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Today in Music – Dec 23, 1940 – Happy 73rd Birthday – Jorma Kaukonen

Jorma KaukonenSo today is the birthday of one of my favorite guitar players Jorma Kaukonen! Jorma was born on this day in 1940 in Washington, D.C., the son of Beatrice Love (née Levine) and Jorma Ludwig Kaukonen, Jorma Kaukonen had Finnish paternal grandparents and Russian Jewish ancestry on his mother’s side. I am a fan of both sides of Jorma’s music. The rock side which he of course displayed as a member of the Jefferson Airplane, and his acoustic side, which he has displayed in his solo releases. Then there is Hot Tuna, where sometimes he’s acoustic and sometimes electric. My favorite album of Jorma’s is Blue Country Heart, which was widely acclaimed by critics as one of the definitive examples of American “Depression Era ” music and features Kaukonen backed by an all-star Nashville bluegrass band. The album was nominated for a Grammy Award. Here’s some information from Wikipedia about Jorma incredible guitar playing….

As a fingerstyle guitarist, his electric guitar work was uniquely distinctive and thus widely emulated by other Bay Area guitarists. Notable work with Jefferson Airplane includes “Greasy Heart”, “If You Feel”, “Spare Chaynge”, “Embryonic Journey”, “Hey Frederick” (which culminates in an extended lead guitar duet with himself), “Wooden Ships”, and his original composition, “Feel So Good”. Rolling Stone named Kaukonen the 54th greatest rock guitarist of all time and 16th greatest acoustic guitarist.[9]
Though never a prolific singer and songwriter during his Airplane tenure, Kaukonen contributed some distinctive material. On the band’s second album, Surrealistic Pillow, his song “Embryonic Journey” showcased his fingerstyle acoustic guitar virtuosity. On the next album, After Bathing at Baxter’s, his sound had a harder edge inspired by Mike Bloomfield of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Cream, and other touring groups that performed in San Francisco. These stylistic changes are prominent in the acid rocker, “The Last Wall of the Castle,” as well as the long (9:12) instrumental, “Spare Chaynge”, cowritten with bandmates bassist Jack Casady and drummer Spencer Dryden. The improvisation marking “Spare Chaynge” is also present in the free-form extended jams, “Thing” and “Bear Melt,” both live instrumentals recorded in 1968. Kaukonen insists, however, in the liner notes of the Live at the Fillmore East album, that these jams were not chaotic “free for alls” but were “complex rehearsed arrangements.”


Two songs that were later to become Hot Tuna signature tunes, “Rock Me Baby” and “Good Shepherd”, a gospel ballad, were also recorded during the period 1968–1969. Star Track, from the 1968 Crown of Creation album, is also written by Kaukonen,and he says it is about his own dealing with sudden fame, as the lyrics suggest: “Take your head in hand and make your own demands or you’ll crystallize on the shelf/ The freeway’s concrete way won’t show you where to run or how to go.”


Original compositions by Kaukonen on the 1971 Jefferson Airplane album, Bark are an instrumental, “Wild Turkey,” “Feel So Good,” and the acoustic autobiographical “Third Week in the Chelsea,” detailing his feelings about the disintegration of the band. For the 1972 “Long John Silver” album he wrote “Trial by Fire”, a song which he still plays, and “Eat Starch Mom”, a heavy song and the closer of the album, additionally significant for it being possibly the only Kaukonen written song which Grace Slick sings by herself. Read Full Biography

So here’s some of the electric blues side of Jorma as he performs with Ana Popovic at the Canton Blues Fest in 2010. And if you prefer the classic acoustic Jorma – here’s Jorma and  Jack Casady with the traditional “Hesitation Blues” And once again Happy Birthday, Jorma and thanks for all the great music!!