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.

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.

TIME FOR TEA……

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!

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.

THANK YOU JOHN!!!!

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!

We Could’ve Played All Night!

Hey CK……..check it out…..another report coming at you and it’s fresh. Well,  our first week session at the Full Moon Resort  was bombastic fantastic and we have started into the second week.  We did the orientation last night for Jorma’s class and today, classes will start in earnest.  But…..before I delve into this week’s adventures I want to let you know about what a great student performance, instructor performance and KILLA’ late night jam session we had on the Thursday of last week.  The weather here in the Catskills was very wet for our first week…in fact one of the owners here at the resort was telling me that they have had rain 24 of the last 28 days…..and I thought Ohio was getting it all.  Anyhey,  we never let that dictate our good times and I’m sure some folks across the country wish they could get some of that…rain or shine the Fur Peace is always a good time.  So…..Thursday was a nice sunny day and that’s a good thing.  Our plan is to do the student performance and then take our customary student photo out in front of the Valley View House on the porch.  But, alas torrential rains come in and we take the student photo inside on the stage of the performance space where GE has been teaching and where all the performances take place.

The student performance was really special.  You know it’s all special to me, but the student performance is always one of my favorite times during a camp weekend.  The room is set up nice….there is a nice stage,  cool lighting and the woody cabin ambience of the room is making things very IRIE  indeed!  Craig Keaveney, a FPR repeat offender who we are always so happy to see,  started things off with an unbelievably cool version……and mind you….acoustic version….of a Hot Tuna classic from the Yellow Fever recording….
Bar Room Crystal Ball.  Mon, oh mon…..he nailed it and gave the song dimensions that you never knew existed.  Very cool CK,  after you left I was reasoning with the Kaukonens and they echoed my feelings on what a great version you did.  So that was the beginning of what would be a great afternoon student performance.  Our student performance is like an open mic…..but as Jorma says….a lot more amicable….we all like each other.  Just about everyone came up and played a piece and the performances were stellar!!!  I got to jump up there a couple times myself…..Steve Saracco and the I laid down a good take on Bob Dylan’s “She Belongs to Me”. Dylan is one of my favorites and I have been playing that song for a long time and it was just great to get Steve up there to play with me. He has been coming to the Ranch for a long time and we have been talking about doing a song together for almost as long.  Steve is a good player  but a little shy and it really stoked me that we finally got to jam on a song together.  Later in the show…..I asked GE for
an assist and he joined me for a SMOKIN  version of  ”Smokestack Lightning”. We really jammed it out and there was a moment where I thought we might have to call in Fireman Bill…..GEs guitar stings were blazing.  The final touch of the student performance was GE’s class ALL taking the stage for a moving version of “Road Runner”…beep ….beep!!!!

Now we could have ended the day right there and it would have been full….but more greatness was to come.  After a great dinner GE and Jorma returned to the performance space for a very intimate and wonderful performance that was completely unplugged…..no mics, no monitors.

GE and his students

GE and his students


These two friends have great chemistry and it showed through during the 75 minutes that followed.  They each took turns playing songs and they played together so well and graciously.  GE added some great leads to “Come Back Baby” and “Trouble in Mind” and gave Jorma some solid riddims to paint a blazin lead over.  The Cap played real nice with GE too.  GE’s song selection was ……should I say….very cool. Real nice take on the Townes Van Zandt classic “Poncho and Lefty” and as great  a guitar player GE is….I love to hear him sing.

Their performance wrapped up at around 10:00 pm and since the weather had been too misty for outside jamming we had secured permission from the Full Moon bosses to keep the Performance Hall open till 11: 00 pm so that we could all jam down for a bit.  Well… jam down we did.  We had about 14 guitar pickers a pickin and everything was smooth.  You know things could get moshy with so
many players but this was not to be the case.  With everyone listening to each other and graciously adding to the songs the vibe was cool and tight.  Well, before you know it….it was 11:00 pm.  Now both owners of this place are gracious, cool and carry a vibe that makes being friends easy.  Henry was on duty this night and I go over to him and ask for a little bit more time…..”No problem Mon”…so we plan to go a little longer…..maybe another half hour…..this happens three more times and before you know it ……it is 12:30 am.

We probably could have kept on going all night, but we didn’t want to push it too much……so we called it a night…..and it was a night to remember.  Thanks Henry…..you da best. We ended our jam session with “Mona” into “Who do you Love”  into “Not a Fade Away” and that is indicative of the kind of night it was.  We all were throwing songs into the mix and during the course of the jam we covered…Blue’s classics…..”King Bee” with CK doing a very good Howlin Wolf vocal …..”Big Boss Man”…..During these jamdowns the lead parts were tossed around the room with everyone adding their touch…..songs were extended and fired up.  Alot of harmony singing too…….”Angel from Montgomery”  and “Just my Imagination”  were fun… as were our two Band songs “The Weight” and “Cripple Creek”.  It was one of the best Ranch Jam Sessions I have ever heard and as I headed up to the Morning Star Lodge to lay down for the night I was smiling the whole way up the road……I’m almost positive that I went to sleep with a smile on my face and a joy in my heart……Give Thanks!

