American Music Masters is in full swing. Last night our signature Hall of Fame Series featured Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Jorma Kaukonen – a founding member of two legendary bands, the Hall of Fame Inducted Jefferson Airplane, and the still-touring Hot Tuna. The packed audience was treated to a special evening of live music and conversation that gave us all an insider’s look into the San Francisco music scene that Janis Joplin was a part of in the 1960s.
Some of the most fascinating discussion of the night came when Kaukonen talked about how in the early 1960s he had moved from Washington D.C. to Ohio, and finally out to San Francisco. As a new student at Santa Clara University Kaukonen walked into a small club that was featuring a hootenanny (a term typically used at the time to describe a folk-music party). That night he met several people who would become his friends, among them Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin. When asked about his time with Janis he described how they were all learning about music together. Everyone was caught in the folk craze, looking back at classic blues and country music. Jorma described how Janis was interested in the classic blues of Bessie Smith, and told the audience about his own admiration of gospel blues guitar finger-picker Rev. Gary Davis (1896-1972). And while they all shared common interests and played the same music together, each artist in the San Francisco scene eventually took the music in a different direction.
Kaukonen performed during the interview including a handful of tunes he had recorded with Janis in 1964 on the now famous typewriter tapes (because the “demo” style tapes featured Jorma’s wife typing in the background), including “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out” and “Hesitation Blues.” Janis was such a powerful performer, he said, and even though they only knew each other for a short time, he will always remember the intensity of those years. Kaukonen also performed the Jefferson Airplane songs “Embryonic Journey” and “Trial by Fire,” the Hot Tuna song “Death Don’t Have No Mercy,” and music from his new album including “Another Man Done a Full Go Round.”