemetary.

    Could be while I’m there I’ll pay a visit to your Mom, Dad, and and uncle who must have been someone who was a joy to hang with.

    Just a quick nod, perhaps a wink, knowing that I knew a bit more about roots than I had previously.

  20. Comment made on January 8, 2017 by eaglesteve

    Mid 1980s. Snowy winter night down at the Lonestar in NYC, the one with the insect statue. Not many there because of the weather. Your Dad walked in. I think he was wearing the same hat in your second photo. Everyone greeted him. Had a big smile on his face. Looked then a lot like you look now, as your post the other day noted. Nice man. RIP

  21. Comment made on January 8, 2017 by Carey Georgas

    Wow. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful, personal experience in such a beautifully descriptive way.

Write a Reply or Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *