August 21, 2009
The idea of a "ranch that grows guitar players" was first conceived
in 1989 by Jorma and Vanessa Kaukonen. Fur Peace Ranch opened in 1998
in southeast Ohio, near Pomeroy.
Kaukonen's legacy can be traced to the mid 60s, where, as a college
graduate and accomplished acoustic blues player, he became the lead
guitarist for the San Fransisco band The Jefferson Airplane, led by
Marty Balin with Paul Kantner and singer Signe Anderson. Grace Slick
became the lead singer before recording their second album,
Surrealistic Pillow, released in 1967. Kaukonen's friend from high
school, Jack Casady, was brought on as the bass player, and drummer
Skip Spence was replaced by Spencer Dryden.
Surrealistic Pillow was a huge success, with Grace Slick's Somebody
to Love and White Rabbit as hit singles. Also on the album was
Embryonic Journey, a Kaukonen instrumental that has remained a staple
in his concerts. During this time the Airplane played many of the
outdoor festivals, including Monterey Pop, Woodstock, and the ill
fated Altamont which was documented in the movie Gimme Shelter.
In 1969 Kaukonen and Casady began playing as Hot Tuna, focusing on
acoustic blues that they had played in their early days, releasing
their debut in 1970 which was recorded live in Berkeley, California
with Will Scarlett on harmonica. Over the years Hot Tuna had drummers
Joey Covington, Sammy Piazza, and Bob Steeler. The shows were
legendary, often going as long as 4-5 hours, and covering the many
songs off their records, be it acoustic, electric blues, hard rock,
or psychedelic rock. Papa John Creach also became a fixture on
electric violin, appearing on their albums and in concert.
Four decades later Jorma and Jack still perform as Hot Tuna, acoustic
and electric. Many recording artists join them in the recording
studio or on stage, and The Fur Peace Ranch has become a musical
haven in middle America.