Fur Peace TV

On Sunday afternoons here at the Fur Peace, when we are in session, we are treated to the best music variety show you could hope to see. I’m speaking of the Student Performance. We call it a workshop in disguise and as we tell our students….”It’s like an open mic”…..and as Jorma likes to add, “Except we all like each other.” During this time students get a chance to play on the Fur Peace Station stage…..the big stage……and we are treated to solo performances, duos, trios and group ensembles. It’s one of my favorite times during the course of the weekend……although the whole of all of our weekends is bombastic fantastic.

We have another great music variety show coming out of Fur Peace and you don’t have to be here to see it. I’m speaking of FUR PEACE TV! This has really become a great show. What it is …..you see……is the Ranch’s own YouTube channel and our great crew of camera men and women have been capturing some great film footage from our live shows and posting a song or two from each one on our YouTube channel. We started to film our concerts strictly for archival purposes. After looking at some of the great footage and also the great editing our team has been doing…..you see they’re working with four cameras…..we felt like we wanted to share some of the excitement with the world out there, so we started Fur Peace TV.

I’m just knocked out when I look at Fur Peace TV and all it offers. It reminds me of some of the great music we have been treated to here at the Ranch over the years. My only regret is that we did not start filming earlier……but as my good brother Donnie use to say……you can’t look at life through the rear-view mirror…so, I’m happy with what we have and with what we have coming.

I was speaking with my bredren……Ras Morgan…..also known as Kevin Morgan of Kevin Morgan Studio and he just informed me that we have now had over 550,000 videos viewed at Fur Peace TV…..that’s just incredible. We also have over 1,000 subscribers. This is all great news!!! I want to give a BIG UP to Kevin and Michael at Kevin Morgan Studio….and to Andie Walla Productions and her production team…..ALL RESPECT you are all doing a super job and your hard work and good taste are evident in your work. So……check it out and see some of the great music that comes off of that Fur Peace stage. Andie has recently added several videos from our Season Opener this year…….they’re the bomb and I’m not just saying that cause I’m in a couple of them……no sir……..just stating the facts. Bless UP and enjoy the Spring!

The Maui Tapes Vol. 1

Maui Tapes Vol. 1
My first CD… ever…. came in right before our Season Opener and my show with Hot Tuna at the Fur Peace Station on March 17th. At the beginning of the year as we were getting ready to head to Hawaii for our Fur Peace “On the Road” workshops I had no idea that I would have a CD out…..and how it happened was magical. The CD I’m talking about is THE MAUI TAPES, VOL. 1. So…… we’re at The Royal Lahaina doing two weeks of guitar workshops with Jorma the first week and Jorma and Chris Smither the second week. During the weekend between our sessions I had went ‘Upcountry” to stay at my friend’s house in Haiku……mile marker #15 on the Hana Highway. It was such a nice spot……I instantly felt a very relaxed spirit of aloha emanating from the spot and was thrilled about my digs for the weekend.

My friend, Mark, who so kindly let me stay in his place……was also kind enough to leave me a guitar and instructions to enjoy my stay and make myself at home. Well, it really felt like home in a very short time and I was bubbling with excitement and inner joy at my good fortune. The lay of the land was a lot different then the beach scene in Lahaina where we were staying. Being “Upcountry” meant being away from the busy city……although I’ve got to say ALL of Maui has a very laid-back vibe. The place in Haiku was in some ways just like the feeling you get right here in Meigs County Ohio…..out in the country as well…….but with a tropical setting. Lots of stars at night….not much noise aside from nature’s ongoing symphony……so I was taking it all in and loving every second of every minute. I was playing that guitar lots too. I noticed how nice the room sounded and I was in a super positive mood and I got to thinking……why not do a recording right here in the living room of my Haiku hideaway.

Vanessa stopped up over the weekend to see the place and we were all going to run out for some great fish at the Pai’a Fish Market. When she came in the house and as we were talking I told her. “Boy, this room really has a nice sound to it…..let me play you a song”. Her and Izze listened as I serenaded them with No Woman No Cry…..she said, “It is a nice sounding room”. At this point I mentioned that I was going to ask Mark to bring up some recording equipment and that I was going to do some recording …..just mostly me and my guitar…..right there in that room. As we were outside walking the grounds I fortuitously asked Vanessa to take a picture of me with the guitar, adding that who knows if this recording sounds good enough…..I might make a CD of it. We walked around the yard and she directed me to stand up on Mark’s back porch cause it looked like a great spot and the sun was also shining and casting it’s light in the perfect direction. Vanessa took a few pictures of me and as we looked them over she felt one was a great shot and she says….”I’ll email this to Kevin for your CD cover”……well, yes……that sounds like a capital idea. When I got back from Hawaii and really started to move on this project and made it over to Kevin’s to talk to him about doing a cover, he was really stoked about how nice that shot Vanessa had taken looked…..and when I got to check it out …..I had to agree. All the lighting was just as it was…..Kevin did not have to do any photo shop touch up.

