Jorma Kaukonen

Jorma Ludwik Kaukonen, Jr. (/ˈjɔːrmə ˈkaʊkənɛn/; YOR-mə KOW-kə-nen;[2] born December 23, 1940) is an American blues, folk, and rock guitarist.[3][4][5] Kaukonen performed with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him #54 on its list of 100 Greatest Guitarists.[6]

Jorma Kaukonen
Jorma Kaukonen
Kaukonen performing at the Crossroads Guitar Festival.
Background information
Birth nameJorma Ludwik Kaukonen, Jr.
BornDecember 23, 1940 (age 78)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
  • Musician
  • songwriter
  • Guitar
  • vocals
Years active1964–present
Associated acts


Jorma Kaukonen was born in Washington, DC to Beatrice Love (née Levine) and Jorma Ludwig Kaukonen, Sr.[7][8] He had Finnish paternal grandparents and Russian Jewish ancestry on his mother's side.[9] During his childhood, Jorma's family lived in Pakistan, the Philippines and other locales as he followed his father's State Department career from assignment to assignment before returning to the place of his birth. As a teenager in Washington, he and friend Jack Casady formed a band called The Triumphs, with Kaukonen on rhythm guitar and Casady on lead.[10]

Kaukonen departed Washington for studies at Antioch College, where friend Ian Buchanan taught him fingerstyle guitar playing. Buchanan also introduced Kaukonen to the music of Reverend Gary Davis, whose songs have remained important parts of Kaukonen's repertoire throughout his career.[11]

In 1962, Kaukonen moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and enrolled at Santa Clara University. During this time, he taught guitar lessons at Benner Music Company in San Jose. He played as a solo act in coffee houses and accompanied Janis Joplin on acoustic guitar on the historic 1964 recording known as "The Typewriter Tapes" because of the obtrusive sound of Kaukonen's first wife, Margareta, typing in the background.[12]

Jefferson Airplane

In 1965, friend and classmate Paul Kantner invited Kaukonen to join a rock band he was forming with Marty Balin. As a self-described blues purist, Kaukonen was initially reluctant, but found his imagination excited by the arsenal of effects available to electric guitar, later remarking that he was "sucked in by technology." With the group still looking for a name, Kaukonen suggested the name Jefferson Airplane, inspired by an eccentric friend who had given his dog the name "Blind Lemon Jefferson Airplane."[13] When their original bass player was fired, Kaukonen recommended his friend Jack Casady (who still lived in Washington D.C. at the time) as a replacement.

Though never a prolific singer or songwriter during his Airplane tenure, Kaukonen contributed material to each of the group's albums; Most notably, the instrumental "Embryonic Journey," an arrangement of "Good Shepherd," "Third Week in the Chelsea" (which detailed his feelings about the disintegration of the band) and "Trial by Fire"—all of which he continues to play.

Hot Tuna

Hot Tuna at Merlefest 2006
Hot Tuna at MerleFest, 2006. Left to right: Jack Casady, Jorma Kaukonen, and Barry Mitterhoff

In 1969–70, Kaukonen and Jack Casady formed Hot Tuna, a spinoff group that allowed them to play as long as they liked. An early incarnation of Hot Tuna included Jefferson Airplane vocalist Marty Balin and featured Joey Covington on drums and vocals. This grouping came to an end after an unsuccessful recording jaunt to Jamaica, the sessions of which have never been released. Pared down to Kaukonen and Casady, Hot Tuna lived on as a vehicle for Kaukonen to show off his Piedmont-style acoustic blues fingerpicking skills. The self-titled first album was all acoustic and recorded live. With the dissolution of Jefferson Airplane in 1972, Hot Tuna went electric, with Airplane fiddler Papa John Creach joining for the next two albums. Hot Tuna scored an FM hit with "Ja Da (Keep on Truckin')" from their third (and first studio) album, Burgers. At this time, Kaukonen's songwriting began to dominate, as further evidenced by the next album, The Phosphorescent Rat, which featured only one cover song.

Beginning with their fifth album, America's Choice (1974), the addition of drummer Bob Steeler encouraged a rise in volume and a change of band personality —a rampaging, Cream-like rock with often quasimystical lyrics by Kaukonen. During this period, the power trio was known for its very long live sets and instrumental jamming. Hot Tuna toured vigorously throughout the 1970s in both the United States and Europe, but with Hot Tuna's break up in 1978, the first phase of the band's career ended. Casady left to form the new wave band SVT, while Kaukonen played as a solo act at venues that had been booked for Hot Tuna's cancelled 1978 tour.


Kaukonen began his solo career several years prior to the breakup, when he recorded the 1974 album Quah. Produced by Jack Casady, Quah featured string overdubs on some tracks, as well as several tracks written and sung by Kaukonen's friend Tom Hobson. The opening track "Genesis" is featured in the films Margot at the Wedding (2007) and Transcendence (2014).[14] The album's cover is on display at Donkey Coffee and Espresso, a coffee shop in Athens, Ohio.

In 1979, Kaukonen released his second solo album, Jorma. Later that year, he began touring with a number of bass/drum combinations (first known as "Hidden Klitz", then as "White Gland", and finally as "Vital Parts"), which initially included Hot Tuna drummer Bob Steeler. During this time, he experimented with a new image, with short, dyed hair and extensive tattoos adorning his body, back, and arms. He recorded the album Barbeque King which was released in 1980. Kaukonen's traditional fan base did not warm to this new, perceived to be "punk" image, and sales of the album were so disappointing that Jorma was soon dropped from RCA Records.

He continued playing as a solo artist throughout the 1980s at such venues as The Chestnut Cabaret in Philadelphia, The Capitol Theater in Passaic, New Jersey, and in Port Chester, New York. As in his Hot Tuna days, he played very long sets, usually beginning with an hour-long acoustic set followed by a long intermission and then a two-hour electric set, sometimes accompanied by bass and drums. Having briefly reformed for a tour in 1983 that closed with a farewell show at Jonathan Swift's in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on 12/30/1983, Hot Tuna again reformed in the late 1980s. At a 1988 Hot Tuna performance at The Fillmore, Kaukonen surprised fellow Airplane alumnus Paul Kantner, who was sitting in, with a surprise appearance by his estranged lover Grace Slick; the success of this performance helped to pave the way for a Jefferson Airplane reunion tour and record in 1989.

In 1984, Kaukonen appeared on Robert Hunter's Amagamalin Street. This was the third album released by Relix Records, a label, founded by Les Kippel, that specialized in bands from the San Francisco Bay Area. Relix also released Splashdown, featuring a rare performance by Hot Tuna on WQIV, a now-defunct radio station in New York. Kippel was instrumental in reuniting Kaukonen and Casady in 1985 for a Hot Tuna theater tour. Relix Records remained Hot Tuna's record label until 2000, and also released Classic Hot Tuna Acoustic, Classic Hot Tuna Electric, Live at Sweetwater, and Live at Sweetwater Two.

In 1985, Kaukonen performed with the band There Goes the Neighborhood with Jaco Pastorius (bass), Doug McClean (harmonica), Whitie Melvin (percussion), Ben Prevo (guitar), and Rashied Ali (congas).

In 1993, he collaborated with ex-Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten in recording numerous arrangements of "Embryonic Journey." The resulting tracks were released as Embryonic Journey, the album, in 1994 on the Relix label. In 1999, he played several gigs with Phil Lesh and Friends. In 2000, he appeared with jam band Widespread Panic during their summer tour. His 2002 album Blue Country Heart was nominated for a Grammy Award.

With his wife Vanessa, Kaukonen currently owns and operates the Fur Peace Ranch, a 119-acre (0.48 km2) music and guitar camp in the hills of southeast Ohio, north of Pomeroy, complete with a 32 track studio.[15] He is currently under contract as a solo artist to Red House Records and still records and tours with Jack Casady and other friends such as Barry Mitterhoff as Hot Tuna.

On August 28, 2018, St. Martin's Press published Kaukonen's autobiography, Been So Long: My Life and Music.[16]

Personal Life

Jorma married his first wife, Lena "Margareta" (née Pettersson; September 23, 1943-December 28, 1997) in January 1964. They divorced in 1983. Jorma met his 2nd wife, Vanessa, in Key West, Florida, on July 3rd, 1988. They married on December 7th of that year. He has a son, Zachary (born September 6, 1997) whose mother is Stephanie, and an adopted daughter, Izze.[17]


As a member of Jefferson Airplane, Kaukonen's primary guitar was a Gibson ES-345, noted for the visible Varitone dial on the guitar and the signature 345 logo on the headstock. Kaukonen presently endorses Martin Guitars. In 2010, Martin Guitars released the Martin M-30 Jorma Kaukonen Custom Artist Edition.[1] This guitar was designed by Kaukonen and Martin's Dick Boak, [18] using ideas from two Martin guitars that he had previously been playing – a David Bromberg Custom Artist Edition and a prototype model that Kaukonen called an "M-5."[19]

Epiphone released a Jorma Kaukonen signature model Riviera guitar in 2002.[20] Kaukonen also uses and endorses the Fishman Loudbox amp.


