Hello World…….I’m blogging again

I’ve been away from the blog world for too long and I’m attempting to re-enter the blog hemisphere. I’m here at Kevin Morgan Studio with Michael McSteen and he’s giving me a lesson on how to operate this blog page so that I can try to check the levels on a more regular basis. We’ve had a zillion things going and lots of new things happening too.

Our concert series this year has been bombastic fantastic…. and we’ve had a tremendous response with most all of our shows being sold out before we even started our year. With this in mind we are adding some concerts to our schedule. Two new shows have been announced and YES there are tickets available for them. I’m really looking forward to seeing David Bromberg back here at Fur Peace and this time he’s stopping by with his quintet which will make it extra special. Another show we added to this year’s line-up is It’s A Beautiful Day on July 27th…..oh, yeah, my bad…..the David Bromberg Quintet show will be on June 7th. David’s shows at Fur Peace have been mostly solo acoustic and it is going to be a treat to hear him on the electric guitar

The Brian Auger show sure created quite a buzz and people are still talking about it. I last saw Brian Auger and the Oblivion Express in 1974 when I was in college and it surpassed my high anticipation. First, off…..Brian’s prowess on that B-3 organ mixed with the keys has only grown stronger over the years. The players in the Oblivion Express are all kings and one even is named King….Les King the bass player. So….it was great to have this super 5 piece group right here in the intimate acoustically perfect Fur Peace Station Concert Hall. It may have been the loudest show we ever had as well as one of the greatest. Cause
they all are pretty darn great.

OK, this is a start…..now let’s see if I can drop it in ….. with a picture…….Whooooooaaaaaaaaaaaaa

Me and the Man

Back in the groove again!

Well, we’re back at it once again here at the ole Fur Peace Ranch……just about to wrap up our first session of season number 13…..and it’s been a good one. This was one of the weekends we do a couple times a year where it is just Jorma and his trusty teaching assistant, Marjorie Thompson, passing on their knowledge in an intimate workshop setting…..only 10 students in the whole camp. It’s a great way for us to start a new season as it allows us to ease on in, before going full tilt boogie. We’re able to test the waters and make sure every thing is working and that we remembered all the things we do and I’d say that there is no doubt……we are back in the groove again. They were calling for storms all weekend, yet we were treated to a beautiful and sunny Friday before the storms did arrive. Still…..we never let weather dampen our spirits…..and it has been said…rain or shine it’s always a good time at the Fur Peace Ranch…..and it was. Jorma and Marjorie had a wonderful group of students and they were treated to some intensive and thoughtful workshop sessions. This arrangement also allows Jorma to give each and every student some one-on-one instruction and that is a priceless addition to the curriculum. Marjorie just loves teaching and she was always available to help with student’s individual needs as well as adding a session on the caged system for a bonus.

Aside from all the great teaching…..the kitchen staff was dynamite as were the meals they so lovingly prepare. Chef Chris……maximum respect to that dude…..he was on top of his game right from the get go and the meals were just better then ever…..and they’ve always been top shelf. Queen Deb is still here with us and aside from the help she provides in the kitchen she always adds a nice touch to the presentation……the food doesn’t only taste great….the way it is served and the way the dining room is set up is great too. Brenda…..the cookie lady……was in prime form too……and the cookies and cakes (especially that angel food cake and pistachio cake) were nothing short of bombastic fantastic!!! On Friday night we had for dinner a wonderful penne pasta with smoked salmon….on Saturday night we had ribs with sweet potatoes fries and scalloped potatoes……and cornbeef made from scratch for Sunday lunch, followed by a pistachio chicken with organic raspberry sauce for dinner. All these fine meals were accompanied by some wonderful side dishes and organic salads. Yes……we’re eating well!

The days here at camp are busy, with learning and eating filling up the schedule. Each night we had some real special happenings as well. On Saturday night Jorma performed a very intimate “Living Room Concert” for the students in attendance. We set up one of the Library rooms for the concert and it was just like being in a nice living room. We had folks sitting on the couch and easy chair……and some enjoyed a nice spot on the floor with some pillows to provide comfort. Jorma put on a heck of a great show and he also put together a wonderful setlist for the occasion….It went like this…..True Religion….Too Many Years (nice to hear this back in the mix)……Come Back Baby…..Things That Might Have Been (one of JK’s newest compositions that has been really growing on me)…..There’s a Bright Side Somewhere……Nine Pound Hammer……Izze’s Lullaby……Search My Heart……Uncle Sam’s Blues……Follow the Drinking Gourd……What are they Doin in Heaven Tonight……River of Time……Death Don’t Have no Mercy…..and Let Us Get Together.

Jorma's living room performance

Jorma's living room performance

You see what I mean? …..a fantastic set only surpassed by the fine delivery from the Captain! Another very cool aspect of this evening’s show was that it was totally unplugged…..no mics and no cords and I sure like that …….for several reasons. Very cool night and very special time!!!!