Jammin’ at Full Moon Resort

It’s been a busy first half of our camp season and my intentions of being a daily or somewhat regular blogger have gone by the wayside….however, today I’m feeling the vibe and I thought I’d give a full report on what we’re up to.  I’m here in Big Indian, New York for our Fur Peace Ranch on the Road adventure to the Full Moon Resort.  Everything is going great and this place is really nice…the vibe is right and the beauty of creation is all around us.  The Full Moon is located in the Catskill Forest Preserve and this is a beautiful location in upstate NY….a half hour west of Woodstock and two and a half hours north of NYC.  We have a great group of students who have joined us here. Jorma and GE Smith are the instructors and they both have full classes of enthusiastic students.
The main building on this 100 acre wonderland of mountains, fields and streams is called the Valley View House and it is a turn of the century inn that has been nicely cared for and maintained by the present owners who have been running it for the past 9 years.  There are alot of similarities between the Full Moon and the Fur Peace……The setting is campy,  the natural environment around us is stellar, the food is great and the staff is very nice and accommodating. So ….this is really working out…..even better then this optimist could have hoped for. Furthermore…..there are no phones in the rooms,  no tv’s,  and no cell service for a good 20 miles around us…..however……if you can believe this…..one thing they do have…..that we wish we did have……is wi-fi service.  Indeed, I’m sitting in the main house right now,  enjoying a cup of GE coffee and connected to the internet.  I know I’m drifting from the report…..but a word about GE coffee.  When GE is at the Fur Peace,  Deb and I can always count on coming in to prepare breakfast and the coffee is already made…and we arrive before 7:00 am.  This normally, almost always happens when GE is in da house…..or should I say ranch.  GE coffee is extra strong….just the way we like it.  This is accomplished by doubling the coffee content or as Deb and I do…..using less water.  So…when we get the pleasure of drinking or making a strong and stiff cup of joe we always refer to it as GE coffee.
The workshop spaces here are nice and the rooms very cool too.  Jorma is teaching in an old barn that has been converted into a performance space and GE is in a building that would remind you of an old roadhouse in the mountains.  The instructors have been really putting it out there and the class time and dining time fills the days.  We have a good mix of students…..some of our favorite peeps are here and we have also had the pleasure to meet some nice new folks.  Two of our CROs……cherished repeat offenders……have made long journeys to join us here…..Steve S.  is here from Bhudapest and the father / daughter team of Mark and Ally Lee from Maui are here as well.  Old friends and new friends are making up quite a great mix. So …..we are having a super time and the music instruction that the Fur Peace Ranch has become famous for is flourishing.  This afternoon we’ll be doing the student performance, always one of my favorite times during a camp session,  and tonight we’ll be treated to a very intimate performance by Jorma and GE.   We really like the Full Moon and we’ve already decided we’ll be back……and I don’t just mean for next week’s session ……but we’re making plans for 2010. Hey …..Speaking of 2010.. Vanessa and I have been working on a killer schedule for 2010 and we are deep into it and making alot of progress…..plans are to have it ready and posted early August.  I don’t want to spoil any surprises but one thing I can tell you is ….WE are planning a return trip to the wonderful Miracle Springs Resort and Spa (HL)  in Desert Hot Springs, California in February of 2010.  They will be our first workshops of 2010 and they will take place from Feb. 8th — 12th and Feb. 15th –  19th.  The first session will be with Jorma and Marjorie Thompson, who so wonderfully assists Jorma with his class,. and our old pal, Michael Falzarano.   The second week will reprise GE Smith’s acoustic lead class, and he will be joined by the Captain of the Camp, Jorma.  Look for details to emerge on the Fur Peace Ranch website in the not too distant future and sign-up for the FPR on the Road MHS 2010 will commence this August as well.
I really love being at the Ranch…..and indeed you could argue that there is no place like it.  However,  I’m really digging these road trips and On the Road workshops……California desert in February…….New York mountain retreat in July……what more could a ranch manager ask for.

Our New Kentucky Home

The Fur Peace Ranch would like to give a big shout out to our new friends and neighbors at Northern Kentucky University. The university’s public radio station, WNKU-FM (89.7), became the first public radio station in the nation to pick up “Jorma Kaukonen’s Live from the Fur Peace Ranch” radio show. Congratulations to the Norse of NKU! The shows airs Sunday mornings at 11am. So if your in the greater Cincinnati area, be sure to tune in and listen! If you have a Apple iPhone (who doesn’t these days…me!) you can download the new NPR app that allows you to stream dozens of NPR stations directly to your phone. WNKU-(89.7) is a participating NPR radio station. So no matter were you are on Sunday mornings, you can listen via your phone. Technology is a wonderful thing! Here’s a nice article at cincinnati.com that gives a review.

And of course you can always listen to our favorite public radio station, WOUB-(91.3). Or go online at woub.org, where you can listen to “Live form the Fur Peace Ranch” all day long.