Archive for the ‘Thoughts’ Category

My Friend Al… #47 In The Wings

April 30th, 2021 60 comments
A sunny day with the top off of the old Jeep

Selfie by Vanessa Kaukonen

At my age I have been saying a lot of goodbyes the most recent being to my old friend Al Schmitt. Al was such an important part of the Jefferson Airplane Family in terms of what he brought to the table as a producer. RCA assigned him to us starting with After Bathing At Baxters. At a point in our relatively young lives when we thought we knew it all we were probably not the easiest folks to work with. That being said, Al found a way to get the best out of us without being constraining. Al had golden ears. He knew good sounds when he heard them. Our recorded life would not have been the same without him. He was a good man and a wonderful human being. As so often happens, I was just thinking about getting in touch with him when I heard from my good pal Mike Lawson that he had passed. Another moment down the river. More than being a great recording engineer, Al knew when he heard the great performances in a time before Frankensolos.

The earth is a poorer place for his passing. Fair wind and following seas brother.

Come see us yet one more time!

We’re going to have our first small but live audience at the Fur Peace Station for this show. Please join us for the fun!

Last but not least. There have been some bizarre threads in the comments section of this blog. I foolishly let it go for a while hoping that it would peter out. It didn’t. At the risk of sounding pissy, it’s my blog and I’m going to sound pissy. I’m not into conspiracy theories. Please don’t use my space for yours. Enough already. As Mom used to way, ‘A word to the wise is sufficient!’

A Host Of Golden Daffodils…

March 24th, 2021 17 comments
I wandered lonely as a cloud

Photo by Jorma Kaukonen

I’m a drifter on the sea of time. I remember my dog as a puppy… but he is not a puppy. He is grey around the muzzle as am I and we have spent the better part of a decade in each other’s company. I think of friends I have met and when the light of their existence surfaces in my mind it is as if I just talked to them yesterday. But that is not the way it is either.

One would think that it would be easy to hold all these dear ones and their memories close at all times but there just doesn’t seem enough time and space for that to adequately happen. Reflecting thus it just seems like the vessel of life doesn’t have enough space on board… or perhaps that’s just an excuse, or just the way it is.

There are so many people who have touched my life. I wish they were on the surface of the memory pond at all times instead of lurking in the currents waiting to be swept to the surface unbidden, at the oddest moments.

The odd moments come as they will and sometimes they cannot be ignored. Last night as I was heading bed a message pinged out on my phone. Normally, at the end of a day I ignore these pricks of conscience and cast off the shackles of bondage that one accepts when you let a Smart Phone into your life. The message was a group chat from Jack Casady and our friend Jeff Jampol.

‘Brian Rohan died.’

Back in the 60’s Brian was indeed the ‘people’s’ lawyer. He defended countless members of my generation most notably for pot busts. My ex-wife, Margareta, was one of these after the Airplane took a bust at Sandy Koufax’s Tropicana motel on Santa Monica. Paul Kantner and Margareta and I were sharing a suite and the cops came to our rooms when Paul and I were out. M took the weight for what they found in Paul’s room.

Brian and M would make more than a few flights to court in LA back when PSA would fly you to Burbank for under twenty bucks. Brian’s wit, wisdom and expertise would get her off in an era when a couple of joints might buy you a dime in prison. That is just a passing memory for me today.

The last time I saw Brian was a couple of years ago in LA at a Jefferson Airplane Corporate meeting which sounds like a contradiction in terms, but isn’t. Since we hadn’t seen each other for a while we spent some time at the table catching up. We were both in recovery so we spoke of that as well some of the roads we had traveled. Older men will do this… it keeps us connected to the earth to be able to talk to someone who knows where have been. Brian was a little older than I, but we were young together and that’s not something you can’t buy.

Over that last couple of days, I noticed the daffodils are blooming in odd little patches around the Ranch. There are some actual beds for them and then there is that one blossom that will make its presence known in the middle of nowhere. This morning as I walked The Big Guy, I noticed that the forsythia was in full bloom around the parking lot. Yesterday it was green… today a sunny gold.

Spring is here and thankfully and I am here to enjoy it with my family. As rivers inexorably swirl us to the sea, I cannot help but wonder how many seasons of the daffodils there are left for me to enjoy. I’m not the one who gets to pull tickets so this is a rhetorical thought of the first water.

I have another dog to walk.