Saturday night was another special one too. For the second part of our “Living Room Concert Series” we were treated to a wonderful performance from Ms. Marjorie Thompson!!! Always good to see and have Marjorie around the Ranch and she played a wonderful show for us all. Marjorie performed in the same format as JK…..unplugged and acoustic….and her set had a fine continuity to it which showcased material from several of the 6 CDs in her discography. She performed songs from her just released CD…Good, Fast and Cheap and they are some of her strongest compositions. Marjorie’s set went like this……Weather Report…….Poster Child……So Long……Clean My House……She Loves You…..Too Old to Care…….Angels…….Good, Fast and Cheap…….Spirit Train……and Old Timers. A real nice night of music and a dynamic performance from Marjorie.
Marjorie performs in the living room

Marjorie performs in the living room

Well……The students are in the workshop building doing their last morning session before we break camp……it’s been a great weekend and I’m taking that to be an auspicious sign…..I ‘m going to have to wrap this journal entry up for now……but in closing I’ll add……Aside from the good eating…..the great lessons ….and great shows……we also had a wonderful student performance. We were able to do the student performance as a round robin….everyone in a big circle and everyone playing a song when it came their way. We went around that circle three times and man, oh, man……it was a lot of fun……The Student Performance was another really big show!!!

All this and a fellowship of friends and musicians that is down right good for the soul…….Bless Up!

. . . Here We Go Again . . .

Well it’s been real nice here at the Fur Peace Ranch this week as we all scurried about getting ready for the upcoming season. Yes, some nice warm and sunny weather……brought directly back from California….has been a big plus in creating the perfect environment for us to get everything done around here.

The outside grounds are looking real nice with Brother Jeroch putting his special touch on the landscape. The Tibetan Prayer Flags that hang at various spots throughout the Ranch have been replenished. The CD order has come in and the CD case in the Company Store is now full once again. The Library Building, which houses the Co. Store, a classroom and a second floor musical resource library has brand new carpet and Kelly has also given the walls a nice new coat of paint.

The Company Store sparkling with new carpet and paint!

The Company Store sparkling with new carpet and paint!

The truck driver from the local rock quarry has just left after spreading TWO truck loads of crusher run rock on our long driveway…..he’s done a nice job.The fresh shipment of Fur Peace Ranch Campfire Coffee …..just roasted on Tuesday…..was dropped off by Loraine from Silver Bridge Coffee. The entire kitchen staff has been in all week making sure everything they need for the start of our season is on the shelves and in the cupboards.

Yes, indeed …….Year #13 for the Fur Peace Ranch will commence tomorrow with the arrival of students for Jorma’s Special Weekend, with Marjorie Thompson and the Captain teaching the finer points of Finger Style Guitar that will give the students keys to the fingerstyle highway.

It’s funny……most of our employees have been here for a long time……long enough that we can all joke about how we wait till the last minute to finish things off. But you know what……I’m OK with it and I’d guess we all are……it has become our modus operandi… we all work good in a pinch and under pressure. As we get ready to leave for the day and look around this beautiful place that we call the Fur Peace Ranch…it is looking great and we’re ready….everything on the list…….ok, well almost everything……has been crossed off. So………….let the workshops begin and all the good times and good eating that come with them……it’ll be nice to see our people again.

Good Time In The Golden State

Dis mornin I woke up and was thinking about what a full and action packed time these last few weeks have been. Yes, it was just three weeks ago that I escaped the cold snowy Ohio winter for a reprieve in the golden state. The weather here has been just the best and the sun and warmth has been good for my soul, but there has been a good deal of other things pitching in as well. Of course MUSIC is and has been for a long time a big part of my life and these past weeks have been a nice dip or should I say soaking in the musical springs.

On the day we landed here in San Diego, Vanessa, my sister – Marylou and her husband – John, and I made a dash into downtown San Diego to catch the great Tommy Emmanuel in concert. I had been telling ML and John about Tommy for some time and it was so cool how well the timing worked. Well, Tommy was in prime form and they were just knocked out. For Vanessa and I the nice thing was getting to sit and enjoy a complete set of Tommy’s magical performance without being pulled away. It was just fantastic….his show covers it all in gold…The Merle Travis style……Chet Atkins….Les PaulDjango Reinhart and his own original gems. The music is accompanied by amazing stories and energy. Thanks a lot Tommy!

Over the next couple of days we hung around San Diego and did some chillaxin. My sister had everyone over for a pasta and meatball dinner on Friday night and everything was VA BENNE!!! My Italian Mom is and would be proud of her. My niece Brittany has a penchant for fine deserts and she made a cheesecake that was fantastic. Good eating tonight….Jorma put the icing on the cake with a beautiful Embryonic Journey that added a touch of surrealism to the evening. It is still sustaining in their living room. The next night Jorma did a rare private performance for some real nice folks in the San Diego area. Seeing Jorma perform solo is rare too these days and it made it all the more special….back to the roots. A big up to the hosts of this fine time…..your hospitality and good vibes really made for another great time.

