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

Another GREAT time!

We’re getting ready for another guitar camp weekend……the weather and the Ranch are both looking real good…..and we’re close to a sellout on the Jonathan Edwards and Steve Kaufman show for this Saturday night. However, I’m still thinking about what a great time we had during the last camp session and wanted to fill you all in, while it is still on and in my mind. The April 9th weekend brought a lot of familiar faces and old friends of the Fur Peace together. Our big opening weekend at the end of March was just off the charts and I foolishly thought it would be hard to top that one. Well, I’m happy and lucky to be able to say……..it was another great time. This was our Hot Tuna weekend with JK, Jack and Barry all here teaching and also performing on Saturday night. We were also graced by the presence of Marjorie Thompson who was here to teach her class on Country Blues.

There were 32 students here at the Ranch and 20 of those were repeat offenders. Just a clarification on that…..REPEAT OFFENDERS are what we affectionately refer to our repeat students as. Hot Tuna Weekend Class PhotoSO…..two – thirds of the camp is filled with people we already know. Yes, you can do the math…….the other a little over a third, 12 students were all here for their first taste of the Fur Peace and I’ve got to tell you…….they were all such nice people……we made them instant family. It was truly a wonderful mix and a super positive vibe was in the air. Several …..or maybe even more then that……students that were here for this session have been coming to the Ranch since we opened and it really is special to see them again. Several others maybe haven’t been coming that long, but their easy going ways and cool disposition, make it feel like we’ve been friends forever. So….hopefully you get the picture, cause what I’m seeing is the most glorious reflection of humanity that you could hope to see.

Nice weather all weekend and another bombastic job in the kitchen added to the joy. Lots of good eatin’ and with weather this nice, many folks took advantage of the tables we have outside for dining. On Friday and Sunday night the campfire was blazing and some of the ranchers really enjoyed hanging out at the fire circle. Then again….lots of playing in all the different buildings kept some people inside …….where the music was blazing!

The really big show on Saturday night packed the Fur Peace Station to a capacity we didn’t know it was capable of. We had a very full house for this show, which incidentally had been sold-out for over two months. People came from all over for this show and the fine state of New York was well represented!!!! The evening’s festivities kicked off in grand fashion with Collin Rocker performing an opening set, solo acoustic. In many cases this would not be the ideal spot for such an opener……before Electric Hot Tuna……but Collin’s warm, enthusiastic, and talented persona started things off not too bad…….if you don’t mind perfect! Collin I am honored to say has become a good friend…..and boy, oh, boy……I was proud of him. We met through his parents, Jon and Lori, who have been coming to the Ranch for a long time now. One year they brought Collin and the friendship was immediate and it has been growing ever since. Collin has just released his first CD….Milk Box Love and Juke Box Blood and Other American Favorites……you’ve got to love that title……and when you get a chance to hear the CD…..well you’ll love his music too. Now Collin is a young man of 18, but as his Mom mentioned to me one time (see I was listening) he has an old soul….and a fine old soul at that. His music is roots Americana…..totally original material…..and he is a fine songsmith. His lyrics evoke many images, times and thoughts that you can relate to even if they are from a bygone era. The crowd really dug his performance and the response was overwhelming. He played my favorite song off of the new CD….Soggy Dollar Blues……. and it was just outstanding ! BIG UP to C-Rock!

Next……we go to a nice and busy intermission……with the good folks enjoying some Hot Tuna Burgers and our Hot Tuna Melts right off the grill and the Station Break Cafe humming like a food wagon when the break whistle blows.

After the break I came out to announce the second half of the show with ELECTRIC HOT TUNA……I know you people have all been waiting for them……but rather then a stage announcement we have a special surprise guest……the Ranch’s very own Jeroch Carlson….who wears so many hats and does so many righteous tings……has just finished off a poem he had written that would serve as a great Hot Tuna intro. The poem Jeroch had just finished was entitled….”The Only Thing We Need More of Around Here is Some Jamaican Jerk Chicken.” Now I’m not sure what that meant ……but it was a crucial idea! The poem is nothing short of fantastic……as was Jeroch’s reading of the poem. The poem has all kinds of Hot Tuna / Jorma references and we were all swept up in his magical presentation. Deep stuff……..but it was fun and full of culture! I’ve asked Jeroch if it would be OK for me to print the poem in one of my future postings and he says YES and he is sending it my way…..so, soon come on that.

