Octogenerian journey: Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna guitarist Jorma Kaukonen turns 80 today

Here’s wishing a Happy 80th Birthday to founding Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna guitarist and singer Jorma Kaukonen.

Kaukonen came to fame as lead guitarist for the Jefferson Airplane, playing with the pioneering San Francisco psychedelic rock band from their 1965 formation until their dissolution in 1972.

Jorma was best known for his searing distorted guitar leads, but he also delved into the blues and acoustic folk while in the band. While not one of the group’s main songwriters, Kaukonen did contribute tunes to every Jefferson Airplane album  His best known composition is the acoustic instrumental “Embryonic Journey,” which appeared on the band’s classic second record, 1967’s Surrealistic Pillow, and has been featured in a variety of movies and TV shows.

While still in the Jefferson Airplane, Kaukonen formed the folk-blues outfit Hot Tuna with Airplane bassist Jack Casady, with whom he’d been friends since high school.

After the Airplane broke up. Hot Tuna became Jorma’s main band, and he also launched an ongoing solo career. Since the early 1970s, Kaukonen has continued to tour and record with Hot Tuna and as a solo artist.

In 1989, the Jefferson Airplane reunited for a tour and also released a new self-titled studio album, but disbanded again after the trek ended. In 1996, Jorma was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the Airplane.

Since 1989, Kaukonen and his wife, Vanessa, have run the Fur Peace Ranch, a guitar camp and multi-faceted music facility in Pomeroy, Ohio, that over the years has been expaned to include a recording studio, performance venue and art gallery.

Since April, Jorma has been playing a series of streaming concert events at the ranch, including solo shows, collaborative sets and Hot Tuna performances.

By Matt Friedlander
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