Photo by Vanessa Kaukonen

Categories: Diary, Thoughts Tags:

Sunday In The Country & A Memory Of Saturday Night

March 21st, 2021 20 comments

Last night was #42 for us and as usual we shared a lot of camaraderie along with the music. In addition to Vanessa and myself just being us, we made special note of Wavy Gravy’s 85 birthday. I have known Wavy for more than half my life now and he is, without doubt one of the most truly significant humans I have ever met. It is easy to get lost in his persona and of course that is what you see and that is a large part of who he is. But there is way more. His commitment to Seva… Service… and to humanity in general is more than noteworthy. I highly recommend adding Saint Misbehavin’ to your movie collection. In the long tradition of the Holy Fool… he is one of the Holiest.

Watch it often… with your friends. I dedicated There’s A Bright Side Somewhere to Wave, because with him… there’s always a Bright Side!

Jorma Kaukonen 13, 2021

Quarantine Concert Series #42

The Fur Peace Station

Darwin, Ohio

Saturday, March 20, 2021

  1. Candy Man
  2. There’s A Bright Side Somewhere for Wavy Gravy’s 85th birthday!
  3. Barbeque King
  4. Highway Song
  5. Izze’s Lullaby
  6. I See The Light
  7. Who Will Stop The Rain with John Hurlbut
  8. Working Class Hero with John Hurlbut
  9. Song From The Stainless Cymbal
  10. Day To Day Out The Window Blues
  11. Embryonic Journey for Brad Coyle

In the the course of our little livestream there’s always that person that just calls Vanessa out and says, ‘You talk too much.’ Without getting pissy if I felt called upon to actually comment in real time I would point out that our event is not a ‘concert’ per se. I wouldn’t deal this sort of badinage into a live concert. That’s not what a concert is all about. We have all been locked up to a greater or lesser degree for the last year and our stream has given Me, Nessa, John, Myron and occasional guests the opportunity to dance in the sunlight if only for a moment, and that’s what we do! Since the show is ‘free’ comments are duly noted and in this case set aside.

We had a great time last night as we do every the livestream cameras roll. Finally, I dedicated Embryonic Journey to our old friend, Brad Coyle. Brad came to the Ranch almost 20 years ago with a guitar and a motorcycle. It was a Pick ‘n’ Putt weekend. My Sister-in-law Ginger rode with Brad on that run. Nessa had her first Sportster that year. It was a good day! As I got to know Brad I discovered that as a nurse he was one of the good people attending to the final days of my old band mate, Spencer Dryden. I was able in those final moments to reconnect in some very small way with Spencer.

That was more than a mitzvah! Thanks Brad. Today Brad himself is facing a trip down that road from which there is no return and we have reconnected again. I was told that as a player himself he loved Embryonic Journey and so my friend… that last song was for you.

This chilly Sunday morning begins with chilly air and blue skies.

It will get warmer…

The Ides Of March

March 15th, 2021 50 comments
Looking down the driveway at our gate…

Drone shot by Jorma Kaukonen

Thoughts 2021

Monday, March 15, 2021

Well, Saturday night last, March 13, 2021 that would have been, we celebrated and played our 41st show in the Quarantine Concert Series. Forty-one weeks of music not counting our great shows from the  Vaults. As we started the show it took a moment or two for me to find my artistic homeplace and get comfortably relaxed but I’ll get to that after the set list entry.

When I create a set list when for one of our QCS shows or a ‘real’ show in the outside world I try to focus on where I am that evening… physically, spiritually and emotionally. I select tunes that reflect that environment. If a get an outside request from someone that doesn’t contravene that microverse I’m inhabiting then I may or may not add that tune. On this night, someone needed to hear 3rd Week In The Chelsea so I swapped out Izze’s Lullaby. Glad to oblige. The Lullaby will get the call next week and I’m very fond of 3rd Week so in it went.  In any case, here’s the Set List from the 13th.

Jorma Kaukonen 12, 2021

Quarantine Concert Series #41

The Fur Peace Station

Darwin, Ohio

Saturday, March 13, 2021

  1. Parchman Farm
  2. Mama Let Me Lay It On You
  3. Things That Might Have Been
  4. San Francisco Bay Blues
  5. Ain’t In No Hurry
  6. A Thousand Miles From Nowhere with John Hurlbut
  7. Morning Dew with John Hurlbut
  8. 3rd Week In The Chelsea
  9. Waiting For A Train
  10. Trial By Fire
  11. I Am The Light Of This World

Now, back to getting relaxed on our home stage for our show. As I was walking over to the Fur Peace Station with my Burnt Husk Tea and the evening’s set list I saw a car stopped by the closed gate next to our ticket booth out in the parking lot relentlessly beeping his horn. Now, the parking lot gate was closed and there is a profusion of large signs from St. Clair Road to the parking lot plainly advising the public that the Fur Peace Ranch Facility was closed, I was going out to deal with it but Vanessa insisted that she do it. Now it’s not up to me to decipher what might be in anyone’s head. I’ve got more than enough going on in my own. In any case perhaps the individual was innocent enough in their well-meaning intrusion but that doesn’t matter. When you are asked to leave someone’s property, you leave. Compound this with an unmasked individual who was speaking in riddles and a myriad of warning flags are raised.