After our two weeks of workshops I went back up to Haiku to stay on for another week. First day as I was playing… a new song came to me……boy, it happened fast. A simple two chord melody and words pouring out from I don’t know where. I’m thinking that I was totally inspired from just being around Jorma’s first ever Songwriting class and all the great writers in his class……let alone the Captain’s well-spring of inspiration. I felt really good about the new song and also about the process of writing a new song……and when you have a song finished……that you like……well that makes you feel good too! That was the starting point and then I started believing that maybe I could pull this all together in the short time I had and maybe I would have a CD to tell the people about at our Season Opener.

I asked Mark if he would be able to bring up his recording equipment and I told him of my plan. Mark, has become a good friend and one of his many attributes I like is his yes-we-can attitude mixed with that wonderful spirit of aloha. I also told him that I wanted this to be a roots recording session….just one mic on the table catching the music and the nice sound of the room. Just a couple days before my vacation was to come to an end, Mark came on up with everything we would need and we got to it. This recording was going to be a simple solo recording…..no overdubs, mon…..but I did ask Mark to add some nice lead guitar to several of the tracks and he sure did oblige my request.

We did most of the recording in one night. I had stopped at a road-side stand to pick up some Huli Huli Chicken (the Hawaiian style) with Kula corn and brought it back to the house. After a nice dinner and a thorough cleaning of the hands….I started playing. Most of the songs on The Maui Tapes are first takes and that is the way I wanted it to be. There are a couple that took two takes and one was a three taker. It all felt very good…..very organic. Mark came up the next day and we finished up with a couple more songs. I listened to the playback and was happy with the sound. Yes, I started feeling really positive about the whole project and the fact that I might actually pull this off.

I recorded 10 songs…..three originals and 7 of my all-time favorites. Mark dropped them all onto a disc for me and I left the island with the Maui Tapes in the bag. Once back on the mainland I started to look into how to get the CDs produced. I called my good friend, Michael Falzarano for counsel on this matter and he was a big help in so many ways in helping me turn this dream into a reality. Michael set me up with the CD replicator that the New Riders use and everything was moving forward.

The CD has no production and no overdubs and that’s how I wanted it to be ….. strictly roots! As things are progressing, but still right before I give it the final go, I started to experience some self-doubt……boy, that’s a tough thing to work through and it did strike me as funny at this stage of my life..but it was there. Well, right about this time the phone rings and it is Michael asking me how things are going. I told him that it was funny you should call right now Michael…..I’m starting to feel some doubt about finishing the project. Michael says, “what’s up?”….and I start to tell him….Well, you know I did this on the quick…..I wasn’t in a studio…..I only had one mic in the room…..I just don’t know. When I listened to the CD over and over I did notice a few pimples and I told him about that too….”I’m wondering if I’m moving too fast on this, I’ve noticed some misses and a couple dropped beats….blah, blah, blah…..you know and I’m just starting to question the whole thing.” The next few things Michael would say to me hit home and really came at just the right time…..Michael pointed out to me that some of the most cherished recordings in his and mine record collection were recorded that exact same way…….he also assured me that even if I had spent 6 months in a studio and had done take after take on a song….I would notice the same mistakes. He then gave me the best advice and the advice I needed just then….”Just do it John, just go ahead and put it out there.” THANK YOU Michael…..I come to you for advice and you gave me the best!!!

Now right after I get this much needed pep talk from Falza…..out of the blue I get an email from my treasured friend, Rabbi Shmuel. I met Shmuel up at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland one year when Jorma was up there taking part in the Janis Joplin tribute. He’s another great turn-on, courtesy of my old friend, Jorma. Here is the email Shmuel sends me:

From my college roomie —

On my first recording date I had the honor of working
with the great jazz drummer, Billy Higgins.
We were sitting in the control room, listening back
to one of the tracks we had just finished.
It sounded great: note perfect, vibrant, alive.
Then the engineer said,
“You know, the tempo sped up. The song ends faster than it began.”
And Billy said,
“So what? What do you think we are – machines?”

We are not machines
and the more we standardize
and follow instructions
the less human we become.

My job is to be more human
more connected
more flexible
more resilient
more passionate……….

Yeah, I just loved it……and how did he know…….

The Rabbi didn’t even know I had done a recording or was considering making a CD, yet this email struck me like a satori …..right over the head…..If the great Billy Higgins wasn’t concerned about being perfect…..I wasn’t going to worry about a couple dropped tempos either. It was sealed and I was going to forge ahead…..fast. I gave the go-ahead and over-nighted the master.

I’m real happy with The Maui Tapes……I feel the pure joy of the music outweighs the perfection factor. I really want to send out Mahalos….thanks …..to my friend Mark in Maui for every little t’ing….to Michael for the encouragement and advice……to Vanessa for the photo and for believing…..and to my main running dude, Kevin Morgan, for putting the CD together and keeping me fired up. All in all it was just about 5 weeks from the first thought of a CD project till the day the CD arrived. I’m feeling good , thankful and blessed.