Studio albums
Live albums


  1. ^ a b "Martin M-30 Jorma Kaukonen | C.F. Martin & Co". Archived from the original on 2015-08-23. Retrieved 2015-11-04.
  2. ^ "NLS Other Writings, Say How: I, J, K, L – Library of Congress". Archived from the original on July 24, 2017. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  3. ^ Jorma Kaukonen at Allmusic
  4. ^ Jefferson Airplane at Allmusic
  5. ^ Hot Tuna at Allmusic
  6. ^ "100 Greatest Guitarists: David Fricke's Picks". Archived from the original on September 6, 2017. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  7. ^ Got a revolution!: the turbulent flight of Jefferson Airplane – Jeff Tamarkin – Google Books. Retrieved 2012-09-17.
  8. ^ "Jorma Kaukonen". December 23, 1940. Archived from the original on July 15, 2012. Retrieved September 17, 2012.
  9. ^ [1] Archived January 9, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on July 11, 2017. Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  11. ^ Tamarkin, Jeff. Got a Revolution!: The Turbulent Flight of Jefferson Airplane. New York: Atria Books, 2005, p. 29.
  12. ^ Tamarkin, p. 31
  13. ^ "Jefferson Airplane: Jorma Kaukonen". Archived from the original on April 22, 2016. Retrieved July 21, 2016.
  14. ^ "Transcendence (I) (2014)". Archived from the original on September 11, 2018. Retrieved November 4, 2015.
  15. ^ Berkowitz, Kenny. "Full Circle: Rock Star Jorma Kaukonen Revisits his Youth with a Rootsy Collection of Early Classics." Acoustic Guitar. January 2003.
  16. ^ "{title}". Archived from the original on July 21, 2018. Retrieved July 20, 2018.
  17. ^ Kaukonen, Jorma. Been So Long: My Life and Music. New York: St Martin's Press, 2018, p. 81-83, 196, 202-214, 233, 237-241.
  18. ^ Kaukonen, Jorma (2018). Been So Long: My Life In Music.
  19. ^ ""Martin Introduces the M-30 Jorma Kaukonen Custom Artist Edition, Premier Guitar,December 09, 2009". Archived from the original on August 8, 2016. Retrieved September 2, 2018.
  20. ^ [2]

External links

Ain't In No Hurry

Ain't In No Hurry is the twelfth solo studio album by Jorma Kaukonen.

Barbeque King

Barbeque King is an album that Jorma Kaukonen of Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane recorded in 1980 with his then-current band Vital Parts. It was the last album Kaukonen recorded on the RCA label.

Blue Country Heart

Blue Country Heart is a Jorma Kaukonen studio album released in June, 2002. It was his first album on a major label since 1980's Barbeque King. Kaukonen didn't write any new compositions for the album, and instead played mostly country-blues cover songs.The album features performances by Sam Bush, Jerry Douglas, Byron House and Bela Fleck, and was nominated for a Grammy award in 2003 for "Best Traditional Folk Album."

Christmas (Jorma Kaukonen album)

Christmas is a Jorma Kaukonen studio album released in July 1996. It was the only themed album Kaukonen recorded and was a departure from the usual Rev. Gary Davis influenced tunes. It included new Christmas-themed compositions as well old hymns such as "Silent Night." Like the previous album, The Land of Heroes, Christmas incorporated the work of Michael Falzarano and Fred Bogert. Kaukonen's wife Vanessa also performed vocals and co-wrote one song. It was also the only time Kaukonen performed keyboards on an album.

Embryonic Journey (album)

Embryonic Journey is an album by Jorma Kaukonen, the lead guitarist for Jefferson Airplane / Hot Tuna, and former Grateful Dead keyboardist Tom Constanten. The album consists of studio sessions for the recording of Kaukonen's instrumental Embryonic Journey for the Constanten album Morning Dew. The song had originally appeared on Jefferson Airplane's Surrealistic Pillow album in 1967. A version of the song employing MIDI technology was added as a bonus track.