Vanessa insisted that I not get involved but I stayed close enough so that if I needed to make my presence felt I would be there. Like we say down here in the country, ‘When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.’ Anyway, Vanessa kept insisting that he leave and he finally got back in his car and instead of simply turning around in our ample parking lot, he got his rig stuck in my culvert and then tore it up getting out. As he finally extricated himself from the ditch he stuck his hand out the window and flipped us off.

Ooooh…. That really hurt.

Oh well, as we say.

Anyway, I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t on my mind as we started #41 forty minutes or so later.  The good news is that we all settled and had another great evening. Music is indeed magical in its healing powers. Now before I move on, without reflecting on what the intruder’s intentions might or might not have been, the whole moment was rife with disrespect. Nuff said.

Moving right along… I watched the Grammy’s last night and I have to say I thought it was one of the most entertaining Grammy presentations I’ve ever seen, and I’ve seen a lot of them. Our fourteen year old daughter reminded us, ‘The Grammy’s are tonight Dad…’ My expectations were low but I was more than pleasantly surprised. I know little about ‘new’ music. Not because I look down on it, it’s just not part of my artistic world unless someone opens the door for me and invites me to peek in. I got the invite and I not only peeked in, I walked through the door… and yes, I like Cardi B.

Cool… it’s hard to remember, but Jefferson Airplane got a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 1967 and I got a nomination for Best Traditional Folk Album in 2002. (Doc Watson won that year as he should have.) That’s really funny because until very recently I had no idea that Jefferson Airplane had garnered a nomination. Our daughter Izze said, ‘How could that have been Dad?’ Speaking only for myself, that kind of stuff just didn’t matter to me back then. Quite simply put, I was unaware of that honor and didn’t give it a second thought. We collectively didn’t get into the game for those kinds of honorifics. This many years down the road two Grammy nominations, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame are all honors that I will gladly bask in. At this point in my life I’ll take the wins as I see them and walk on smiling.

Who knew?

As for last night’s Grammy show and the memories it induced, all I can say is you’re only young once. I’m still working on perfecting ideas that were nascent over half a century ago. I was an Enfant Terrible a long time ago. Now I’m just trying to avoid the Terrible part.

Hey… in spite of the Pandemic, life isn’t boring.

Stay well…

Another Light Goes Out, Henry Goldrich

March 4th, 2021 13 comments

Henry  Goldrich

May 15, 1932-February 16, 2021

I just heard about Henry’s passing moments ago. There are so many stories about Manny’s on 48th Street back in a time when 48th St. meant something to us musicians. I don’t need to remind anyone about all the famous musicians who bought endless piles of gear at Manny’s. I don’t need to remind anyone about all the kids who got their first instruments from Henry. These are the stories of legend known to most people who dabble in such minutia.

I bought my first Gibson ES-345 and two fender twin reverbs from Sherman & Clay in San Francisco. That was the first time I bought something on time and started to establish my credit, such as it was. Electric guitars took a back seat to pianos, brass, woodwinds and violins at Sherman and Clay, but in New York on 48th Street, band instruments were taking on a more modern meaning.

For some reason, Manny’s was the first of those stores Jack, Paul and I went into and that pretty much became my home port for gear. As Jefferson Airplane established itself in the music business world it is understandable that we would just be able to pick out stuff and be billed later. What I remember is that in the 80’s as I was dismantling my life, Henry always extended me credit when I needed something and I will never forget that. Without putting words or thoughts into his mouth and head, it seemed to me at the time that he believed in me when I had trouble believing in myself.

I was grateful for that then, and I am grateful for it now.

Henry you were a true Mensch!

May your memory be a blessing!

Fair winds and following seas brother…

Categories: Diary, Friends, Thoughts Tags:

Winter Vortex & Summer Dreams

February 15th, 2021 16 comments

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…

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Rita Houston Sept. 28, 1961-December 15, 2020

December 15th, 2020 16 comments

I got back from my first road trip in quite a while yesterday. I had four shows at the Vogel in Red Banks and it was indeed a wonderful moment to be able to again do what it is that I have done for so long… play for people. Home last night sheltering in place in our Athens house while I waited for my Coved-19 test today… so far so good.