Fire! . . . And More Fire!

photo: Frank Gibbs


Our first camp weekend of 2012, year #15 for the FPR, was a scorcher. I’m not just referring to the tropical Winter weather Ohio has experienced this year, but also to the level of playing and fellowship we experienced in the course of a weekend! Hot Tuna was not only here to kick out the jams during the Saturday night concert……but all three members of the group were also teaching for the weekend as well. We really started the year off right and the bar has been set high right from the get-go.

Jorma, Jack and Barry all had full classes and the students were a nice mix of new faces and old friends. As I mentioned during the Friday Orientation, some of the return students have now been coming here for so many years and there is a real nice feeling on seeing them again…..like getting to visit with a favorite relative or good old friend ….. that you only get to see once in awhile, but the years have solidified a friendship that is not dependent on space and time.

It seemed appropriate that our first camp weekend was also just days before the start of Spring. Spring always offers us a new beginning with the world coming alive once again after a sleepy Winter. It was like that around the Fur Peace. As Vanessa likes to say……and I think I can quote her here….“The Fur Peace Ranch is just a bunch of buildings that come alive when our students arrive.” Yeah….that’s just about right. So…there was a feeling of Spring time and the happiness that comes with it.

Jorma and Jack were reprising their DOUBLE DOSE workshop which we had never offered here at the Fur Peace. The classes do not only focus on guitar and bass guitar proficiency…..the main focus of this special workshop was how the two work together. I cannot think of any guitar player….or bass player more suitable to teach the inter-workings then J & J…….their life of music together is a study on how two musicians can work together to create one sound. So….that’s what Jorma and Jack were up to. They spent lots of time just with their individual groups, but as part of the workshop the two classes did merge and the whole concept of the workshop and playing together was expounded on.

Barry Mitterhoff had a great group of students to work with. He always seems to attract a great class of great players who know they will improve their greatness just by spending time with the master. All of his students were repeat offenders……that’s what we affectionately refer to repeat students as….and a great group they were.

I was really looking forward to the Saturday night concert……not only because my favorite group was headlining, but because I was going to be opening the show. I’ve played for many years and there was a time when in various bands I did my share of playing out, but anymore…. I do not play out that much…..though always playing. This was going to be different for me as well because I was taking the stage as a solo performer, something I had not done since my college days. I always get a tad nervous about playing out and that I think is one of the reasons I liked to play in duos, trios and groups…..it makes you feel better with someone else up there with you.

The Saturday night show had been sold-out since last November when tickets for all of our 2012 Concert Series went on sale. We had a FULL house for sure! After working the ticket gate I joined Vanessa for our usual stage announcements before the show…..it sure was nice to be back at it again and to see so many friends. Well, towards the end of the announcements I excused myself from the stage and jumped back into the dressing room to put on a nice shirt and to trade my signature FPR ball cap for my styling Stetson fedora….and then I heard Vanessa say….”Please welcome John Hurlbut..” I walked through the door to a welcoming warm reception and applause that helped to cool the pre-show jitters…….I was going to be playing for a wonderful, positive group of folks and I could feel it already.

Photo: Scott Hall Photography

I kicked things off with the Fishin Blues……a song I’ve been playing forever and a song I got to hear Taj Mahal….the song’s writer…..play at one of the early rock concerts I attended while just a youth in high school. I love that song for a long time now and it served me well as a good way to get the show started. I followed that with No Woman No Cry and then Talking Money Tree Blues…. it was all going good! At this point I called up to the stage Myron Hart to accompany me on She Belongs To Me and Angel From Montgomery. Myron did a great job…..oh, yeah……it was his birthday as well, so after he took his seat……Vanessa and Hot Tuna came out from the backstage door with a candle-lit cake and we all proceeded to sing a Happy Birthday to him…..it was cool.

photo: Scott Hall Photography

The next song in the set was a new one. It’s called Someone’s Calling and I just wrote it in early February while I was vacationing in Maui. It was also at this very same place and time that I recorded my very first CD…….I’m going to talk about that whole experience in another blog….next week. The new song went over great and I had several folks comment to me after that it was their favorite song in my set…..and they dug the meaning……both comments that I was very happy to hear. Next up was an old campfire song and again one I’ve been playing for a long time….This Land is Your Land. This turned into a sing-a-long and boy we were having a good time. A funny aside here…as I got to the third chorus……my poor mind jumped track……it was a Hurlsheimers moment….well… instead of “redwood forest to the gulf stream waters”…..I was singing….”gulf stream waters to the
redwood forest”…..the contrast was noticeable as the audience was singing it properly….it made for a very funny moment and I was really glad I had a room-full of great singers.