Sunday comes and we’re convoying up the 15 heading to the Desert Hot Springs for our FPR on the road adventure. We pull into town a little early for check-in so we while away our time with a killer lunch at The South of the Border Mexican Restaurant. Fernando, the owner, is still here and the food exceeded our anticipation and boy did we have that. We’ve eaten there several times each of the last three years we’ve come this way and what can I say…..it’s so good it’s almost worth drivng here from Ohio. Suerte, Fernando…..keep it coming. The day ended with a nice soak in the mineral hot springs at the Resort….making sure the waters were perfect for our guests coming in on Monday for the workshops.

Come Monday….GE and I start the day with an early morning drive out to the Indian Canyons on the edge of Palm Springs. We hike into Palm Canyon which is a part of the Aqua Caliente Indian Reservation. The Cahuilla people have been stewards of this sacred land for centuries. We don’t see anyone except the tribal rangers until we start our walk back. The land is so peaceful and beautiful….we note the absolute silence other then the morning birds and ramblin stream…. and think what a perfect way to begin this day. We drive back to the spa and I spend some time in the hot springs and the big swimming pool. Later in the afternoon our people start to arrive and before long we’re orientating and having dinner. GE and JK decide to kick things off with a class that night.

The Captain and his class

The Captain and his class -photo: Joe Couri

Tuesday sets the pattern for what will be a very full week. The day consists of breakfast…workshop…lunch….workshop…..dinner …….workshop… and some time to also relax in the waters. We are being treated to some beautiful weather the whole time we are at the Resort. The temps are in the high 70s and low 80s and the clear sky affords us a nice view of the San Jacinto Mountains. Nights are clear with a bunch of stars in the sky and an occasional passing of a Correlian Star Cruiser…..class three.

We start our Wednesday very early as a group of us have made plans to catch Jah sun rise out on highway 74 at the vista point. Vanessa and Joe C. drive 10 of us out of the Resort at 5:20 am for our adventure.

Early morning flight crew

Early morning flight crew -photo: Joe Couri

A little light is starting to show as we make our way up the mountain ……. And then more and more light…….then the real star arrives to bath the sky in colors. The Salton Sea, some 40 miles away, reflects the colors back to the heavens. The day is off to a great start and it would only get better and better.
Sun Rise over the Sultan Sea

Sun Rise over the Sultan Sea -photo: Joe Couri

That night after dinner, GE and JK treat us all to a wonderful show in the Grand Ballroom. The show would prove a good starting point for the week plus of shows that GE and JK have scheduled for the west coast once the workshops are finished…..but let me not get ahead of myself here.
Jorma and GE Smith performance

Jorma and GE Smith performance -photo: Joe Couri

Thursday is another full day and we’re all looking forward to the really big show that night. My FPR associates and I always find great joy in the Student Performance that we usually do on Sundays at the Ranch….and it would be no different here at our workshops in the California desert. The Student Performance is just like an open stage except for….as JK notes…..we all like each other. That night we were treated to some great music and entertainment, as solo performers……newly formed duos…..GE’s
GE's class recital - Acoustic Guitarmaggadon

GE's class recital - Acoustic Guitarmaggadon -photo: Joe Couri

class (boy, oh, boy …can that Neil sing) and other singers and players of instruments took the stage.  Everyone brought something to the show….Marc got us going….Anne and Bob did my song…. I mean their song….my request…..and John D. never stopped …. following through to the delight of all…..respect my man! I got a chance to take the stage tree times. Joe C. and I did a nice version of The Weight, hitting the harmonies and sharing verses….when we got to the third AND, and the chorus……everybody was there. Next, I got a chance to play with my buddy Norm for a take on Dylan’s She Belongs To Me. GE joined us and played some nice and tasty leads. We were about ready to wrap things up, when I asked Vanessa if she wanted to do our song. Back at camp in Ohio we have closed many a Student Performance together with the Tim Hardin song Seems Like A Long Time. I first heard the song on a Brewer and Shipley record called Tarkio Road….it’s the same one with One Toke Over The Line on it and Rod Stewart also did a nice version of it on one of his early records….Well as we head for the stage here comes Izze right behind Vanessa and up onto the stage to share the microphone with her Mom.
Izze's open stage performance

Izze's open stage performance -photo: Joe Couri

Izze was the greatest….I’m not kidding…..hitting the harmony notes and starting and stopping at precisely the right moments. As I looked at Vanessa on my right and then turned to Jorma on my left….it was hard to decide who had the biggest
smile…..it was one of those golden moments. GE was there to accent the song with some delicately beautiful guitar work. So we call it a night and everyone in the room is feeling the love as we bring the performance to a close. THANKS TO EVERYONE….what a night. A group of us meet over in one of the hot pools for a late night soak and session….wait a minute……who’s that comin……it’s Captain Jorm jumping in.