I’m driving to the auto parts store to get windshield wipers for my truck and Vanessa called me to tell me that Rita Houston from WFUV just passed today. This sad news touched me in a profound way. I had known Rita for many years. Artists such as myself are fortunate to have deejays such as Rita for a friend. We didn’t hang. It wasn’t that kind of a friendship but every time I would see at WFUV or less often at a gig, she was an old friend.

Memory sometimes washes me like smoke from a campfire. It surrounds you in an untouchable, diaphanous kind of way. Some things stick to your clothes and others drift to the next camp site. I am fortunate that most of the people who surround me are younger than me. That forces me to look forward more than backwards although indeed, there is more behind me than there is in front of me.

Old friends pass and the world becomes a little smaller. They can never be replaced. Smaller though the world might seem today, the road ahead is still inviting.

Rita was such a part of my time. She was a beacon in the dark continent of modern media. It seems as if my family is just a little smaller.

There’s sure to be a great play list in heaven today!

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December 8th, 2020 16 comments


Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Yesterday, December 7, 2020 was Vanessa’s and my thirty second wedding anniversary. One has to wonder sometimes if there is any reason for why things evolve the way they do or of Brownian motion is the sum of all things. In the last analysis I’m not sure that it matters one way or the other although it would be nice if life’s moments were to fit neatly into a box.

Since they don’t it’s probably at the very least a minor miracle that couples not only stay together but that they do so out of not only love but unforeseen commitment. At the end of each day the roll call of events is a testament to almost divine synchronicity. With this in mind I am so grateful that my family is intact. The fourteen year addition of our daughter Izze is another one of those amazing blessings that surround our lives with light. How good does it have to get?

There was another milestone for me when I woke this morning. Chuck Yeager passed yesterday at 97. When I was a kid I thought I wanted to be a lot of things. I looked up to my grandfather Ben who was a research bacteriologist. ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ I might be asked. ‘I want to be a scientist like my grandfather,’ was the reply. My grandfather had all kinds of cool looking stuff he would show me in his lab. Microscopes, exotic glass things, tubing, stainless steel items… I guess I figured when I got older all that stuff would somehow come to me and then I’d be a scientist. Reality wakes you from your dreams like it or not and still at that young age it became apparent that to be a scientist was more than possessing gadgets. There was math involved and more.

It was not for me.

One of the other careers that was not for me was to be a famous pilot. Growing up in the 40’s what kid my age didn’t want to be a pilot. To soar above the earth at unimaginable speeds doing unimaginable things… well, a lofty set of goals indeed.

Back in the 40’s I was growing up in the D.C. area where my dad was still working at the Department of Labor. The District Of Columbia, city of museums, had much to offer for a kid like me. The crown jewel was the Smithsonian air museum. Now it is the National Air and Space Museum. Back then it was less than that and in a way more. I took the bus and the trolley from Chevy Chase circle down to 600 Independence Ave. by myself  which in itself was an exciting feat for a kid who wasn’t even ten years old yet.

The Bell X-1 was there hanging from the ceiling. Chuck Yeager had just broken the sound barrier for first time and even though it was kept secret at the time ultimately Chuck was publicly honored and the Bell X-1 was hung for all to see. For some reason my house of memories has a room in which I actually saw Chuck Yeager at the Museum, but I probably just imagined it for so long that I came to believe it. In any case, in an era when I would write to aircraft companies and request photos of their cool planes to hang on the wall, my photo of the X-1 in my bedroom was as exciting as imagining a trip to the International Space Station.

I remember picking up my friend Michael Falzarano once at the Yeager International Airport in Charleston, West Virginia. Yeager’s memory alive and well in Charleston was a fine thing to behold.

So, December 7, 2020… Pearl Harbor, Chuck Yeager’s passing and Vanessa’s and my 32nd wedding anniversary. In the last analysis today, obviously the latter is foremost in my mind, but they are all in the mix in the heart of this old guitar player.

Happy anniversary Vanessa. You are not only an angel, you are my angel. And Chuck, rest in peace. You were a part of my life and in a way you still are!

PS On another note, does anyone know which Quarantine Concert Jack and I played Things That Might Have Been. I know we did it, but I screwed up the set list… I think. Help appreciated and thanks in advance. ( That would be in the most recent shows Jack and I did.)