For my next number I welcomed to the stage the one and only Barry Mitterhoff to play Hickory Wind with me. I gave a nod to the song’s writer Gram Parsons in announcing the song and Barry played the sweetest solo and was the perfect accompanist……it sounded heavenly. After Barry left the stage I made an announcement that this next song was a good one for mandolin and I wondered if there were any mandolinists in the house. Well……we had prearranged this the day before…..but at this point, Barry’s six students all raised up there mandolins and I requested they join me on the stage and they did. We played You Ain’t Goin Nowhere with the Barry Mitterhoff Mandolineers all huddled around one big mic…..with several of them taking the solo breaks at the right spot…….and all helping with singing the chorus. In fact, the whole audience joined in on singing the chorus and it was powerful and also sounding real good. I can tell next time I get to do this we’ll have to arrange to have more microphones for the audience……they were pitch perfect and right on the one.

photo: Scott Hall Photography

I was looking at the clock and realized it was about time for my last number, so I invited Vanessa up to the stage for a song that her and I have played at many a student performance…. Seems Like A Long Time.

photo: Scott Hall Photography

This Tim Hardin song is another one I’ve played for many years and without even one practice.. we did it and did it nice…..once again joined on the chorus by the singers in the house. I felt so good when I got up to leave the stage and to hear the audience claps of approval was the icing on the cake. I returned to the stage to encore with my song, A Little Faster. This is the song that I was sooooo honored that Hot Tuna covered on the Steady as She Goes release and I played it solo…..just like how I wrote it many years ago.

I’m still lifted from the experience and …..no…..I haven’t come down yet.

After an intermission we were treated to some fine Hot Tuna. I had smelled it cooking backstage and even though I couldn’t tell if it was blackened or Cajoned….I knew it was HOT!!!!

Jorma has commented about the show on his blog so check out CRACKS IN THE FINISH, Jorma’s blog site for details. I’ll tell you what…..like I said…..I was lifted when I left the stage and the fine set of Hot Tuna music that followed …..well…..it brought me to higher heights! Their song-list is also on Jorma’s site. All I can say is that the band was on fire……just burning it up…..and having so much fun up on stage…..well, it was infectious……we all ended up having a real good time!

Sundays are always special at the Ranch and this was once again the case. The student performance on Sunday afternoon is always one of the highlights of the camp weekend. This was another good one! Many of the students put their new found principles from Jorma and Jack’s Double Dose workshop to life ….. with nice pairings of guitar and bass guitar……and mandolin. Kudos to all of the performers of the day! I always love the Student Performance……it’s the best darn variety show out there …..and so much talent……and so much sharing of talent! As is normally almost always the case…..Barry brought up his entire class to perform several pieces they had worked on and they were just fantastic…..and it was a great way to end the afternoon’s festivities!!!

Sunday night we had a nice camp fire…….and there was some jamming going on in all the buildings. We broke camp on Monday and we all had a real nice satisfied feeling. It’s like when you plan a party or an event and everything comes off perfect and your guests are just as perfect! Yes, the Season Opener was a good one……I’m taking it as an auspicious sign of a good season up ahead…..it may be another pennant year!

FIRING IT UP FOR YEAR #15!!!

The Fur Peace Ranch will be opening it’s doors to a new season this week as we begin year #15! The years have passed by quickly and we’ve packed many good times into those years, but still……it seems like only yesterday. Everything is looking good around the Ranch and I’d say we’re ready to go…….in fact….there is a feel of anticipation building up as we wait for the Season Opener. Good news is that for the most part, all the classes are getting a good response and indeed several classes have already sold-out, while others are a student or two or three away from being full. Along with the classes, the Fur Peace Ranch 2012 Concert Series is also getting it’s fair share of attention and before our first show starts……half of the concerts will already have sold-out. This is all good news. Although we’re sad any time we have to tell someone we can’t fit them in to a show or class we’re also happy to see things filling up nicely. The Fur Peace family has grown beyond expectations and I know that Vanessa and Jorma are so grateful for all of the many blessings that have come their way and for all of the people that have supported and made their vision of a “Guitar Camp” the wonderful reality that it has become……the flowers have grown beautifully. I’m also very thankful for all the many great people and great times that have come through that Fur Peace gate…….and I know I can express that same thankfulness on behalf of all who work here. We’re all living the dream as well. So……..I’ll look forward to greeting you at the gate…and we’ll have some of that great Campfire Coffee ready for you on arrival….BLESS UP!

 

Give the Gift of Music

With the Holidays approaching I wanted to let you know about some great music I’ve been enjoying. Music is always a nice gift and a gift that keeps on giving. My friend Rob usually has to prompt me to write about “what I’ve been listening to” but here you have it, just in time for last minute shoppers and some suggestions that you can also put on your wish list.

First off…….and I’m not just saying this because I am true to my team……although I am definitely that…. Should you have a friend that doesn’t have the new HOT TUNA CD / LP, STEADY AS SHE GOES give them this as a gift. Jorma and Jack waited a long time to go into the studio to record this gem and it is a crucial Hot Tuna release. A great gift for a Hot Tuna fan and at the same time a great gift to turn a friend onto a great band with a great new release. The CD is also available as a limited edition record (LP) as well……for those vinyl aficionados……the LP shows off the beautiful LP artwork….by the way KEVIN MORGAN the Fur Peace, Jorma, Hot Tuna artist has been nominated for a GRAMMY for his work…….and the LP also is beautifully packaged in a gatefold sleeve with pictures omitted from the CD…….it has three sides of great music and a fourth side engraving of Jorma and Jack in the vinyl. Records are making a strong comeback (YEAH!!!) and this would be a great gift for a record collector with impeccable taste in music.