Next…….out comes Hot Tuna…….ELECTRIC……and blazing they were! (Please go to Jorma’s site for a set-list.)Electric Hot Tuna Takes Over! What I’ll tell ya is that it was Hot Tuna at its best…..fire and more fire!!! The whole set was a high-light but my favorite was the moving version of Corners Without Exits! Jorma’s having lots of fun on that electric guitar and when he want to be….he is…the best psychedelic guitar player out there bringing emotion and feeling out of every note that is from another cosmos. Everyone has a different favorite and the good news is that there was plenty to choose from. Several of the comments I heard after the show pointed to the 99 Year Blues and Good Shepherd as other choices for best song of the evening. Now I really do hate to sound cliché, but, it really was ALL GOOD.

Indeed, one of the concert goers said it was the best Hot Tuna show he had heard since the 80′s. Now I was going to tell that guy, that he needed to get out to more Hot Tuna shows……but I let it pass. Everyone left the concert hall that night feeling very satisfied……it had been an incredible evening of music. There was a real bliss in the night air as the people left the Ranch.

Now back to the concert……..Aside from JK sounding bombastic fantastico…….JC was menacingly punching through some great bass lines. I had given Jack a big up earlier in the day……telling him how fantastic he sounds on that NEW Hot Tuna CD release from the New Orleans House. That was Jack in 1969 and he has refined his bass playing over the years…..and that has resulted in Jack’s fine bass playing only getting better. Jack also shared some fun and funny banter with Jorma on stage that really set the relaxed tone for the concert. I’ll tell you…..some of those laughs and shared smiles were contagious …….and it made everyone in the audience feel the joy. Barry Mitterhoff…. ever incredible……with his array of instruments he added fuel to the fire that made the evening’s music exciting and kept the momentum climbing. The addition of Skoota Warner to the Hot Tuna lineup has been another great addition and he fits in the groove …… and actually creates quite a groove as he propels the rhythm to new heights. Aside from being a GREAT drummer, Skoota also possesses a wonderful smile and he sure looks like a man who enjoys his work……..and work it he does. A hotter then hot night at the Fur Peace Station as the home field advantage, the fans and the greatness of the Hot Tuna sounds all came together to create a night to remember!

Sunday morning and everyone is still talking about the show as we start our day with some fine Fur Peace Ranch coffee……the preferred…. Campfire Blend. It’s a nice Spring Sunday and the mood reflects that as we gather in the afternoon for our customary group photo and student performance. The student performance starts off magnificently and just climbs from there. Barry’s class……man, oh, man, he had a great group of students….. takes the stage and they perform a couple numbers as a group. I do believe the songs were…Vicksburg Stomp and Stompin at the Savoy…..as I mentioned, the caliber of Barry’s students was graduate school and their performance made that clear. The entire student performance had a super flow to it and the quality of the talent on that stage……on that afternoon……would have gotten Mr. Sullivan’s nod of approval. I got a chance to jump up and play a number with Stu and John B. Stu was on a repeat visit and we had decided to work out a song together. Stuart’s a very fine bass player and I suggested an old Animals tune….Don’t Bring Me Down…. and even suggested the opening bass riff …doo…doo..da..doo…doo…that Stu dubbed on for a bit before I came in with the opening chord. John B…….what can I say about this cat. It’s always great to see him and his brother here at the Ranch. Aside from them both having impeccable taste for vintage shirts they both have an arsenal of instruments that they like to bring out and say …..hey, check this out…..and their talent is high grade for sure. Well……John had earlier let it be known to me that he had an electric sitar with him….and with that announcement he was asked to join Stu and I. Well…….it was so cool when he came in with that sound……he also took the solo after the second verse and he turned the Fur Peace Station into the Psychedelic Shack….and we didn’t look back……but someone told us JK rose up out of his seat and did a couple twirls as he felt the vibe. The fine production team that brought us Fur Peace Ranch TV on You Tube is working on releasing that performance ……so…..keep an eye out for that one and while you’re at it enjoy all the great video clips that they have been posting. The STUDENT PERFORMANCE came to a fulfilling finale with that same John B. along with Bob D., Pete M., Professor Mitterhoff and the Victoria Barkley of guitar camps, Vanessa, performing Blue or Not, My Sweetie Gives To Me. It was the cream!!!

