Yesterday I spent almost four hours manhandling five hundred pounds of salt melt on our driveway… which is almost a quarter of a mile long. Myron and I got back from Nashville just in time to miss the storm there, and welcome the storm here. The live music experience is always rewarding and in an odd way, so is dealing with winter. I enjoy the physicality of it and am more than grateful that at 80 I still have the strength and endurance to do so. I remember getting frostbite back in Jãmtland in northern Sweden back in the 70’s. At least I learned to feel that coming so I can avoid it. Hard earned knowledge is priceless.
Today the girls and I shoveled and spread more salt for a couple of hours… trimming the morning’s accumulation and getting ready for the onslaught of the evening storm.
A little earlier as I was writing down some guitar serial numbers I got a call from my old friend John Hammond, the great blues artist. He and I have been friends for sixty two years. We were both at Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio in 1959 when he brought tapes of what we would come to know as the two Robert Johnson LP’s from New York. John was already well versed in the idiom and I was just starting out. Rev. Davis called out to me in a more approachable way as far as a musical direction but back then we were surrounded by the great ones, many of whom were still alive. Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Howling Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson (both one and two), Hubert Sumlin, Champion Jack Dupree, John Lee Hooker… so many great ones. I would see John Lee at Gerde’s Folk City in 1960. He was surrounded by beautiful ladies. Blues was looking good to say the least.
John would become the John Hammond we know within six months with a Columbia record deal and gigs across the country. I would move to California in 1962 and finish college at the University Of Santa Clara while I developed my style and ability to perform. John would stop by Santa Clara in late ’62 on his way north after gigs in LA. He was driving a ’56 Ford Victoria… Black and white with a white interior. Glass packs and fender skirts, of course… We hung out together for a couple of days and drove up to Fremont before the three digit interstates. We hiked through the cliffs surrounded by petroglyphs. Two young friends starting on a path that would become the highway of their lives. The petroglyphs are gone having made way for an eight lane highway, but the two friends are still here and still playing music.
The rise of 60’s ‘modern’ rock and roll changed my world in more ways than I can really count but without that time spent playing tiny coffee houses with a guitar and sometimes a mike, none of that would have happened. To be so fortunate to realize that you have a true calling when you are young is miraculous! As I transited from being Jerry Kaukonen the folk singer to being Jorma Kaukonen the lead guitar for Jefferson Airplane I experienced a dimensional shift. Life is indeed a funny old dog.
On a cold, grey, snowy day it is good to have these thoughts to keep one’s soul warm.
Mine is warm indeed…
The summer I have been thinking about today has nothing to do with seasons…