I also want to let everyone know……the FUR PEACE COMPANY STORE is running some great specials through December for the Holidays. Discounts in several departments and FREE shipping on ALL orders…..there are some great gifts to be found at the Co. Store. Our CAMPFIRE COFFEE and our FPR teas are all on sale and they make a tasty gift.

Now…….back to CD recommendations.

In the Rock, Blues category, this year has given us some great releases. JOHNNY WINTER is back with a great new release, appropriately titled, ROOTS. This CD finds Johnny with a host of special guests playing homage to his Blues’ heroes. All solid Blues’ covers that sound fresh and Johnny’s guitar playing and singing sound crisp as well. Even with all the great guests, it’s Johnny’s trademark guitar slinging that comes through loud and clear. One of my favorite tracks, “Dust My Broom” is all JW and it finds him in top form. A real nice surprise this was. Some other old favorites have come through with great releases as well this past year. Check out STEVE CROPPERS tribute to 1950’s – 60’s R & B on his release, DEDICATED. The legendary guitarist is joined by some great guests on this record and the results are great fun. WARREN HAYNES’ CD, MAN IN MOTION, is another great release with some special guests. As special as the band is, it is Warren’s great guitar playing, singing and song selection that make this CD standout. It’s a Warren record, so you know it jams…..but the R & B originals give it a special turn.

A couple of other old faves released impressive CDs late in the year. DAVID BROMBERG’s new CD USE ME finds the A-list session man getting help from a top shelf group of special guests. David is known for his acoustic guitar playing, but on this release he pulls out the electric and really goes back to his roots for a great record. Another great going back to his roots is RY COODER on his new release PULL UP SOME DUST & SIT DOWN. Well done Ry!

I’ve really been enjoying TRANSLUCENT BLUES the new collaboration between DOORS’ keyboardist RAY MANZAREK and slide guitar king ROY ROGERS. Roy’s slide playing is brilliant and exciting…..he is one of the greatest in that style….and Ray’s singing is strong! Some of the songs have a “Roadhouse Blues” feel to them and it is good to hear. Ray’s keyboard playing is stellar as well. I picked this up without a listen because I knew how good the players were and I was happy I did. GEOFF ACHISON came by the Ranch in late September and he was kind enough to lay a copy of his recent “Live” CD on me. JAMMIN IN THE ATTIC catches Geoff and RANDALL BRAMBLETT live in Georgia in 2010 and this CD kicks butt…..great sound, great songs, great solos……..really was knocked out by this one. I could say I was surprised…..but I really wasn’t……I hold Geoff’s playing in high regard and this collaboration works real well too!!!

I love Native American flute music and really would recommend R. CARLOS NAKAI’s CANYON TRILOGY. This was originally released in 1989 and I still have my vinyl copy, however I was thrilled to find in on CD. This is a great CD to listen to for relaxation, meditation, grounding and pure aural enjoyment. I like to listen to it while driving and that is another reason why I was happy to find the CD…..the turntable in the truck hasn’t been working to good. This is solo flute and it is beautiful.

The new CD from SEUN KUTI, one of FELA KUTI’s sons, is killer Afro-Beat. This finds Seun joined by his father’s late band, Egypt 80, for a blistering set of infectious African groove music. The CD is titled…. FROM AFRICA WITH FURY: RISE.

The great GREGORY ISAACS has left this world for Zion, but while he was with us he recorded some of the most crucial Reggae music you can find. Gregory was know for his beautiful voice and his vocal styling. He was a genuine hit machine in Jamaican music. THE RULER 1972 – 1990 serves as a perfect anthology of his hits as well as some obscure gems. This is a nice 2 – CD package along with a DVD of his 1984 performance at Brixton Academy…..the DVD is a real treat. This is a winner.

One of the great things about music listening is all the joys that are waiting to be discovered. Very recently I made such a discovery and it’s been knocking me out. I had heard of JOHN MARTYN and was aware of his high status in British Folk Music, but did not have any of his recording in my collection. I had a chance to hear the Deluxe Edition of SOLID AIR and I’ve now been playing it in heavy rotation…….what a gem……what a voice…..what a guitar player and songwriter. I just love this album and have gone on to also pick up SWEET LITTLE MYSTERIES the Island Records Anthology by John, which I also thoroughly enjoy. Solid Air was originally released in 1973 and I’m glad I finally got around to adding it to the collection.

My musical palette is far ranging and I picked up a classical guitar CD recently by MILOS KARADAGLIC, a nice Italian guitarist, called MEDITERRANEO and am really impressed by his classical guitar playing. He is a master and at a very young age…and yes I was kidding about his Italian heritage. This CD on DEUTSCHE GRAMAPHONE sounds beautiful and his solo guitar playing is extraordinaire!!!

I have found myself a fan of some ELECTRONICA music and my fave in this genre is THIEVERY CORPORATION. Their 2011 release, CULTURE OF FEAR, finds them doing their thing, which is world music as well as outernational music, and they have never disappointed me. Their sound is exciting and they cover a far range of musical stylings and they always add the Thievery touch, which makes it all so special. I highly recommend this CD if you’re looking for something different. On the same record label as Thievery Corp, ESL RECORDS, is a group called THUNDERBALL and their recent release, 12 MILES HIGH, is also a top pick and very well may end up in my top ten for the year. Thievery Corporation uses a great cast of singers and players to make their sound. Two of these singers……who bring the Reggae vibe to the outfit…..are known as SEE –I…..and their self-titled debut is a killer. This has some straight ahead Reggae but they take the music to higher heights and new dimensions. This is a sleeper and I find myself liking it more and more. These guys know how to plant a groove and make it grow.

Well……there you have it……some of my best picks and most enjoyed CDs of this past year…..I hope you get a chance to give some of these a listen and I also hope you’re enjoying your music, whatever you’re listening too……..because life is too short to miss a beat…….but long enough to catch one too.

Steady As She Goes Artwork Auction

Hey……well,…. how do you like my new Checkin the Levels mast head? I want to give thanks to several friends who put that together for me….Dennis Powell took the picture in my office using his FUJI X100 Panoramic Camera…..KEVIN MORGAN, took the picture and did his magic to make every little t’ing look Irie…..and let me not forget my great co-worker, Brett, who put it up there for me. What a team…..all MVPs!

We have extended the close off date for the STEADY AS SHE GOES ARTWORK AUCTION. We plan to sell tickets for the raffle right up to half-time at the Electric Hot Tuna show here at the Ranch on November 12th. Before the band kicks off the second set……we’ll pick the winner. This is a beautiful piece of artwork and the LINK gives you all the information about the print. This is a very limited poster and it is beautiful and it is signed by Jorma, Jack and the artist, Kevin. All respect to Kevin Morgan….his visual concept and artistic talent makes the STEADY AS SHE GOES cover one of the most creative and striking pieces of album art that I’ve seen in some time. If you think the CD cover looks great…..wait till you see the poster…..the larger format really lets the cover art speak…..and how about those eyes? Someone is going to be very happy when their number is drawn. Remember…..you don’t have to be present to win.



As for GOOD WORKS, we are so glad to have them as the beneficiary of this raffle. Good Works helps those struggling with poverty in our area of rural Appalachia. As you know…..we are in the midst of some troubling economic times and the work they do and the folks they help are more urgent then ever. Thanks for supporting a very good cause and good luck!

ANOTHER MAN DONE A FULL GO ROUND

Super Bowl Sunday with John, Donnie Ruben and Ray Hurlbut

I lost one of my best friends a couple weeks back…..Donnie Ruben……passed away on September 16th. Vanessa and Jorma have both written about D on their respective blogs and I wanted to honor my friend with a few words and the eulogy I wrote for his service.  Donnie was a major player in this thing called life and although I miss him greatly…..I’m keeping the vibe on how lucky I was to have had him as my long – time friend.  He was my “oldest friend” and by that I mean…..his age…..not how long we had been friends.  The nice thing about having an older friend is that they are able to give you some insights from a perspective that you only get with years.  He was like a big brother to me and there were several times throughout my life that I would go to him with questions or troubles and he ALWAYS came through for me ….. supportive and contemplative.  I think that is what I’m going to miss the most.  The picture with D and my Dad is from this year’s Super Bowl….we were all feeling good and confident when this picture was taken.  Donnie had called me when I was in Hawaii in January for the Fur Peace “On the Road” work-shops to tell me that a cyst that he had removed had come back cancerous.  When we got together to watch the big game he was feeling strong and ready for the fight and Dad and I were cheer-leading his positive attitude.  God knows…..a positive attitude carries a lot of strength.

Donnie went in for surgery in late February.  What was to be a 9 hour operation turned into 16 hours and the cancer that they had seen in the neck turned out to be much more aggressive and spread out. The best surgeons were involved and the James Cancer Hospital at Ohio State did a commendable job. Don appreciated their efforts and they were really on top of this situation. Following the surgery Don underwent 9 weeks of radiation and chemo treatment.  I’ve heard this from other friends who have fought the same fight…… the treatment alone is enough to kill you.  He never gave up and with the ever present help of his long time partner and wife…..Lelia….he went to battle and fought this disease with everything he had.  The treatment really beat him down and on one occasion when we were visiting he acknowledged that the treatment was really hard on him but that LIFE is what made it all worthwhile.  During this past year I would go and visit Donnie on Tuesdays, which is my day off, and on many occasions I’d bring Dad as well……they always got along real well.  Several weeks ago I visited with my friend to celebrate his 72nd birthday.  He was looking good on this particular afternoon and I commented to him that he really looked to be “on the mend”.  He said he was feeling good and he hoped he was on the mend, but he finished the sentence with a comment that hit me when I got the call that he had relapsed and was back at the hospital….. “if things don’t turn out the way we hope, I’m OK with that….I’m 72 and have lived a very blessed life. ”