We all have a nice breakfast and the teachers wrap up the week’s workshops with one more session before we all get ready to head out. We sure had a great time!!! We’re on the road just after 11:00 am as we are trying to beat it on down the line to Santa Monica before the traffic gets too crazy…..and we do. We check into a nice hotel right by the Santa Monica Pier and not too far from McCabes Guitar Shop, where Jorma and GE will be playing four soldout shows over the next two nights. Check out Jorma’s Diary for set-lists and a full report. What I will tell you is that I was so glad to be there to see the amazing music that poured forth from these two great guitarist and long time friends. GE has been coming to the Ranch since the very beginning and JK and him have had many an occasion to do some playing, but this was their first tour as a duo. Each show got better and better and during the course of those four shows ….not a song was repeated. The format was very organic….so don’t panic….with both players swapping songs and stories into the night. JK would add some nice lead work to GE’s song choice and GE would respond in kind. One of my friends wrote me after seeing them in Santa Cruz and said it was like seeing two friends jamming at their house and getting invited over to listen.

Sunday morning I say my farewell to the guys for now….it sure was fun…..they’re driving up to San Francisco and I’m heading over to Glendale to see an old friend. My friend lives just a couple of miles from the Gene Autry Museum and we head over there to have a visit. The museum is fantastic….they have an open stage going on with a large group of Cowboy singers and Cowgirls too… singing out. There is also a Western Artists Show going on and my favorite Western Artist, Howard Terpning has won first prize with the beautiful oil painting Sound of Bugles in the Distance. The original is on display and I’m in amazement with how life like his images are…..very cool. We go through all of the many displays of Gene Autry memorabilia and Cowboy culture of the old west. Later in the afternoon I make the drive across town to Long Beach for the 29th Annual Ragamuffin Reggae Festival. The lineup is top shelve and I have a very irie time listening to the mighty…Mighty Diamonds….Coco Tea….and a long time favorite…Gregory Isaacs. Gregory, the cool ruler, has been around for a long time and although he’s looking older and rougher then when I saw him on the beach in Negril in 85.…his performance is Super Irie and he’s hitting all the notes…..with sustain….oh, what a feeling……he stretches out on all his big numbers. I left the arena super stoked to drive back to the hotel.

Morning comes and I drive Izze and her Mom over to LAX and then I start my drive down to my sister’s place in San Diego. No one will be home until late in the afternoon so I decide to take my time and cut over to the Pacific Coast Highway around Oceanside. The drive is beautiful and I’m really diggin the sights. I make a long stop in Encinitas, again one of my favorites, for a nice long walk from Swami’s Beach all the way to Moonlight Beach and back. It was just one of those days…..Bless and Bless again.

After several days back in San Diego doing fun things with all family members…sunsets, beach walks, hiking, good eating and other things….I fly up to San Francisco for the weekend to visit some old pals. I’m there less then two days….but we find time for some good live music out on the town. On Saturday night we catch an exciting concert with Niko Vega and Soundtracks of our Lives. I wasn’t hip to either of these groups, but really glad my buddy was and that he had grabbed us some tickets….it was sold out. The music was primal rock and roll and I dug it.

Tomorrow I’m flying back to Ohio. It has been a great time here in California and as you can see…..I’ve caught some great music. This afternoon as I sat in my sister’s backyard the birds that have been singing sweetly throughout my visit, sang a beautiful farewell song…..and I thought…..it’s been great, now it’s time to get back to Meigs County, Ohio and get the Ranch ready for our opening weekend.

Happy Lunar New Year!

Happy Lunar New Year!
I had wanted to get a post up before the New Year and I see I just made it…..The Chinese and Lunar New Year starts on Feb. 14th.  For all those who have already been celebrating ….Happy New Year!  Here we are in the year of 2010… seems like it was only yesterday we were fretting over Y2K….yes, the time is moving fast.  Some folks are calling this year two thousand and ten…..I heard Lester Holt refer to it as Twenty – Ten…..my good friend and FPR alumni, Leon “The Lion”  has called it Two-Thousand and Zen…..now I really like that.  We finished off last year blazing and when we all looked back at the year in perspective,  we just had to give THANKS for the blessings that came our way.  We’ve been having a good and productive down-time here at the Ranch……but I wouldn’t be kidding a bit to tell ya that we’re all looking forward to kicking off our 13th Season here at the Fur Peace.  I’m heading to California in the morning.  Flying out to San Diego and then we’re driving up to the Desert Hot Springs for our FPR On The Road Workshop at the Miracle Springs Resort.  To say that I am looking forward to the trip……well,  that’s for sure….we’ve been having an oppressive winter here in Ohio with lots of snow and cold, cold, cold temps.  There was a point in January where for two weeks we never got above freezing…..20′s for a high and single digits at night.  The cold weather has kept the snow in place and this is the most snow we’ve had in some years.  Right now as I write the snow is continuing to come down and the cold won’t let up.  I’ve heard more then one person say….enough already.  But……what are you gonna do…….this is winter time in the mid-west.
Hurl outside his office

Hurl outside his office - anyone for frisbee?

