A CONVERSATION WITH JORMA KAUKONEN (cont.)
PM: How did the Ranch come about?
JK: Well, I taught years ago. Then Happy Traum got me into doing some of those instructional videos [Homespun Tapes, in Woodstock, NY]. I did four of those for him. But now that I've been immersed in teaching for four years since that time, I'm much better at it. I think we've convinced him to let me to start over and do everything on a DVD. I can actually explain what I'm doing pretty well now.
Anyway, right after the Airplane reunion in '89, a friend I hadn't heard from in 20 years called me up and said he was selling a farm. We went out to Ohio for a look, and Vanessa and I liked it. When we bought it, land was $600 an acre. It's more than that now.
We have about 200 acres. So we joked about how much fun it would be to have a Guitar Farm. It's a lot easier raising guitar players than taking care of milk cows. The first thing you do when you start a business is letterheads and T-shirts, and we went that far, but didn't really do any more about it. In her previous life, Vanessa was a civil engineer, and she assembled all the people to do the necessary drawings, etc. and put the plan into motion.
PM: She was a civil engineer?
JK: Yeah, she had a real life before we met each other. She did all the things that I not only couldn't have done, but wouldn't ever have done, like permits and EPA, all that stuff. And we made it happen.
PM: So you started building.
JK: Yeah, we built 23 or 24 buildings. We're building a 200 seat theater that will be open next month, it's almost done now. It's like my mini-Branson on the Shady River. [laughter] And the interesting thing is that the bank believed in us, and financed it. So they think we're going to be making our payments for the next 30 years. When we started, it was all poison ivy, we cleared everything. Our restaurant building is a 150 year old log cabin that we moved down from another county. I wanted to do all the buildings like that, but it's really a pain. It's cool to have one.
PM: Did it travel well, being such an old cabin?
JK: There's a little story there. We thought that we'd like to do logs, so we visited this bed and breakfast up in Hocking County. This couple had a business restoring these cabins, and used them for their cottages and restaurant. He said he had three cabins that he wanted to sell. Great, we'll come take a look. If we like them, we'll take them apart and bring them on down. When we got there, it was just a pile of these filthy looking logs. It looked like firewood. I thought "We're gonna pay good money for this?" But when we put it all back together again, it looked great. I used two of them to make the restaurant and the kitchen. And the other I sold to John's brother [John Hurlbut, the ranch manager], who's building a house with it. All the other buildings are more contemporary, but rustic. We have a two story library, and a workshop with a little stage. We have a restaurant and now the theater, 17 cabins, a bathhouse. When I got my own urinal, that was a big deal.
PM: A 200 seat theater, that's a real graduation, even for Fur Peace. Will it become a part of the Folk Blues circuit?
JK: Yes, definitely. We're doing gourmet dinners and concerts already, and we've had a lot of good performers through. I wish I had a brochure with me. John Hartford played one of his last shows there, Guy Clark was up, Rory Block, Kelly Joe Phelps, Roy Book Binder. We've been doing all those good shows at our workshop, but we were beginning to draw so many people that we had to move up. We also have an NPR show on our local NPR affiliate, "Jorma Kaukonen's Live from the Fur Peace Ranch." Tune it in on the web sometime, that's www.woub.org/furpeace.
PM: Thanks for the url, Earl. Yeah, this webzine we're doing is getting big, we had over 300k hits last month.
JK: That's amazing. Well, that's why we're having this conversation. We're into the Net. We have a Fur Peace website, and a Hot Tuna website. I have a personal one, at www.jormakaukonen.com, where I do a lot of blabbing about things. You can't talk back (though you can contact me through the Ranch site), I do all the talking. Ain't no chat room. It's like that Toby Keith song, "I Wanna Talk About Me." Frank, I can't tell you, I've had a great couple of years, and I'm just tickled pink to be here. continue