Cancer is a tough road to walk and I’ve had several friends and family that have had to make the trip down that road.  It makes me mad to think that after all the time and money spent on this disease….Donnie still could not be saved.  Just a week after my last visit,  Donnie was feeling weak and tired and felt something wasn’t right.  His doctor told him to check back into the hospital and they would run some tests and find out what was going on.  Well, he never really got to hear the results of those tests because on his second day in the hospital he went into cardiac arrest.  He survived the code blue night at the hospital but never came back……resting his last couple of days in a coma state.  When he went, it was by the grace of God…….he had already suffered so much.  He never got to hear the final results that the cancer had spread into his lungs, liver and spinal column.  I’m glad he didn’t have to hear that report.  It all happens so fast and even though I knew conditions were dire we had hoped that he might be able to get back home.  The Lord took him direct… on the fast train to Zion…..to the everlasting home.  As it turned out…….the service would happen pretty quickly as is the Jewish custom.  Lelia asked if I would speak at the service and of course I told her I would.  However, when she told me when the service was I found out I would not be able to be there, as I would be at a Memorial Mass for my Mom who died exactly one year before.  Lelia understood, but I asked her if I could write it out and have Vanessa read it as I knew she would be going to the service.  YES…..this was fine with Lelia and the Rabbi.  So…..on the Saturday before the services,  I spent the day in the yard writing, thinking and doing some work around the yard when I needed a divergence.  At about 6 o’clock PM I called up V and told her to come on over……I had finished my eulogy.  Sometimes people will say that what they wrote took years…..but what I wrote took tears.  I read it to V and Izzie and then discussed with Vanessa my ideas for the reading….it was all set.

On the day of the service Vanessa called, as did a couple other friends, to tell me how well the reading went over.  Later in the day the whole family and my cousin went up to Donnie’s Shiva.  We only stayed for a little while but it was good to be there.  Donnie’s brother, Billy, and others were all very pleased and complimentary of the words I had written and that made me feel good.  I’m still adjusting to my friend’s departure and I must admit that there are times I forget that he is gone in the physical sense.  I think about calling him up ……  only to remember…….he’s gone.  Give thanks for the blessing of a great friend …..  the many great memories and great times will sustain our friendship forever !!!

I want to thank Vanessa for being such a good reader ….. and for my friend, Wally, who stood up with V during the reading….. you both are a mitzvah……for Donnie and me!

Here is the eulogy:

A TRIBUTE TO DONNIE RUBEN

I’M SORRY THAT I CANNOT BE HERE TODAY – IN PERSON  – TO PAY TRIBUTE TO MY FRIEND AND SOUL BROTHER…..DONNIE RUBEN.  I THANK MY FRIENDS FOR READING MY TRIBUTE AND SEND SPIRIT. CONDOLENCES TO THE FAMILY…….LELIA.   I AM AT A MEMORIAL MASS FOR MY MOM, WHO PASSED AWAY ONE YEAR AGO……TODAY.  DONNIE WOULD UNDERSTAND AND I HOPE YOU WILL TOO.  STILL ….I’M SAD ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO BE HERE……..DONNIE GAVE ME SUCH STRENGTH, SUPPORT AND INSIGHT DURING MY MOM’S LAST DAYS.  I REMEMBER LILIA AND HIM SITTING WITH ME AFTER THE SERVICE OFFERING COMFORT…..HE WAS IMPECCABLY DRESSED WEARING A SHARP LOOKING FEDORA.  HE LOOKED LIKE A SAINT FROM A BOB DYLAN SONG.  I WOULD HAVE NEVER BELIEVED THAT A YEAR LATER  MY FRIEND WOULD JOURNEY TO GOD’S HEAVENLY HOME. WHAT A BLESSING IT WAS TO KNOW SUCH A RIGHTEOUS, GOOD MAN, AND TO COUNT HIM AMONG YOUR BEST FRIENDS…….. (breathe)

IT IS SAID WHEN A PERSON LEAVES THIS WORLD HIS GOOD DEEDS SAY…..”BEFORE YOU COME FOR JUDGMENT, WE SHALL BE THERE AHEAD OF  YOU”. AS REFERENCED TO IN ISAIAH 58:8…..”YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL GO BEFORE YOU, THE GLORY OF THE LORD, SHALL BE YOUR REWARD.”

DONNIE WAS A RIGHTEOUS MAN & HIS GOOD DEEDS MANY. I FIRST KNEW OF DONNIE THROUGH FRIENDS WHO HAD BEEN CLIENTS OF HIS….HE WAS A TOP SHELF LAWYER & HE USED HIS EXPERTISE TO HELP FOLKS ACROSS A BROAD SPECTRUM OF HUMANITY. HE WAS PROUD OF HIS HERITAGE AND FAITH AND WORKED FOR JEWISH CAUSES.  WOMEN’S RIGHTS…..WORKER’S RIGHTS……CIVIL RIGHTS….HUMAN RIGHTS….. 1ST AMENDMENT RIGHTS AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS WERE ALL CHAMPIONED BY HIM….AND HELD IN THE HIGHEST RESPECT AND REGARD!!!

