Bob Kinzie & Jorma Kaukonen in 2019… College Buddies From Santa Clara

Photo by Joy Kinzie

There is never a time for news good or bad that is better than another. Time just is, well time… and it is up to us to make the most of it. In my time these days it seems like walking through a room filled with obituaries. Some I care about profoundly and some I pass by with a simple, ‘Oh well…’

I got up this morning at 0545 and I was beginning to get involved in my morning ablutions I noticed that there was a message notification from my friend Joy Kinzie on Oahu. Well I thought it was from my old friend Bob Kinzie who I met at Santa Clara the first couple of weeks I was on campus in 1962. He always used Joy’s email. I don’t even know if he had a personal email.

I opened it and as soon as I saw it was from Joy, I knew the news wasn’t going to be good.

It wasn’t.

Bob passed away on December 31, 2022 in San Diego. They were visiting their kids and grand kids in San Diego for the holidays I guess.

Walking the Pier Of Life

Photo by Jorma Kaukonen

The sadness of losing friends old or new is so selfish. We say, ‘I’m sorry for your loss,’ but what we really mean is, ‘I’m sorry for my loss.’ That’s got to be OK, perspective being such a personal thing and all.

I remember the first time I met Bob. Those first couple of weeks on a very conservative college campus were weighing heavy on me. I found myself at the University Of Santa Clara and I was starting to think I had made a big mistake and that my student deferment wasn’t worth being confined in such a monochromatic environment. Seems like a petty viewpoint over a half a century down the road but at 21 it made some sort of illogical sense.

I was walking along one day hugging the wall and trying to remain anonymous. Bob was coming the other way. He looked at me. ‘I see you’re a wall walker.’ Bob had longish hair and a beard in an era when this would have been an anomaly on a conservative campus.

I knew I needed to get to know this guy.

We both loved guitar music. He was fonder of slack key stuff from the Islands, but guitar music is guitar music. Within the next couple of days he told me: ‘There’s this guitar who dropped out of Santa Clara this year. He’s a string loving folkie. You need to meet him.’ ‘Take me to him.’ This sounded like a really good and welcoming idea.

Bob was from Santa Cruz and grew up on Monterey Bay. As a surfer in that time his surf wagon was a ’57 Ford Two Door Post with the back seat out so the board could slide in through the trunk and fit behind the driver’s seat.

We left Santa Clara and drove up Highway 17, past Redwood Estates and down the mountain in Santa Cruz. Santa Cruz was still a sparsely populated beach town with an amusement park and a wooden roller coaster which was the first thing I noticed as we drove into town.

Down at the beach (I think it was near Steamer Lane but I’m not sure.) there was a dwelling less than a house and more than a shack and there I met Paul Kantner for the first time. Paul was never a blues cat but he was a folkie of the first water. We became friends immediately.

Since I didn’t have a car in California yet if I needed to get to some music related event in the Bay Area Bob, (good friend and music lover that he was) would drive me.

Life came upon us as life does and without changing who we were our lives took different paths. Bob always loved the sea. He was a skilled sailor and diver. I recall that he often went deeper that caution allowed, but that’s who he was. He wound up being a Big Dog in the Marine Biology Department at the University Of Hawaii. My muse, of course, was music and my path is fairly well documented. We reconnected in Hawaii sometime in the last twenty years and though I infrequently got over to the Islands, when on Oahu I would try to make it a point to see Joy and Bob. As it is with old friends aside from the fact that it became more difficult to put on a pair of long pants standing up, we were still those 20 year olds from Santa Clara.

Without Bob Kinzie, there would have never been a Jefferson Airplane. Bob, meeting you in front of Nobili Hall changed my life in ways I never could have imagined. Thanks for that old friend!

I hope that Mike and Hoku Kinzie’s kids know what a really cool guy Grandpa was.

It has been an honor to share space on the planet with you Bob.

What better place to rest than the sea…

Photo by Jorma Kaukonen


  1. Comment made on September 2, 2023 by John Henderson

    Only just heard about Dr. Bob’s passing, so this comment is way tardy. Dr. Bob was on my Master’s Committee at UH Zoology from 1971-74. His profound guidance was incredibly valuable in helping me throughout my research and subsequent thesis preparation. He had a keen eye for detail, and without his input I know my work would have been far less significant. I did not keep in contact with him after I graduated, though I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar he gave at the NOAA facility in Honolulu. His contributions to science and conservation in the islands will be missed.

    Thank you for your story, Jorma…great to learn much of your history.

  2. Comment made on April 12, 2023 by Rick Barboza

    Mahalo for sharing, I was his student and he was a huge supporter of my native plant business. I admired and respects this man for years… now to find out he helped form Jefferson Airplane?!?! 🤯. Mahalo for this. Aloha Dr. Bob.🤙🏽

  3. Comment made on February 14, 2023 by Curt Fiedler

    Dr. Bob was one of my big faculty influences as a grad student at UH Manoa in the 1990s. He was definitely bigger than life itself. He never told us he had a link to Jefferson Airplane, but there was a rumor he used to be in the Grateful Dead. So during Friday beers once I had the courage to ask him. He denied that and told me a story about Janis Joplin (I won’t repeat it here). The last time I saw him was in July 2022, when I worked at the Bishop Museum in HI for a couple of weeks. He was, as he always was, funny, a bit irreverent, and very thoughtful. I’m happy to hear his sphere of influence was greater than the science community in Hawaii.

