BluesWax Sittin’ In With
By Robert Putignano
Vintage Photographs by David Jacobs
In Part One of his interview with Robert Putignano, Jorma Kaukonen talked about the latest Hot Tuna record, Jefferson Airplane, and shared some stories of friends like Papa John Creach. Enjoy Part Two!
Robert Putignano for BluesWax: Works for me, I’m looking forward to being at the show.
Jorma Kaukonen: I know you’ll appreciate this. Jack [Casady] and I have been on the scene and in this business for so many years, and we are very aware about how blessed we are for having this kind of longevity, we don’t know what to attribute this to, but if we could we’d bottle it up, we’d sell it! But the mere fact that guys like you who are in the communications business still want to talk to us means a lot to us, we don’t take that for granted.
BW: Well, thanks, but I have to tell you that I’ve only been doing this radio gig for twelve years, but what’s better than this? Talking to my teen heroes and listening to you and others tell stories that I might have never had known, and getting the opportunity to share your thoughts with the listeners at WFDU, over the Internet, and with the loyal readers at BluesWax, too. I always get jazzed to find out what’s kicking in your heads.
JK: Well, you know something? I get a similar vibe as I’m thrilled to get to play with so many of my heroes!
BW: And deservingly so, good for you! Will there be a follow up to Steady As She Goes?
JK: Absolutely, there’s no question about it. I have two projects waiting in the wings, one is another solo Jorma record, and the other is another Hot Tuna album. I’m going to leave the next Hot Tuna album in Jack Casady’s hands, so if he’s fired up to do another Tuna project, I will put my solo album on hold. If I had to put money on something there’s a better chance of a Hot Tuna project coming out next year than us hitting the Powerball lottery, I can tell you that for sure. [Laughs]
BW: I see you’ve been affected with the lottery madness, too?
JK: How could anyone not? But at this point in my age, just getting out of bed is enough of a gamble. I know we have a better chance with having an alien land on your house than winning this lottery, but you never know, someone’s got to win. As they say, all you need is a dollar and a dream.
BW: Good luck!
JK: Let me leave you with this thought, one song I wrote for the new album, “Mourning Interrupted,” comes from a TV series called Memphis Beat, I’m not a Memphis-styled musician, but I loved that show. The theme from the show had this beat to it that I couldn’t get out of my head, so I sat down and started to write the lyrics to my song, it’s a downbeat song lyrically. So I am on the road and emailed the lyrics to my wife, who asks if I’m feeling depressed and starts asking me if I’m okay? So I said, “Vanessa it’s a song, sometimes when you write a song you have to follow the rabbit down the hole,” and told her I’m alright, it turns out that I think it’s a funny song, too.
BW: There we have it, thanks Jorma!
JK: Thanks Bob. You know I’ve been late for most of my life, so thanks for being punctual, these things now mean a lot to me. I am on my way to Woodstock at Levon [Helm]’s barn for rehearsals with the band for the Beacon, so I’m looking forward to seeing a lot of your listeners at the two Beacon shows.
BW: Jimmy Vivino and his Black Italians are performing at Levon’s this weekend too, and they are recording a new CD, you might run into them.
JK: Speaking of great guitar players, Vivino is also such a nice guy. Okay, another quick story. Jimmy wanted me to go on with him on the Conan O’Brien Show and he wanted to do some Airplane songs. And I told him, “Look Jimmy, I haven’t played that stuff in about forty years. So Jimmy tells me you don’t have to know anything, we know the songs and all you need to do is just play solo guitar. I told him to count me in.
BW: Jimmy is such a great support player, when he used to do the Ramble shows with Levon, everyone in the band looked towards him to see where he wanted to go with the music.
JK: Jimmy Vivino is the man. Last but not least, you know the Rambles are still going on?
BW: Yes I do, we just gave away tickets to Vivino’s shows this weekend.
JK: The spirit continues!
BW: It sure does. I’m not sure if you know that Don Imus was and still is a big Levon fan and he does all he can to keep the Levon barn announcements rolling with TV and radio announcements. He still reaches a lot of people.
My last question: the tour you did with Ruthie Foster and Robben Ford was excellent. I loved the way Robben supported your segment and rolled into his session player role, and did not try to compete with you, to me that was very special to observe. I thought he brought out different shades of Jorma and really catered to you as opposed to cutting heads. This had to be because of Robben’s long list of studio work as a sideman?
JK: Oh my God, yes! Robben exemplifies exactly what you just said. When he does his own thing, he does his thing. But when he contributes, as music is a great way to talk with friends, so having a musical conversation with Robben is always an enlightening experience.
BW: All of that session work [now mostly long gone] still pays off.
JK: Robben’s the man too; it’s always an honor to work with him.
BW: I wasn’t sure how you two would mesh, but it sure did work well.
JK: Absolutely! Anyway, good talking to you, I am off to Levon’s barn to practice with the band.
BW: See you this weekend, have fun jamming with the band in Woodstock and at the Beacon.
JK: Rock on brother!
Bob Putignano is a senior contributing editor at BluesWax, a contributing writer at Blues Revue, and the heart and soul of Sounds of Blue.
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