We all enjoyed another great feast that night as we dined on Homemade Pesto-Ricotta Ravioli, Garlic Bread, Organic Salad Greens and Brocollini……which they tell me is baby broccoli…..topped off with a Strawberry Napoleon. It was out of sight! Later that evening we were all treated to a wonderful concert……just for us…..by the very talented Mrs. Thompson. Marjorie treated us to a great set of her music and her performance was dynamic! The cheers from the ever appreciative student population brought MJ back for an encore….Poster Child for the Blues! The night was complete. We finished things off on Monday and as is always the case, broke camp at noon. Lots of smiles and good cheer as we bid a farewell to another great weekend !!! We are so blessed by the good folks that come through our gates……….the cup is full and we give thanks.

Jazzed Up At The FPR

We’ve put the wraps on another GREAT Fur Peace Ranch weekend. This was our first – big session camp weekend – here at the Ranch in the beautiful hills of SE Ohio. I say big session because not only did we have the Captain of the camp, Jorma, here teaching, but he was also joined by two real heavyweights in the music world…..Stefan Grossman and Larry Coryell. We had a great mix of
students that was predominately made up of “repeat offenders” along with some new students. I’m not usually aware of who will be coming to the Fur Peace on a camp weekend until the day before arrival. When I started to go through the list and cabin assignments…..I’m like….no way, wow, all my favorite people are coming in this weekend. As Debbie has pointed out to me….I do have lots of favorites, still the concentration was deep and strong. The new folks were all great as well and the combination was a beautiful thing. Sometimes I look at the Ranch as a microcosm and when I look around at all the fine folks that come through our doors…..I think how lucky I am……and I also think that if the world community had the energy, spirit, music and friends like we spend our time with in the course of a weekend……well, just lookout…..there would be no problems, no worries and alot of good music in the air.

We were so happy to have both, Stefan and Larry, back to the Ranch. Stefan is such a treat and a treasure!!! He is the consummate teacher and does alot to prepare for his class. He made up a nice instructional booklet just for his Fur Peace visit with 15 songs that he taught his students along with a CD. All respect Stefan……what a nice thought and great learning tool, and he gave one to each of his students.

Part of Stefan's FPR student pack

Part of Stefan's FPR student pack

Larry got down to the Ranch just in time to start his afternoon session. He had played up in Quebec the night before and had really done some hustling to get to the Ranch. He jumped right into things and got the place swinging. Jorma had a great class too! Lots of teaching and learning as our three professors worked diligently with their eager students.

Saturday night was our first concert in the 2010 concert series and what a way to kick off the season! We started things off in our usual manner with Vanessa and I taking the stage to greet the crowd and make some stage announcements. After we had said about all there was to say…..I prompted the entire audience into a stellar version of Happy Birthday in honor of Vanessa’s birthday as
the staff promenaded down the aisle with a birthday cake ….. candles a burnin….not that there were a bunch of them. The cake was delicious and they had spelled out the “Happy Birthday Vanessa” in red, gold and green……now I don’t know where they got that idea……but I dug it. Stefan took the stage and treated all to a fine hour of country blues guitar. He was in top form and you could tell he was enjoying the evening and the audience ……he had the whole house clapping through one song……until the stop spot came up……and he also got everyone to sing along to “My Creole Belle”. Brilliant fun is what this master spun during his set. Stefan as a young man learned his craft from the old Blues Masters of the day…… Rev. Gary Davis, Skip James, Son House, Mississippi John Hurt among others. He channeled them during his performance and added some colorful stories that were an added treat. The beautiful thing about hearing Stefan play or teach is that you feel the link from way back as he connects these early masters to the present day……..they left their treasures in good hands.

Larry Coryell took the stage after the intermission along with his bass player, Jonathan Wood and drummer Jun Saito and they came out swinging. Opening their set with Milt Jacksons, “Bags Groove”, they totally put us in the groove and the mood for a night of Jazz. In introducing Larry I declared that he is arguably Jazz’s greatest living guitarist and I would stand by that. His set was fantastic!!! He played one of my all time favorite Larry songs….”Dragons Gate” along with Thelonious Monk’s “Twinkle Tingle”…..we got to hear the Theme from Black Orpheus as well as his beautiful original ……named after his beautiful wife……”Tracie”. He also played a solo piece on acoustic guitar, “Bolero”, and one of our regulars came over to me and told me that alone was worth the price of admission. At the end of the night Stefan joined up with Larry for a fine jam!
Larry Coryell and Stefan Grossman share the stage for a rare encore

Larry Coryell and Stefan Grossman share the stage for a rare encore

What a night…….boy, we were all jazzed. Larry has such a nice way about him and he is also quite articulate…..He remarked to the audience how happy he was to return to the Fur Peace Ranch….. “Jorma’s castle of culture in the wilderness.” Yeah, Larry.