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Thursday Interlude

May 7th, 2020 35 comments

Back porch view, with Campfire Coffee

Back porch view, with Campfire Coffee

Foto by jorma Kaukonen

33 degrees here at the homestead but clear. Given some of the alternatives a lovely if chilly spring day. Just finishing my second cup of Jorma Kaukonen’s Campfire Blend Coffee. I actually had a dentist appointment yesterday and today a scheduled checkup. I’ve been pretty much existing in my own bubble with Vanessa insisting on being my liaison with the world. With gloves and mask I even stopped by Krogers and picked up some stuff. Interesting to say the least. Now I live in a rural somewhat sparsely populated area so our daily normal is nothing like the reality my friends in the Northeast endure. That said, I don’t want people standing close to me and I consider people who have chosen not to wear masks in public utterly inconsiderate and there are such people. Take risks with your own life… don’t threaten mine.

The touring concert business is utterly gone at least for the rest of the year. Obviously we must wait to see what happens. I suspect the ‘new normal’ will be new and anything but normal as we know it today. Like so many, I and my colleagues are out of work. And so that goes. That we are able to bring you all our weekly Quarantine Concert live from the Fur Peace Ranch means the world to us!

This is truly our connection to the world and we are grateful for it.

From my not so lofty peak we are alive and still well. It could be worse for us and with that in mind, I try to minimize my complaining as hard as that is sometimes. Thinking positively and believing that at some point the Fur Peace Ranch will be open again, we are able to continue not only the upkeep of the infrastructure but also but also the making of improvements. Our very own Smiles is a busy beaver and some new walkways are under way. I have been spending more time in a true practice environment with my music than I have in years. Working gigs is not practice. The challenge of keeping the repertoire fresh for the streaming shows each week is more than stimulating. I’ll take the win.

The current situation robs us of time which can never be replaced. As a 79 year old I feel this loss more profoundly than I imagine my kids do, and that is as it should be. This is their time to be young and thank goodness they cannot walk in an old man’s shoes. My grandparents were born in the late 1800’s. When they were our kid’s age they were fleeing the pogroms of Czarist Russia and the bleakness of Finland when it was a Grand Duchy of Russia. Yeah, it could be worse.

The cold snap today is, well… cold, but at least the sun is shining. Time to walk the dogs, feed the other critters, empty the dehumidifiers, get some breakfast, play some guitar and suit up for my doctor’s appointment. Oh yeah, spend a little more time on the set list for Saturday.

There may be better times down the road, but I’ll take what I’ve got for today!

Zammy and Azlan in the garden

Zammy and Azlan in the garden

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Now here’s two being who know how to iive!

Categories: Diary, Fur Peace Ranch, Thoughts Tags:

The Bridge

April 25th, 2020 28 comments

No… not Sonny Rollins’ Bridge, but ours here at the Fur Peace Ranch.

Not Terabithea either!

Not Terabithea either!

Drone shot by Jorma Kaukonen

Isolation depends on the environment I guess. We’ve got room to roam.

Up river

Up river

Drone shot by Jorma Kaukonen

It’s been the first moments of warm sun here for while so it was nice to just get out, park the mule by the Shade River and walk a bit.

As summer approaches, the water will be gone

As summer approaches, the water will be gone

Drone shot by Jorma Kaukonen

When you live in he country you learn to accept what nature gives you.

Nice Smiles!

Nice Smiles!

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Nessa looks for Morels. Good luck. 🙂

Where are those shrooms?

Where are those shrooms?

Drone shot by Jorma Kaukonen

I used to be able to find morels at the old homestead. I have yet to find one here.

Well, we’ve got to get it together for another streaming show for the Fur Peace Station so we headed back up the road with the Mule.

The old farm road back up to the FPR plateau

The old farm road back up to the FPR plateau

Foto by jorma Kaukonen

This old road goes back to the early 1800’s and there is some cool graffiti etched into the rocks.

Back at the A-Frame, Vanessa climbs the steps the Smile’s son Eli built. This was a man’s work, I’m telling you!

Who needs a stair climber?

Who needs a stair climber?

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

OK Back at the Ranch I placed some cool acoustic guitars. Which ones to play?

We’ll see.

Talk about blessings...

Talk about blessings...

Foto by Jorma Kaukonen

Quick music note: Tango El Bongo by George Van Eps, anything by Charlie Byrd, anything by Larry Willis, great keyboard player who passed away recently.

Back to the present:

There’s our link for tonight.

See ya later

Categories: Diary, Fur Peace Ranch, Thoughts Tags: