Jorma Kaukonen will headline Blues Fest

June 03, 1998|By KATE COLEMAN

Playing at the Western Maryland Blues Fest is a "full circle in a lot of senses" for Jorma Kaukonen.

The guitarist, a founding member of Jefferson Airplane, will perform with keyboardist Pete Sears and guitarist Michael Falzarano - Hot Tuna's Jorma Kaukonen Trio - at The Maryland Theatre, Friday, June 5, at 8 p.m.

--cont from lifestyle--

Kaukonen, 58, considers this gig sort of a homecoming.

He was born in Washington, D.C., and spent part of his childhood in Pakistan and the Philippines because his father was in the U.S. Foreign Service. The family returned to the Chevy Chase, Md., and Northern Virginia area when he was 16.

Kaukonen also will be at home musically.

"The kind of music I play with the trio is nearest and dearest to my heart," he says.

Although there were no professional musicians in his family, Kaukonen says everybody played something. He took piano lessons as a kid, and briefly studied classical guitar. But that wasn't "his thing," so Kaukonen learned enough chords to play what he wanted to play - rockabilly songs.


He met fellow student Jack Casady at Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C., and they played together in a teen garage band - the Triumphs.

Kaukonen attended Antioch College where he met friend and mentor, Ian Buchanan, and future blues man John Hammond, who performed at the 1996 Western Maryland Blues Fest.

It was then that Kaukonen learned to love and play traditional acoustic blues. On a work study semester in New York City, Kaukonen listened to the Rev. Gary Davis and adopted and developed his Piedmont-finger-picking-style of guitar.

Kaukonen and bassist Casady reunited when Kaukonen transferred to University of Santa Clara in 1961.

The folk scene was thriving in California. Janis Joplin and Jerry Garcia were there, and Kaukonen performed with them.

In 1965, with Paul Kantner and Marty Balin, the high school friends became Jefferson Airplane. With Grace Slick on board by 1966, they recorded nine top 20 albums and two top 10 singles. They played at both the Woodstock and Altamont festivals, and the acid-psychedelic band was named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

Last month, the lives and careers of Kaukonen and Casady were the focus of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum showcase.

Kaukonen says he grew up on the Smithsonian and loves museums. He says the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum is great and has an "aw, shucks," attitude about being regarded a legend and having a career that spans more than 30 years.

Kaukonen considers himself primarily a folk/blues musician and says he's excited about performing at the Western Maryland Blues Fest. Because of his rock 'n' roll and acid-drenched psychedelic reputation, he has not been called to play as many blues festivals as he'd like.

"I never want to stop playing on the road," he says.

This summer, with the opening of The Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp at his rural Ohio farm, Kaukonen's touring schedule will be lighter than his usual 200 nights a year. Kaukonen and members of Hot Tuna will teach, and guest instructors will include G.E. Smith, the 10-year front man for the "Saturday Night Live" band, and W.C. Handy Award-winner Rory Block, who performed at the 1997 Western Maryland Blues Fest.

In 1995 and 1996, Kaukonen toured in support of his solo recording, "The Land of Heroes." The album includes a song that is a combination of "ancestral memories" of Finland, the country from which Kaukonen's grandparents immigrated.

Kaukonen wrote another cut, the instrumental, "Do Not Go Gentle." He was inspired by his father's courage in overcoming damage done by a series of strokes.

His mother died last month. Kaukonen says she was 88 years old, had a great life and he and his brother were with her. The working title of a new composition is "Song for Our Mother."

Kaukonen says if he can do it without crying, he'll sing it for his Hagerstown audience.

see the Blues Fest schedule

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