While I do try to give my blog the feel of a journal into a day in the life of…….I also will try to spice it up a bit from time to time with some precious information…..and here is some. Just about when I was saying my goodbye to Larry, I asked him….”What are your favorite three Jazz albums?”…..Now aside from having too many favorites, I also have a ton of records accumulated from my time in the business and a life long love of record collecting…..so these kind of things interest me…..and here they are: Wes MontgomeryIncredible Jazz Guitar of“, Bill Evans – “Live at the Village Vanguard, Vol. 1” and Miles DavisMy Funny Valentine: Live at Lincoln Center“. Good stuff and a great time.

Sunday’s student performance was another winner. The variety and talent on the Fur Peace stage was staggering. BIG UP to all, cause it truly was all good. I was very happy that Brett E. asked me to play a song with him. He knows I’m a big Dylan fan and we decided to do ” I Shall be Released”. While running through it on Sunday morning Alan D. heard us and he was adding some nice sounds on his twelve string while sitting off to the side…..but he wasn’t out of ear range and we pulled him on in as a part of the performance. Now on top of this we added the fine sounds of Mitch’s accordion and Vanessa’s harmony vocal to make the song complete.
Hurl, Vanessa, Brett E, Alan D, Mitch R during Sunday's student performance

Hurl, Vanessa, Brett E, Alan D, Mitch R during Sunday's student performance

Come Sunday night……another treat……we all got to hear a brilliant and magnificent set from JORMA…..solo…..and just for us! I get to hear JK alot and although he always sounds great……he went past that this night. Alot of happy campers leaving the concert hall that night. Everyone was inspired and a group of students got a jam going that went into early morning. Everyone has left now…..but the groove remains……and many memories of another great weekend here at the Fur Peace.

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.

And this is what I come back too???

So…….After a great time in California, I’m home — here in the Buckeye State of Ohio. I landed late at night in Columbus and a good friend was there to pick me up….even though it isn’t snowing …..the remnants remain of what must have been a lot of snow while I was gone……bummer that I missed out on that. I head into work on Wednesday morning and when I & I opened the door to cabin #4…..my office…..well I almost had a heart attack. Clutching my chest …..just like Fred G. Sanford…..my eyes look around the room and it dawns on me that my office has had a complete makeover……and they must have got a Rastaman to do it. Whoooooaaaa, boy…….and what an IRIE job he done.

Ras Hurl takin' it all in

Ras Hurl takin' it all in

While I was out in California, the boss lady…..Vanessa, had made arrangements with our great friend……and Rasta brother……Kevin Morgan to surprise me with a complete renovation of my office……with REGGAE in mind. I was so knocked out that I almost could not speak and just had to look and look……it was totally amazing. I’ve got a new wood-like laminate floor……and a very earthy green new coat of paint on the walls……and a desktop stained in the Ites colors of red, gold and green…..and red, green and gold shelves too…….another WHOOOOAAA BOY…….and a new oil painting of Bob as a centerpiece on the main wall. When I find out that Kevin did the work, I just had to ring him up. As I’m telling him how much I LOVE what he had done……I ask……”Where the Bob painting come from?….I never seen that around your house” ….and he replies….”That’s a gift I painted for the I”.
Ras Hurl enjoying his renovated digs

Ras Hurl enjoying his renovated digs

Well as you can see from this picture…..it is a very impressive painting. I would go as far to say……It is the best painting of Bob I’ve ever seen. Bob in about 1975….just starting to dreadout…. about the same time I seen him live for the first time. Well……you see why I was so knocked out. Anyhey, BIG UP and BIG THANKS to Ras Morgan and his expert helper…..Davo….also known as Dave Shaulis !!! It’s funny when I talked to Kevin, he was concerned about how he had put my things back in place……..and I had to say….no worries, mon…. I & I could not have placed them any better. A BIG, BIG thanks to Vanessa and Jorma too…..always doing nice things for the I…….Yes…..the blessings continue……give thanks!

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.


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!