The Countertop Chronicles

"Run by a gun zealot who's too blinded by the NRA" - Sam Penney of

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Fur Peace Ranch

The New York Times has an excellent article today - in the travel section no less - on Jorma Kaukonen's Fur Peace Ranch.

After 40 years of stardom, Jorma Kaukonen, a founder of Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, has turned to teaching. In 1998, he opened Fur Peace Ranch ("It's a fur piece from anywhere," as the locals say) with his wife and manager, Vanessa Lillian. Nestled in the Appalachian foothills of Pomeroy, Ohio, it is an hour-and-a-half drive south of Columbus. From March through November, guitar buffs from as far away as Hong Kong descend on its 119 acres, hoping that in four days Kaukonen can impart a little magic before they perform in the weekly Sunday workshop.

Mostly middle-aged men - computer specialists, contractors and airline pilots who can now afford the $4,000 Gibsons and Martins that they often hide from their wives - they are serious and as unassuming as the backwoods music itself. If a newcomer falls behind on a thumb-contorting G7 chord, the better players, some of whom can match Kaukonen's licks, will stop their own practice to help.

The bearded Kaukonen, with his tiger tattoos and biker's heft, turns out to be warm and funny. Where lesser talents might desperately peddle their latest reunion tour, he remains upbeat despite the lack of commercial interest in the blues. ³People who love this kind of music are everywhere,² he tells the class. ³It's just that none of us looks good in Spandex, so you don't see us in music videos.² Gorging on pork loin in lemon butter and the house specialty, hot tuna, doesn't help.

Sure, he may be a smelly pinko hippy biker, but the guy is a real life guitar god and next to attending Skip Barber Racing School have had attending a session of the Peace Ranch on my to do list for at least 5 years, though I have been a Hot Tuna (acoustic AND electric) fanatic since I was first turned onto them in the early 80s by my guitar teacher. He lent me a copy of Hot Tuna and there was no looking back.

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I might be a suck ass guitarist, but every time I pick one up, I imagine I am Jorma Kaukonen. There have been few finer finger pickers.

Hesitation Blues
Lyrics by Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady
Music inspired by the Rev. Gary Davis

Well, nickel is a nickel, I said, dime is a dime
I need a new gal, she won't mind
Tell me how long do I have to wait?
Can I get you now, I said, must I hesitate?

The eagle on the dollar says "in God we trust"
You say you want a man
You wanna see that dollar first
Tell me how long do I have to wait?
Can I get you now, I said, must I hesitate?

Well, If the river was whiskey, said, I was a duck
You know I'd swim to the bottom
Lord, and never come up
Tell me how long

Well, rocks in the ocean, said, fish in the sea
Knows you mean the world to me
Tell me how long do I have to wait?
Can I get you now, Lord, must I hesitate?

Well, the hesitation stalker's got them hesitation shoes
You know, Lord, I got them hesitation blues
Tell me how long do I have to wait?

Can I get you now, Lord, must I hesitate?
Said, can I get you now, how long must I hesitate?


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