Jorma Kaukonen Biography

23 December 1940, Washington, DC, USA. The solo career of the former Jefferson Airplane lead guitarist started after the demise of the Airplane splinter group Hot Tuna in 1978. Kaukonen went back to his roots as a solo acoustic performer in small clubs. Four years earlier, he had released an outstanding recording, Quah, joined by Tom Hobson and produced by Jack Casady. The album was well received and although not released in the UK, enough copies were imported to satisfy the small but enthusiastic market. On this album Kaukonen displayed an intensity that had been hidden during his years with the Jefferson Airplane. The autobiographical ‘Song For The North Star’ and the emotive ‘Genesis’ were two excellent examples. On Barbeque King he was joined by Denny DeGorio (bass) and John Stench (drums), otherwise known as Vital Parts, in a not too successful attempt to work again within a rock group.

During his solo years Kaukonen’s reputation as an acoustic guitarist has grown considerably; his love for ragtime blues continued to find a small and loyal audience fascinated to watch a six-foot, body-tattooed man playing such delicate music. In 1989, Kaukonen was cajoled into joining the re-formed Jefferson Airplane, where once again he sacrificed his love of ‘wooden’ music for the power of his biting and frantic lead guitar playing. Two years later, Kaukonen and Casady, who had re-formed Hot Tuna as a part-time unit in the mid-80s, recorded a new album together. Kaukonen had a long bout of heroin addiction to deal with but managed to clean up and flourish. In 1995 Kaukonen founded the Fur Peace Guitar Ranch in Meigs County, Ohio, where he teaches traditional American music to about 500 young musicians every year. Kaukonen continues to work with both Hot Tuna and his own trio, where he plays alongside Michael Falzarano (guitar) and Pete Sears (keyboards), and is also an occasional member of Phil Lesh’s band. Kaukonen was back on a major record label in 2002 with an album of traditional country folk/blues. He remains one of the finest guitarists to emerge from the late 60s rock revolution.

Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.

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