Hot Tuna

Hot Tuna is an American blues band formed in 1969 by guitarist/vocalist Jorma Kaukonen and bassist Jack Casady. Although it has always been a fluid aggregation, with musicians coming and going over the years, the band's name has essentially become a metonym for Kaukonen and Casady's ongoing collaboration.

Hot Tuna discography

This is a discography for the blues band Hot Tuna. In addition to 7 studio albums and 14 live albums, the group has released many of their live concerts directly for sale on iTunes.

Jorma (album)

Jorma is the second solo album by Jorma Kaukonen of Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane. Hot Tuna had stopped touring in 1977 and Jack Casady had moved on to the band SVT. Bill Thompson and the staff that had managed Hot Tuna and still managed Jefferson Starship in 1979 continued to manage Kaukonen. David Kahne was hired to produce and the new solo album was released on RCA. The album consists entirely of Jorma's own vocals and his own electric and acoustic guitar work with many original songs written by Kaukonen. The last track is a poem recited by Kaukonen with no instrumental backing.

Jorma Kaukonen Trio Live

Jorma Kaukonen Trio Live is a live album taken from performances from Jorma Kaukonen's 1999 solo tour, and his last album for Relix Records. Performing with Kaukonen were Michael Falzarano and Pete Sears who had both played on his previous solo album, Too Many Years, and had performed with Hot Tuna on their last release, And Furthurmore.... After release of this album, Kaukonen and Jack Casady began to perform as "Jack & Jorma, The Original Acoustic Hot Tuna" and Falzarano and Sears performed less frequently with Hot Tuna and Kaukonen's solo act, with Sears finally leaving in 2001 and Falzarano leaving in 2002.

List of Jefferson Airplane members

Jefferson Airplane was an American psychedelic rock band from San Francisco, California. Formed in mid-1965, the group originally featured Marty Balin (vocals, rhythm guitar), Signe Toly Anderson (vocals), Jorma Kaukonen (lead guitar, vocals), Paul Kantner (rhythm guitar, vocals), Bob Harvey (double bass) and Jerry Peloquin (drums).

Live in Japan (Hot Tuna album)

Live in Japan is a live album by Hot Tuna recorded in 1997 in Yokohama, Japan. Originally the band planned to play an electric set as part of their Japanese tour, but the venue in Yokohama was quite small (only holding fifty people) and there wasn't any room for an electric setup. The band played acoustic, and afterwards Jack Casady suggested to Jorma Kaukonen that the recording was good enough for a new live album. Michael Falzarano and Kaukonen listened to the tape and decided that Casady was right, and a new album was released. The album was Hot Tuna's last release on Relix Records. In 2004 Eagle Records remastered the album and re-released it with previously unreleased performances of "Parchman Farm", "Follow the Drinking Gourd", "Keep Your Lamps Trimmed & Burning" and "Folsom Prison." Three of the tracks from the initial release were dropped from the remaster: "Hesitation Blues", "Candy Man" and "Keep on Truckin'".

Magic (Jorma Kaukonen album)

Magic is a live Jorma Kaukonen album containing performances of acoustic songs from Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna albums recorded during his solo tour of 1984. After a brief reunion tour in 1983 with Hot Tuna, Jorma had continued to play solo and eventually landed a contract with Relix Records. In addition to releasing Kaukonen's new solo recordings, Relix also released live Hot Tuna recordings from the 1970s, with the albums Splashdown and Historic Live Tuna. In 1995, Michael Falzarano remastered the album and produced a new version that Relix released as the CD Magic Two.

Michael Falzarano

Michael Falzarano is an American guitarist, singer, and songwriter. He has been a professional musician since the 1970s, most notably in Hot Tuna, the New Riders of the Purple Sage, and the Memphis Pilgrims, a Memphis-style rock and roll/blues band that he founded in 1986.Falzarano released an album entitled We Are All One in 2008 on Woodstock Records and The King James Sessions in 2005 on Blues Planet Records. A re-released version of the song "Last Train Out," which he wrote in memory of the Allman Brothers Band and Gov't Mule bass player Allen Woody, appears on the record. Blues Planet re-released Mecca, an album that Falzarano and the Memphis Pilgrims originally released in 1996 on Relix Records with guests Jorma Kaukonen, Pete Sears, and Harvey Sorgen of Hot Tuna and Danny Louis of Gov't Mule.

