Rock hall of famer to play High Sierra
September 26, 2012
At the age of 14, years after requisite piano lessons — and discovering he didn’t like the discipline required — Jorma Kaukonen discovered guitar and found it was his instrument.The now Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee, founding member of iconic rock band The Jefferson Airplane and of the long-touring band Hot Tuna and legendary guitarist in his own right, plays High Sierra Brewing Company, at 8 p.m. Oct. 18.One of the most prolific musicians to come out of the 1960s Jorma, whether playing with others or solo, does so because he’s “not trained for any other gainful employment,” and also because he simply loves what he does.“I started out playing old-timey bluegrass and simple rock ‘n’ roll and was hooked,” he said.Today, Jorma is one of the most highly regarded fingerstyle guitarists and interpreters of blues, American roots music and Americana. He was nominated for a Grammy Award in 2002 for his album, “Blue Country Heart,” and with a career that has spanned nearly 50 years, was part of the San Francisco music scene that shaped popular rock and the music of a generation.At the time, he didn’t realize the historic significance of what he was doing.“I didn’t think about it at all … I was playing great music with all my buds and bud-ettes,” he said. “Being in The Airplane eventually got me a higher paid gig as a folk artist than most, though.”Today, Jorma continues to tour in various lineups and many with his childhood friend, Jack Casady.“I met Jack in early 1957 … his older brother and I were buds, and I found I had more in common with Jack,” Jorma said. “We’ve been together a long time and always respected each other as men and musicians, never had an argument.“We didn’t play together for awhile, because I had gone solo and in ’65 got in The Airplane and even though I had never heard Jack play bass, I just knew he was the right guy for the job … he’s an accomplished guitarist and only took up bass because (bass guitarists) were more like to be gainfully employed so he opted for the latter.”That partnership continues today, with their most recent release in 2011 by Hot Tuna of “Steady as She Goes.” Recorded at Levon Helm’s studio and produced by Grammy-winning producer Larry Campbell, the album features Barry Mitterhoff on mandolin (he will play High Sierra with Jorma), drummer Skoota Warner and joined by Campbell on guitar, fiddle, organ and vocals.They plan another record next year, followed by a solo project by Jorma slated after.Because his time not touring is spent at his 200-acre Fur Peace Ranch in southern Ohio, Jorma has spent most of his time writing alone.“Steady as She Goes,” changed that, being collaboratively written by Jorma, Jack and Larry because they happened to be in proximity at the time.“I loved it and found I was less self-conscious because when looking at the art of the song, perhaps telling a story from life and I’m by myself, I have to step back and analyze it and there was none of that working together,” Jorma said, “The sum is definitely better than the parts.”When not touring, Jorma and his wife spend much of their time teaching music and hosting events and workshops at the ranch. He also has a blog at jormakaukenon.com and has no intention of retiring.“My father was in foreign service and when he retired, he went on with his life but he never got to do what he loved so much, again,” Jorma said. “What would I retire from? I may have to slow down the touring, but we have the music school, a couple hundred acres and life couldn’t be any better.”When asked what his greatest accomplishment has been, Jorma, with all his accolades and fame, said, “fatherhood.”“I came to that later in life and there has been no greater joy,” he said. “My daughter plays piano … and I tell my son, ‘just find something you love to do and do it.’ Yeah … being a dad is the coolest thing I have done. And on that note, I have to go read a bedtime story.”Seating for An Evening with Jorma Kaukonen is limited. Tickets cost $35 each or $65 for VIP which includes food, drinks and a meet and greet with Jorma, available at highsierrabrewco.com or in person at High Sierra Brewing Company, 302 N. Carson St., and The Firkin & Fox, 310 S. Carson St., in Carson City, or at The Firkin & Wolf, 13971 S. Virginia St., Reno. For more information, call 775-884-2739.