One of my father’s all-time favorite guitar players, Jourma Kauokonen is maybe the last of the legendary proteges of Gary Davis, schooled during the Reverend’s late-life renaissance in Harlem.In a weird twist for a fingerstyle folk guitarist, Jourma got his first taste of fame playing electrified lead in a psychedelic rock band — a humble little outfit known as “Jefferson Airplane.” He brought his friend Jack Cassidy in to play bass, and between them they went on to sculpt what would become one of the more iconic sounds of the 60s.

Despite being perpetually crowded off-stage by the Airplane’s vocalists, when talking about guitar playing contemporaries, you might¬†have said Hendrix, Clapton, and Kaukonen, and people who knew would’ve nodded.

So, that went pretty well for him.

Later the Airplane became the Starship, and Jourma and Jack quit in disgust, turning instead to their now full-time side project: Hot Shit (or Hot Fucking Shit, depending on who you ask). This then became Hot Tuna, because… Well, you can’t really call yourselves Hot Fucking Shit.

For all his chops, he never again sought the spotlight, and as a result was never again caught in its glare. He toured and recorded when and how he wanted, connected with those who cared, and survived ably to this day as a modest cult hero. The lack of mega-fame seems to suit him just fine.

Jourma Kaukonen.

Hot Tuna.

Hot Fucking Shit.

“The time has come for us to part…”

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