  4. Comment made on February 14, 2023 by Ray Buckey

    My life during the 1960’s was profoundly enriched both by being a MS grad students with Bob Kinzie at the University of Hawaii, and by the messages in the music of Jefferson Airplane (gotta love Grace Slick). I am now not surprised to find out that there was a direct connection between these two iconic “beings”.

  5. Comment made on February 14, 2023 by Bob Buddemeier

    I knew Bob mostly from the science side, although I knew he had a music background, and I was well acquainted with his marine skills, having watched nervously over the side of the boat as he went on (and happily came back from) his 200′ bounce dives. He served as a de facto mentor on things marine and biological as I (a chemist with an environmental bent) made the transition into marine science. I forget what dumb question or remark by me confounded biological structure and function with evolutionary relationship, but I have always remembered his wonderfully succinct correction: “Birds and bats and bees and flying fish.” I’m grateful for the opportunity to have known and collaborated with him. And now that I know about his role, doubly grateful to him for jump-starting Jefferson Airplane. Thanks, Bob

  6. Comment made on February 14, 2023 by Phil Dustan

    I met RAK III at the Discovery Bay Marine Lab in 1969 when I was just beginning to study coral reefs. We became friends and he became an inspiration and star to steer by. I will cherish always him poking his head into the corridor of the new lab gleefully shouting “Let’s go diving!” and a bunch of us would pop out and follow him into the sea for another SCUBA adventure on the incredible reefs of Jamaican North Shore with Bob singing the Teddy Bear’s Picnic underwater, “If you go out in the woods today you’d better wear a disguise, If you go out in the woods today you’re in for a big surprise….” What a wonderful spirited human being he was….

  7. Comment made on February 7, 2023 by Dale Radeleff


    I am hoping that the Ohio train derailment is not so close to the Fur Peace Ranch that it is affecting the air quality there. Be safe and stay healthy, at least do better then me 😉


  8. Comment made on February 7, 2023 by Walt Hetfield

    That was a great tribute to your old buddy. He was evidently a key conduit in your life. And a good friends as well: May he rest in peace.


  9. Comment made on February 7, 2023 by James

    Comment re: Touring..loss etc. First Jorma, my condolences re: the loss of your ‘ol College pal. I can relate, and silent tears did flow. What’s done the Obituatary p.t.s.d. skull-fuck for me was when Lisa M. Presley, Jeff Beck..Crosby in there somewhere..and that Capp producer from Memphis gunned down by Memphis Swat. And what do we have these days? Memphis Tn. Police drama. I know, a little off-base dot connecting there, but when you loose sleep, recollection is’nt as sharp as you would prefer. — but about touring..Hey, Kudos for at least booking a gig in Pointe Verde..with, none other than Dave B. — Here’s a memory for ya..Circa 1988__Nassau Community College (thats’ Nassau Long Island, not Nassau as in the Bahammas) __David Bromberg opening up for a free Gig the 2 of you did. I was front row w/a girl I was in Sobriety with, and Bromberg opened up with the song “You have a mind of your own why don’t you”..and I was like..that just put me in my place. Sober? Na Na na. YOU__young wipper-snapper..listen to ME. Either way, a Great Show..I think you played with..oh shit..the Old & in the Way violinest who’s name I can’t remember. A real treat of a show. You as allways, back in the 80’s..Delivering. I can go on about so many 80’s gigs you at the ‘ol Lone Star or at Tarry Town (a sweet gig w/you & Jack and your bro)..but lets’ just focus on 2_7_23. __ Jorma..not to be precocious..but hey. Muster up what you have to make the Florida gig with Bromberg as good as it can be. Chances are I won’t be able to make’s just a Florida thing..But do it for all the losses of the past year or so. You and Brom had your simpatico moments back in the 80’s..see if there is still some magic in the ‘ol Acoustic Guitar interplay. Get Izzy to tune yer perspective instruments..keep her out of Trouble hehe. __ Jorma, Jack….Love Ya. You know the deal..steady as she goes. Yea, Izzy with those young fingers..nothing like tuning an Acoustic Guitar. Fun fun fun

  10. Comment made on February 4, 2023 by Sally

    Thank you @jorma for always (it seems) sharing your heartfelt stories. They enrich my life and others too, no doubt. Old friends; forever in our dreams. XO

  11. Comment made on January 31, 2023 by John R.

    Thank you for this touching and fascinating story, Jorma. I could be wrong, but I don’t remember off-hand this episode from your book. You could write another book with all of the stories that did not make it into the first one.

