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A Conversation with Jorma Kaukonen

  01/13/11 23:18, by , Categories: BFMN Exclusive, Dan Grigor , Tags: dan grigor, fur peace ranch, hot tuna, ian buchanan, jack casady, jefferson airplane, jorma kaukonen, martin guitar

I was a kid, playing guitar in church at reform school in upstate New York when I first heard the Jefferson Airplane and Jorma Kaukonen’s guitar. There, any time you got your hands on new music it was something special. Someone gave me a “Surrealistic Pillow” album. To me, that record was really incredible, it had such great guitar work. I devoured it. I stole every lick I could, banging away on my old nylon-string guitar and pronouncing his name wrong like everyone else.

Click through for the video and news of Hot Tuna’s first new CD in 20 years!

An instant fan, I somehow managed to get my hands on a few other albums and was really disappointed about missing Woodstock. In the spirit of the movement, a few of us had a grand escape plan that included costumes, a mail truck and some homemade smoke bombs for cover. Needless to say, it never got off the ground and we never got to Woodstock even though it was only an hour and a half away. I was 12.

Our styles that define us are probably
outgrowths of our inadequacies.

- Jorma Kaukonen

From that first album to the latest reissue of one of my favorite Hot Tuna albums, “Live At New Orleans House Berkeley, CA” I have been learning guitar from Jorma Kaukonen. This was my chance to actually sit down and have a conversation with him about guitar heroes. I got to give him one of my CDs and thank him for helping me get there. He tells us about his mentor, Ian Buchanan, and we talk guitars a bit. That doesn’t happen often enough. There are a lot of guitar players out there who have contributed to my career. I’d like to thank them all, but I can’t.


You really should find your way to a live Jorma or HotTuna show, as fun to watch as listen to. When on tour you can always find out where they are here; you can get tickets there too.

If you want to learn how to play guitar there is a really special place in the world where you can do just that: The Fur Peace Ranch. From their website, “Jorma and his wife Vanessa Lillian have operated one of the world’s most unique centers for the study of guitar and other instruments. Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp is located on 125 acres of fields, woods, hills, and streams in the Appalachian foothills of Southeastern Ohio. Since it opened in 1998, thousands of musicians whose skills range from basic to highly accomplished gather for weekends of master instruction offered by Jorma and other instructors who are leaders in their musical fields.” Take it from me, you couldn’t wish for better teachers or find a better learning environment. Go check it out.

In the “something to look forward to” category, you can add the fact that good old fun-loving Hot Tuna spent weeks last year sequestered in Levon Helm Studios, creating its first studio CD in twenty years. More on that as we hear about it!



After playing together for over 50 years, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady were joined by mandolin player Barry Mitterhoff and drummer Skoota Warner as they all plugged in for a brand-new and electric Hot Tuna album. Red House Records is pleased to announce the April, 2011 release of Steady As She Goes, the first new album in twenty years from the legendary Hot Tuna. The long-awaited studio CD is a masterful blend of American rock, blues and acoustic folk music that crosses the full spectrum of Hot Tuna styles.


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