Everyone is doing fine around the Ranch.  Miss Kitty has been staying warm in my office during the days and in her nice cat-house at night.  I imagine all my blog readers have been checking out Vanessa’s blog……as she noted in her most recent blog……we’ve been having some great lunches together and the sharing of soup and fellowship has been warming to the heart.  I’ll tell you what……that Vanessa can make a nice soup.  We all have been taking turns in the kitchen and I’ve got to send a BIG UP out to Brett…..Vanessa’s Assistant…..he too can make some good soup….only surpassed by the great bread he has been making from scratch and bringing in to compliment the soup of the day.  Let us not forget Ms. Kelly….the lady who runs the Co. store…..she’s been bringing in some vital vittles as well.  So even though it has been cold and nasty weather……we’re eating good ……breaking bread……and remembering to give thanks.

Now that Jorma……boy, oh boy…..he’s been busy as ever.  He was in for our soup lunch at the end of last week and we got to catch up a bit.  I’ve heard nothing but great things about the Jorma /  David Bromberg Tour that just finished up. Jorma said all but one of the shows were completely sold-out…..YEAH!  It doesn’t come as too much of a surprise as we have been privileged here at the Ranch with Jorma and Dave doing a show together each of the last couple of years.  They have a great dynamic on stage…..one that comes from years of friendship……and a gigantic amount of talent…..they have a mutual respect that is understated and a joy for life that is contagious.  I’m glad this show went on the road so that others can enjoy and see Jorma and David…..alone and together.  Check out Jorma’s Tour Page for future Jorma and Dave dates scheduled in the Spring.

After our session at the Miracle Hot Springs……fellow instructor and guitar master……GE Smith will join Jorma for a string of dates on the west coast.  This will be another cool run of shows and Jorma and GE have a nice dynamic as well….not to be missed.  The word is that GE has become a member of the ELECTRIC HOT TUNA line-up and that is a win for everybody!

Now in closing……and speaking of wins……I want to give a BIG UP to the city of New Orleans and it’s New Orleans Saints.  I don’t get to watch much football during the season…..but once the playoffs start….I’m on it.  Of course I was disappointed that my Cleveland Browns didn’t make it this year……the disappointment has been long-term……but the post season games have been just great!  By the time it got to the last four teams…..well, heck…..any of them could have been the champions.  But the title goes to the Saints and maximum respect to them, their city and their fans!  And while I’m talking about champs and winning………A BIG….BIG…..UP to my true brother Spencer Bohren who was awarded the BLUES FOUNDATION’S KEEPING THE BLUES ALIVE AWARD in EDUCATION!!!!  Spencer you are a true treasure and a great teacher and the award is so deserving !!!!!!  Yes……lots of good things are happening……it’s feeling like another pennant season.
Bless Up!


We had a private event out at the Ranch this weekend…..it was a spiritual retreat for a nice group of OU students and recent graduates.   This group has been coming to the Ranch for 10 years now and they have two to three retreats during the year. The makeup of the group changes each time….people come and go…….however, the spirit and vibe is always bright and positive.  They are always very appreciative of what we do here and we always get a lot of thanks ….. and we in turn thank them for bringing their spirit to Fur Peace.

So…..Saturday morning… after putting breakfast together and getting some things done…..Vanessa came by and picked me up and we made the drive up to Columbus. We met up with Jorma over at the Whole Foods store at 3670 W. Dublin-Granville Rd.  Our reason for being at Whole Foods on this day was  to take part in a tea tasting and also for Jorma and Barry to do a mini-concert in the store.

The tea that was being sampled was JORMA’s Rhythm Tonic Tea

Barry Mitterhoff’s …Fret No More Tea…

Jack Casady’s…True Religion Green Tea…..

and my very own…Ras Hurl’s Blessings Tea. All these teas are part of the Fur Peace Ranch Tea line. 

Ras Hurl, Peter Hurlbut and Don Rueben enjoy the Blessings Tea

Ras Hurl, Peter Hurlbut and Don Ruben enjoy the Blessings Tea

These fine teas all come in an attractive tea tin and they are all blended with love by the tea lady herself…… Maureen Burns from Herbal Sage Tea Co.