  12. Comment made on January 29, 2023 by Ham Neggs

    “Today on my Instagram I wrote that grieving is not an affliction but a privilege. And so I believe. Wishing everyone a peaceful Sunday perhaps filled with music.” – Patti Smith writing today about the loss of her friend Tom Verlaine. Peace✌🏻️❤️Love All Ways🔥🚲🌹🙏🏻🖖🏼

  13. Comment made on January 29, 2023 by BrendanC

    My condolences to Kinzie family on loss of your Robert.
    And to surviving friends on loss of a special one.

  14. Comment made on January 28, 2023 by Chuck N

    About 15 years ago I was trying to plan ahead for my own eventual rest and was trying to see what I would like as a headstone. My widowed mother and I were pretty close pals at the time and I would drive her all over as we went on “adventures” in no particular direction just to see what we would see. So she suggested we travel around our rural area to various graveyards and try to get ideas.

    But after one or two she sort of trailed off by herself while I pondered this or that aspect of the stone-mason’s craft. We got back in my old truck and she was very quiet. I asked where we should go next but she just waved her hand and I took that as a signal to just drive. I went a long time and in finally a quiet voice she said “Walking among the stones and seeing the names it’s like walking through your life all over again.” The silence returned and I was a smart enough son after 6 decades to know that I should be quiet as well. Her stone is one that is there now when I walk. I understood the “walk” through our memories that get stirred by a thought or something we see and to remember there is a purpose to it all. I thought I was just looking at headstones for my end but came to realize I was still learning something about being alive.

  15. Comment made on January 28, 2023 by James Bacon

    Wow Jorma, so sorry, but what a story – hope the day is good in other ways at FPR – all the best – Jim

  16. Comment made on January 27, 2023 by chinaski

    Now there’s a sea faring fellow no doubt blessed with fair winds and following seas. You mention Bob on pages 76-77 in Been So Long. A fine write up Jorma!
    I was stunned to see Gary Oelze passed this week. No mention on the Birchmere website but I saw the obit in the Washington Post. Perhaps Jorma can speak to that what with the Birchmere’s fame.

  17. Comment made on January 27, 2023 by john o

    God works in strange ways. He put you in Santa Clara where you were meant to meet Bob. What a great story that put you and him in California and the both of you were two kindred spirits that were destined to meet. It was a miracle that we don’t discern at the time but over time we see it’s reality. Bob went on to a long successful life doing what he loved and you met Paul and the rest is Rock & Roll history.
    Rest in Peace Bob and may His light shine upon you always.

  18. Comment made on January 27, 2023 by carey georgas

    “Old Friends” by Guy Clark always come to mind when such losses occur. I don’t know the context from which you speak, but I don’t find sadness or grief selfish. Oh sure, it can become that if it begins to be filled with “I should haves”, but grief is a healthy path toward healing the hole left by the sadness of loss. So yeah, the personal perspective makes it more than okay. It mandates it if we have any compassion at all. My time spent with you in this virtual world gives me a visualization of you as a personification of compassion, so I don’t see your sadness as selfishness. It is a sign of profound humanity. Peace be with you.@

  19. Comment made on January 27, 2023 by Ed

    Among the most poignant words in the language…

  20. Comment made on January 26, 2023 by Phillip Zisook

    Jorma, the beauty of your meeting Bob is that he was there for you at Santa Clara when you needed him to be and reached out and made the move that introduced you to a decades-long, true friendship. That’s terrific! Thank you for posting your tribute.

    On a totally other note, I read that you decided against Cayamo. Oddly enough, this will be our first time on the boat. But from what you wrote, you clearly made the right choice. We’re going to miss not seeing you but we have our tiks to see you and Jack in beautiful Skokie in a few months! It may actually be warmer here by then! Safe, healthy and happy travels onward for you and your family!

  21. Comment made on January 26, 2023 by Brian Doyle

    It sounds like Paul, who was making his move, made Karmic sense to hook-up with someone in the outside lane…

    Got you there on time…

  22. Comment made on January 26, 2023 by Kinzie Ohana

    Aloha Jorma,

    This tribute to Bob means so much to us. We knew him as a rock star husband, dad, scientist, and professor; and it makes us smile knowing the impact he had on you as a friend and musician. We’re so glad that you two were able to reconnect, and he always enjoyed your trips to Hawaii where you could catch up around music and great company. Thank you for being an amazing friend.

    The Kinzie Ohana (Joy, Mike & Hoku)

  23. Comment made on January 26, 2023 by Joey Hudoklin

    What a terrific story Jorma.
    It’s miracles like that, things that come about seemingly out of nowhere. A coincidence most would probably call it. However, as I’ve learned in my recovery, G_D will do for me what I cannot do for myself. If I’m concious enough to open that door, that’s where the miracles happen!
    Thank you for sharing this, and may Bob rest in peace♡

  24. Comment made on January 26, 2023 by Mitch Spector

    Thanks for sharing ..Thats a very special tribute/story ..R.I.P Bob Kinzie & god bless you for having the wisdom to see what a great fit Paul & Jorma were to become ..Hang in there Jorma ..Open roads always ..Peace

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