Kaukonen’s Ohio ranch an oasis for music

When Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna founder Jorma Kaukonen first moved to the Bay Area in 1962, he paid the bills by giving guitar lessons at Benner Music Company in San Jose. That scholarly urge never left him. “I’ve always enjoyed teaching, and I got back into it again in the ’80s,” says the musician, who – with his wife Vanessa – has spent the last 18 years running Fur Peace Ranch on 119 acres in rural Ohio, where he and others oversee classes and workshops in guitar and other instruments. It’s grown to include a Fur Peace Station theater and an NPR show. His folksy new solo album “Ain’t In No Hurry” was conceived there, as was his current unplugged Hot Tuna tour with longtime bassist Jack Casady.

How do you watch over 119 sprawling acres, exactly?

I don’t – my wife does. Although I teach and participate and we’re partners and all that, she’s there every day while I’m on the road. But I’m there most of the time. I’m out in our barn right now!

And you have several cabins for your students, right?

We have 21 double-occupancy cabins, and one single-occupancy handicapped cabin. The sessions are Friday morning to Monday morning, and anybody can qualify as a student. But we also have a library, a couple of workshops, and a terrific kitchen with great food.

What’s in the Fur Peace library?

I never throw anything away, so we started out with VHS tapes, then DVDs. And I also keep collecting books, so I had a huge library of my own, with lots of really interesting resource books, musical histories, this and that. It’s really extensive. And cool.

What crucial book would you pass on to a budding guitarist?

Actually, I think I would recommend a book that I just read called “Kansas City Lightning.” It’s the story of Charlie Parker, and it’s my current fave.

Actors always seem to be quite competitive. But musicians are often more sharing, helpful.

Right. And I know more guitar players than anything else. And guitar players tend – but not always – to be very sociable. And they freely gave wisdom to me when I was young, and I’m still learning. But not every musician is a great teacher, though. For some guys? That’s just not their thing.

And Fur Peace is also drug-and-alcohol free, right?

It makes it a lot easier. And I’ve had some discussions with some people who’ve stayed here, who’ve said “Well, I don’t see why we can’t.” And I always respond, “Outside, you can do anything you want. But this is our sand box, and we’re not here to party.” And that’s worked for 18 years.


Hot Tuna

Where: Fillmore, 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.

When: 9 p.m. Jan. 3

Tickets: $28.50

Contact: (415) 346-6000,

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