It was a special event, and we are very happy to report that our entire line of teas can now be found in the regional Whole Foods’ stores……yes – ire…..Fur Peace Teas taking over.  Jorma and Barry did a nice job playing and Vanessa was enjoying strolling through the crowd with a tray of tea samples for folks to try.  It really was a nice turnout and I sure enjoyed getting to visit with some old Cowtown buddies ….some that I had not seen in a long time.  The teas were selling well and I’m thrilled to be able to tell ya that they sold out of ALL of Ras Hurl’s Blessing Tea.  So……I hope you will check out the great teas that the Fur Peace offers…….they are tasty and good and the very cool tea tins the tea comes in make for a great stash tin for guitar picks and whatnots.  FYI…..the tea tins also make a great gift idea and YES….you can get them from the Fur Peace Ranch Co. Store………. Enjoy!


Last weekend we did our last “Adopt a Highway” cleanup for this year and I’ve got good news to report. The “Adopt a Highway” program is a road-side cleanup project that is administered by the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT). Some years back one of our Meigs County neighbors, Rick Adams, approached me with the idea of having the Fur Peace Ranch adopt a section of the highway as part of the program. Rick and I had a meeting with the ODOT folks and we filled out the necessary paperwork and made a commitment to stick with the program for atleast a three year period. This is a great program and I’m sure wherever you live you have noticed these signs on the sides of the highways …..ADOPT A HIGHWAY….with the name of the group or organization that sponsors the cleanup of that designated area of road. It was decided that the two mile stretch of State Route 681 where the Meigs County Line begins would be the part of the roadway we would adopt.

Well, our very first roadside cleanup was April 19th, 2003…..and on that day 10 volunteers went to work cleaning up creation …..and by the time we had finished walking our stretch of highway picking up thrash we had collected 88 bags (the big ones) of garbage, a window frame, a hot water tank,a car tire and tire rim. Man, oh man……it was unbelievable. Now that of course was our first cleanup and you’ve got to figure that this thrash had been building up over the years. Jump to March 20th, 2004 …..just about a year later…. and our cleanup nets us 60 bags of garbage.

The garbage we find consists mainly of pop bottles and plenty of Colt 45 big boys……lottery tickets ( a whole heap of those scratch off kind)….chewing tobacco tins…….Happy Meals, with everything but the prize…….and a multitude of what-nots and unmentionables. Vanessa on two occasions found money….one time a $20 that we parlayed into some after cleanup pizzas. It is really amazing how much garbage we have picked up from time to time. Sometimes we talk in disbelief about how people could just chuck this stuff out their windows.

We always have a good time getting together and getting down to some serious cleanup…..we clean the roadside 4 times during the year. All the employees have taken part in this effort and on many occasions we have been joined by friends and family who like to jump in and help. My sister, even on a short visit from California, took the time one year to join us…..and she still talks about it to this day….”How about that…..I go to visit my brother and he gives me a bag and has me with the chain gang out on the road picking up thrash.” ……She really did love it. SO………..(OK, Hurl….you’ve built it up…..lets get to the good news)………It is with great pride that I report on last week’s pickup… October 2009………On that day the gang scoured the road and the roadside to come up with 9 bags of thrash. We all were thrilled ….there was a kind of excitement and satisfaction with the results and a feeling of…..maybe we are making a difference and getting somewhere. As we all piled into Rick’s pickup for the drive back to where we all park……I started singing “It’s getting better all the time…..better …..better…. better…..” ……..and you know what…….it really is.

Thanks to people everywhere that pitch in to keep my favorite planet clean. Thanks to all the good folks I work with, that take the time out of their off weekend to come out early on a Saturday morning to be a part of the team. Thanks to JAH for this great place he gives us to live… may we all be good stewards of creation…….Give Thanks!

A Poet was Among us……

My last entry was about the Hurl’s Girls adventure during Couple’s Weekend 09. As I mentioned in that piece, the student performance that Sunday afternoon was just out of the ball park. The student performance was like a revolving door of stars, as each performer took the stage and played a selection to a very appreciative audience. One of our students, John Schuster, read a very cool poem that he had written about the Fur Peace Ranch. It was John’s first trip to the Ranch and I thought he had a very keen insight into the Ranch for a first-timer. So…..it made sense when I found out that he is the author of several books, an executive coach, trainer and speaker. I’ve asked John for permission….and he graciously gave me such……to print the words of that poem for others to read…….and……here it is……….

Guitar Garden Dreams by John P. Schuster

Forty years ago, Joni told us we are golden. We are stardust.
“Get back to the garden she said.”
Jorma built his part of the garden.

Those many years ago, lots of boys picked up the guitar with dreams. Boys don’t know part of their soul resides in a wooden six-string device. The boys grow up, set aside guitar dreams, attach themselves to a career.

“What are you doing when you’re not playing guitar?” I ask them when we gather, from all over kingdom come.
Build hospitals, the post office, a pressman, a pilot—they say.

The guitars whisper to them over the long years.
“I’m still here. We have more to do together.”
Building inspectors, flight instructors, retired marketeers, car painters, Hewlett Packard.

Soul work will not be denied. Jorma, Vanessa, John, Queen Deb, they know this—they craft “the guitar garden of dreams.”