When not performing with his own band, Falzarano can be seen with Hot Tuna, the Jorma Kaukonen Trio, and the New Riders of the Purple Sage. Falzarano also produces other artists, and teaches guitar workshops at Jorma Kaukonen’s Fur Peace Ranch.

In 2013, Falzarano's original composition "When There's Two There's Trouble" was featured in Alexandre Moors' critically acclaimed film "Blue Caprice" with Isaiah Washington, Tim Blake Nelson, and Joey Lauren Adams. Falzarano also appears in the movie.

Michael is currently touring with his band, The Englishtown Project, covering Grateful Dead, New Riders of the Purple Sage, and Marshall Tucker Band songs.

Quah (album)

Quah is the first solo album by Jorma Kaukonen of Hot Tuna and Jefferson Airplane. The album was recorded with Tom Hobson. The initial plan was to have side-A be Kaukonen and side-B be Hobson. However, RCA felt that Hobson's recordings would not be accepted by the public. Initially the record was planned to be released in mid-1973, but because of the issues with Hobson, Kaukonen returned to the studio to record new tracks for side B in May 1974. Only "Blue Prelude" and "Sweet Hawaiian Sunshine" of the original 1974 release feature Hobson's lead vocal, although he also plays guitar on "I'll Let You Know Before I Leave." On the CD reissue, Hobson is featured on all bonus tracks except for "Lord Have Mercy."

In 1980, Grunt Records reissued the album with a different cover that used the photographs that were originally used inside the gatefold. In 1987, Relix Records released the album under license from RCA. It was released on vinyl and was one of the first CDs released by an independent record label in the USA. The first Relix version was pressed in Switzerland, then Japan and finally manufactured in the USA. Relix also released a remastered and graphically revised version in the late 1990s with computer improved tracks from the original masters. BMG (incorporating the former RCA) re-released the original album on CD in 2003, along with the bonus tracks featuring Hobson.

River of Time (Jorma Kaukonen album)

River of Time is a Jorma Kaukonen studio album released in 2009 and his 2nd on Red House Records. The album reached #21 on the Billboard "Top Heatseekers" chart, and has received generally favorable reviews. All new recordings make up the album with a combination of songs that had been previously recorded by Hot Tuna, covers, and new compositions. The album was recorded at Levon Helm's studio, and Helm plays drums on some of the tracks. The title song "River of Time" won the Folk Song of the Year Award.

Stars in My Crown (album)

Stars in My Crown is a Jorma Kaukonen studio album released in 2007 on Red House Records. Kaukonen returned to song-writing with this album, and again incorporated the work of several contributing musicians including Barry Mitterhof, who had been playing mandolin with Hot Tuna since 2002. The album made it to the Billboard charts for "Top Heatseekers" peaking at #37.

The Land of Heroes

The Land of Heroes is a Jorma Kaukonen studio album recorded and released in 1995. It was his first new solo album since the mid-1980s. The album incorporated the work of several other musicians, including Michael Falzarano, who had joined Hot Tuna and produced remastered versions of Kaukonen's older Relix Records vinyl releases. Falzarano also produced the new album, and co-wrote some tracks.

Too Hot to Handle (Jorma Kaukonen album)

Too Hot to Handle is a Jorma Kaukonen acoustic solo album released on Relix Records. Kaukonen's wife at the time, Margareta Kaukonen, composed some of the tracks with him and is credited as "Malles Meje."

"Too Many Years" and "Ice Age" were later re-recorded with Jefferson Airplane for their eponymous reunion album. The former was again re-recorded for Kaukonen's 1998 album Too Many Years.

Too Many Years

Too Many Years is a Jorma Kaukonen studio album released in August, 1998. It was his last studio album on Relix Records. Michael Falzarano returned to play guitar and help produce (as he did on the previous Kaukonen solo album). He also sang lead on several tracks. The keyboard work was now handled by former Jefferson Starship keyboardist Pete Sears, who had been playing with Hot Tuna since 1992. After this album, the three began to perform as the "Jorma Kaukonen Trio" and recorded a live album for Relix, Jorma Kaukonen Trio Live.

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