Memories of a musical life | Sound stories and interviews | Fold | The Weekly Source

IIn light of the flurry of musical biopics and memoirs that have been released lately, anyone expecting a lot of hot stuff when they open Jorma Kaukonen’s 2018 autobiography “Been So Long: My Life and Music.” , is invited to look elsewhere.

Despite the fact that the founding member of Jefferson Airplane and co-founder of Hot Tuna had his first dalliance with fame in the band’s late ’60s in Haight-Ashbury, the book is more of an intriguing and straightforward account of the path of Kaukonen life. That’s a big reason why he decided against doing a project like this when he was first approached years earlier.

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“In the mid to early 2000s, I was offered to do a book with someone else as a co-author. It was someone I liked and I didn’t really care about it. At the time, the idea of ​​a co-writer made sense to me because I had never really done writing of this magnitude,” Kaukonen recalled. “But it became apparent that the publishing house we had been discussing things with wanted all that salacious stuff that we talked about that I don’t have in my book. As soon as I realized they wanted i smear people who were more famous than me i thought i didn’t want to do that.so i just put the whole idea aside.same thing happened when i didn’t make the cut for the PBS special “Janis: Little Girl Blue” because Janis and Je never had sex or did drugs together. We just played music.

Born in Washington, DC to Beatrice Love (née Levine) and Jorma Ludwig Kaukonen, Sr., young Kaukonen has Finnish lineage through his paternal grandparents and Russian Jewish ancestry through his mother’s side. Since his father was a State Department employee, the future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer’s early life involved quite a bit of travel. While living in remote places like Pakistan and the Philippines, Kaukonen got into the habit of journaling, a habit that carried over into adulthood and was a huge boon to remembering the finite details that run through “Been So Long”.

“Here’s the thing, even as a kid I liked to type because I couldn’t read my own handwriting. For lack of a better term, I always jotted down stuff in a journal when I was a kid. It wasn’t interactive like today’s. Before there were blogs, I still kept a journal. I always liked doing that,” he said. “For the book, I was inspired by the process. So, once seated, I began knowing that I had to spend three hours that day writing. I sat down and maybe the first few minutes would be laborious. But once I got into the flow, I found I could do it.

The book’s narrative thread is wrapped in straightforward honesty about Kaukonen’s journey, with soul-searching that touches on his addiction and recovery, his troubled first marriage and still-thriving current marriage, his musical journey, the creation of the Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp and the joy of fatherhood. Filled with lyrics that provide fascinating narrative bridges.

Of course, the memoirs deal with Kaukonen bands, including Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. The Airplane were already an established band with several iconic hit songs under their belt (“White Rabbit”, “Somebody To Love”, “Volunteers”) when Kaukonen and fellow Airplane bandmate, bassist Jack Casady, formed Hot Tuna as a group. project in 1969.

And in a sense, Hot Tuna was born before it was even Hot Tuna. The seeds were planted at a Jefferson Airplane gig at the Fillmore East when Paul Kantner asked Kaukonen and Casady to “…go play an acoustic tune”.

In “Been So Long: My Life and Music”, Kaukonen reflects on the musical freedom he and Casady found with Hot Tuna, which ended up including a rotating cast of other musicians and performed both in acoustic settings and electric.

“The financial success of the Airplane has given Jack and I the breathing room to nurture our young band in its infancy without financial constraints,” Kaukonen wrote. “It was fun and a real relief to just be able to hang out with friends and play music without it being a ‘career change’!”

Hot Tuna remained fairly active through the 1970s, releasing eight albums that decade before going on hiatus that lasted until 1986. Kaukonen and Casady have kept the group together since then, adding a pair of studio albums and several releases. directly to the Hot Tuna catalog. .

These days, Kaukonen’s role in his Hot Tuna gigs with Casady is less that of an oldies number and more like that of a bard. As someone who started learning finger picking at Antioch College and later worshiped the altar of famed blues/gospel singer Reverend Gary Davis, Hot Tuna shows are not only packed with songs from the Hot Tuna catalog, but also material from big names associated with the American Canon.

Find some of it when Hot Tuna plays the Tower Theater on Saturday with an acoustic set.


Spicy tuna
Sat., June 18, 7 p.m.
tower theater
835 Wall Street NW Bend
Towertheatre.org
$39.50-$69.50