After decades the boy-men finally give in, let go, take a chance. They renew
their journey. With true art, life’s higher energies, the force, shows up.
That’s why Jorma, Tommy, with Byron and Patrick, are gods.
They wield the fire.

The boy-men capture their fire again in Meigs County. The wives know this…
they know better than their men, what the music does for them

When we pick up guitars with intention, with teachers who care,
we become a truer version of who we are.

This guitar garden sprinkles stardust our way.



Our Couples’ Weekend at the Fur Peace Ranch has been a very special weekend ever since its inception 11 years ago.  It was during the second Couples’ Weekend that I came up with this killer plan ……for a killer band ….to play with me during the student performance…….and thus was born Hurls Girls.

Hurls Girls are…..me, the Hurl….along with all the ladies who attend Couples Weekend.  Now for the very first one,  two of the ladies…..Tina from Finland and another lady from Detroit, who was a bad bass player and I’m sorry to say I have forgotten her name…..accompanied me on guitar while all the other ladies provided soulful background vocals.  During our early years, some of the ladies were too shy to take the stage, but that doesn’t happen anymore……we won’t allow it…..we need full participation to get the sound I’m looking for.  So…we’ve been building this up over the years and we may have reached our highest heights this past August during our part of the performance.  A little bit more background information…..several years ago I bent the rules and we added to this ALL female band another male member….Collin Rocker…..and he did a killer job playing some fine bass in the band.  Collin has been on the stage with me and the gals for the last few years and he has really added some nice bass grooves.  Now for Couples Weekend 2010 the Rockers were not able to make the trip to the Ranch, thus breaking their attendance streak…..and we really missed Jon and Lori ….. along with my bass player…..their son….Collin. So…..I had to think quick…..and find a bass player of the highest order.  Fortunately, for us all,  such a bass player was ranchside and he agreed to join the group for our Sunday performance. Yes, the one and only Byron House was here teaching bass for the weekend and he joyfully jumped in to play bass with me and the girls.  This year we selected two beautiful songs to perform….The Dino Valenticlassic “Get Together” made famous by the Youngbloods and the Bob Marley anthem….”One Love”.

We have a great time putting our song arrangements together and practicing the songs before the Sunday show.  We met up on Friday night to work on our two songs and the practice went great.  We nailed “Get Together”  almost immediately…..these gals are good.  “One Love” took a little bit more work and its funny how a song you know so well can be so hard to work out.  The song has some very nice call and response vocals that make it a bit tricky and the timing and delivery is important for the song to come off properly.  So….we rehearsed Friday night and then again on Saturday and its getting there……still I’m feeling a tad nervous about pulling it off.  Come Sunday early afternoon …..we do one last practice session …..with Byron and 19 wonderful…and I do mean…..absolutely great…..female background singers……and it during this practice that we positively run through the “One Love”… and feel the One Love that has us all as happy as a Rasta in Zion!!!  So ….we’re ready.

For this Sunday’s student performance we decide to do it in the Workshop building, which has a small stage and was our concert hall before the Fur Peace Station was built. This is going to be a completely unplugged student performance (another first) and we are ready.  These student performances are some of the best times we have in the course of a weekend and this one was no different.  Massive respect to all the students that took the stage and played the songs……it was a heaven of a time.  As we got toward the end of the afternoon performances Hurls Girls took the stage. This video clip from YouTube captures the great feel and great sound that was Hurls Girls on a warm sunny Sunday afternoon in August. 

We were all blazin with how well everything went down….for we did Bob proud and played our finest version of “One Love” that afternoon.  Sometimes you can come away from a performance with the feeling that you wished you had done it as well LIVE as you had in practice. But for us…..Hurls Girls…..we saved the best performance for the people and for that Sunday performance….Let JAH be praised!!!!

I would like to thank the faboulous singers, that make up Hurls Girls…..ladies, your singing is very IRIE and I am so happy that we could make music together. For the ladies who have been a part of Hurls Girls in the past, but have been unable to get back to the Ranch…..remember….once a Hurls Girls…..well you know. I’ve got to tell ya, Bob always felt so good having the I-Threes singing background with him…..for me, having 19 background singers pushes feeling good to the highest of heights! Whoaaaaaaa, bwoi…….A BIG UP to Ras Byron as well for dubbing it up and laying down some crucial bass…..a BIG UP to ALL!!!! Bless and Bless again!

Sweet Second Week at the Full Moon

For our second week at the Full Moon Resort we were actually treated to a full moon and it looked just incredible castings it’s light across the grounds as I headed from  the fire circle back to my room in the Morning Star Lodge.  The second week of our Fur Peace on the Road workshops was every bit as great as the first week……and that says alot.  It was a bit different…..Jorma was the sole teacher and he had a nice class of 10 students.  There was no one else at the Full Moon, so we had the place to ourselves.  The student count was evenly divided between repeat offenders and first timers.  One of our …..we’re so happy to see you again……repeaters was Bob Doherty and it was great to see Bob along with his wife Carol at the Full Moon in Big Indian.  Bob liked the just over two hour drive from NYC better then the long trip to Ohio…….but that wasn’t the only thing.  He really summarized our Full Moon trip when he said……”I’ve been to the Ranch 25 times and this week has been every bit as special.”   We have such a special thing going on at the Fur Peace Ranch and the good news is that we have been able to bring the spirit of Fur Peace with us for these “On the Road” workshops.  Several of the students all said the right thing…….”This food is great……not as great as the Fur Peace kitchen, but still great.”  Yes, indeed,  we like to hear that kind of report and I was glad to relay it to Queen Deb and King Chris. 
For the second week, the relentless rains gave us a partial break and it was nice to see and feel the sun. The first day the rains came down so hard on the metal roof in the barn deluxe, where JK was teaching, so we moved the class up into the Performance Space.  This worked out great as the room served as a classroom, jam room, practice space and it was where we took the stage for the student performance.  The student performance was nothing less then spectacular……there were many special moments. Bob D.  got pressed into service several times and did a great job every time!!!  Nick had Bob join him on mandolin for a couple old fiddle tunes that were very authentically played……you definitely got that old time feel…..Bob also accompanied Jill on an angelic version of “Don’t Think Twice….”  and I too was able to persuade him to add some pretty mandolin to one of my favorite Gram Parsons tunes….”Hickory Wind.”   I must give a BIG UP to my friend Collin Rocker who played one of his fine originals…”Soggy Dollar Blues”……at my request.  Collin is the fine son of Jon and Lori Rocker and they are one beautiful family.  Collin’s playing has been progressing at a nice pace, and his songwriting is keeping right up with the playing.  I’m feeling a John Prine vibe and that couldn’t be anything but a good thing.  Another “young gun” Eli performed a couple nice pieces….one slow and one fast…both with alot of taste.  Another highlight came at the end of the performance…….Vanessa Kaukonen joined me on stage to play one of our perennial favorites…..the great Tim Hardin  song…..”Seems Like a Long Time.”  Like alot of the songs I play, I’ve been playing that song forever and love it just as much as when I learned it.  When the chorus came around most everyone was singing it with us…..very powerful ……and if that wasn’t enough…..Izze was right there sitting with Mom being the great girl she is…..I look into the near future and can hear her throwing in a nice harmony.   So……Yes…..the student performance was a great time!!!
We had another treat coming at us later and I’m not just talking about the great pesto coated salmon that was served for dinner that night……At about 8:00 pm we all joined up in the living room / reception area of the Valley View House for a TRUE living room concert with Jorma and a very special guest…..Happy Traum.   Now Happy is an old friend of Jorma’s and the two of them played just like you would expect two old friends to play…..considerate, respectful,  joyful and with alot of good cheer.  JK started things off with a song that never grows old….”That’ll Never Happen No More”  and he ended the 90 minute set with an eternal version of “Re-enlistment Blues.”  The vibe in the room was relaxed and special…..could it be the ambiance of this 100 year old house or the comfort of having several parlor couches to sit on?  Without mics and amps …….and in this wonderful setting…..it was a living room concert to set the standard by.  So the laid back 30 miles from Woodstock feel came through as Jorma and Happy traded songs …..sometimes joining in accompaniment ….and at other times just listening with a big smile on their face.  Happy is a true American Treasure and it was great to hear him play.  A long time ago he played with Bob Dylan and he has a great way of interpreting a Dylan song….in fact the last time he was at the FPR to teach he taught ….”Classic Bob Dylan Songs for Fingerstlye Arrangements”. So….you get the picture. Well,  the Captain himself, JORMA, requested that Happy do “Buckets of Rain”……and Happy said he would be happy or should I say glad to play that request, but first ……he had a different Bob song to play…..Well, next came a version of “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You”  that brought wonder to us all.  We sure had us a good time at the Valley View House that night and I sure hope that good feeling will be staying with me for a long time to come.  After the show all the campers were fired up……more fire!!……and we headed over to the Performance Space for a late night jam session.  Much like the week before….we sat in a big circle and everyone took turns picking songs and playing parts and to say it was a whole heap of fun and talent a blazin …….well, that is about right.
So before you know it ……it’s Friday and we’re wrapping up two weeks at the Full Moon Resort.  We all say our goodbyes and secret handshakes are exchanged…..I could be sad to say bye……but instead I’m happy to have got to say hi…..we sure had a great time!!!  Jorma is still the Road Warrior that he has been for all these years on the road and he takes control of the kon and points it towards Ohio……. Southeast Ohio to be exact …..and we’re off.  Twelve hours later ……the Kaukonens are dropping me off in my driveway.  I’m tired but still ablaze with the joy of a good road trip with a very special family of friends….. Izze you are the best……a joy to travel with……. and you know what…..the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree!!!!   Give Thanks!