BEFORE I REALLY GOT  TO KNOW DON…..I KNEW OF HIM & HE WAS KIND OF A MYTHICAL, MYSTICAL LEGEND. HIS COLORFUL PERSONA WAS THAT OF ONE COOL CAT. THROUGH MUTUAL FRIENDS WE FINALLY FORMALLY MET & STARTED TO HANG OUT.  WE BOTH SHARED A REAL LOVE FOR MUSIC. OUR FIRST CONCERT TOGETHER…..LILIA AND DON….WAS NICK CAVE AT THE ALROSA IN 1986…..25 YEARS AGO. FROM THAT POINT ON OUR FRIENDSHIP GREW….STRONGER & DEEPER….LOOKING BACK WE HAD VERY SIMILAR LIKES…..MUSIC….SPORTS, ESPECIALLY THE TRIBE AND LAKERS…..FOOD….POLITICS…..GOOD COFFEE….OUR MOMS. DON EMBODIED ALL THE QUALITIES OF A GOOD FRIEND….LOYALTY, TRUST, RESPECT… YOU COULD GO TO HIM FOR ADVICE AND HE WAS FUN TO  BE WITH!  HE WAS A TEACHER – AND HE INSPIRED YOU BY HIS LIFE, HIS WORDS AND HIS ACTIONS. HE WAS A SAGE OF ENDLESS WISDOM……REMINDING YOU THAT ….” YOU CAN’T LOOK AT LIFE THROUGH A REAR-VIEW MIRROR” AND “THAT THERE WAS NEVER A WRONG TIME TO BE RIGHT.”……..(BREATHE…..YOU’RE DOING GOOD)

OVER THE YEARS WE TOOK SOME GREAT ROADTRIPS….DRIVING HIS DAD’S OLD WHITE IMPALA UP TO CLEVELAND TO SEE THE TRIBE AND BOBBY D…….SEVERAL TIMES.  I TOOK HIM TO HIS FIRST DEAD SHOW IN PITTSBURGH….BOY, WHAT A TIME THAT WAS.  ALTHOUGH DON WAS QUITE A BIT OLDER, HE WASN’T AN OLDIE AND WE WENT TO SEE METALLICA & THE FIRST LALAPALOOZA TOO!  HE LOVED ALL KINDS OF MUSIC AND ALTHOUGH HE WAS THE OLDEST AMONG MY FRIENDS – HE HAD AN OPEN MIND WHEN IT CAME TO NEW SOUNDS.  THIS WAS A QUALITY THAT CROSSED OVER TO MORE THEN MUSIC.  HE WAS A YOUNG THINKER.

AS MUCH FUN AS IT WAS TO BE OUT KICKIN’ IT WITH HIM….SOME OF THE BEST TIMES WERE ONE ON ONE WITH DON….SITTING ON THE BALCONY AND DISCUSSING THE STATE OF AFFAIRS AND POLITICS OF THE TIMES. HE WAS NOT ONLY A THINKER  -  BUT A GOOD REASONER TOO.  DONNIE HAD MANY SPECIAL QUALITIES & STORIES…..AND THE MORE YOU KNEW HIM……MORE WERE REVEALED.  DID YOU KNOW HE WAS A GREAT COOK? MANY A TIME WE GOT TO BREAK BREAD & SHARE A MEAL. I’LL NEVER FORGET LUNCH AT RAY’S ….EATING CURBSIDE.  IT WAS MY OLD JEWISH FRIEND THAT SHOWED HIS ITALIAN FRIEND HOW TO MAKE AN “ITALIAN SUMMER SAUCE”…..I USE IT ALL THE TIME…..I MAY RENAME IT DON’S SAUCE IN HIS HONOR.

DONNIE IN HIS DAY WAS THE GREATEST LAWYER.  EVEN WHILE RETIRED HE CONTINUED TO OFFER HIS HELP TO THOSE WHO SOUGHT HIM OUT.  HE WAS A CHAMPION TO THE UNDERDOGS AND DOWNTRODDEN AND OFFERED HIS HELP OFTEN WITHOUT MONETARY COMPENSATION.  FOR ME….AND I’M SURE FOR OTHERS HERE…..HE WAS A VOICE OF REASON.  DURING LIFE’S TRIALS I COULD GO TO DON FOR ADVICE….HE WAS NEVER AFRAID TO GIVE YOU HIS HONEST OPINION….HE WAS A GOOD LISTENER TOO…..AND SOMETIMES THATS ALL IT TOOK….HE WOULD LISTEN TO YOU & SAY….”i THINK YOU’RE ON THE RIGHT TRACK” AND THAT ALONE WOULD INSTILL YOU WITH CONFIDENCE!  AS HE WAS THERE FOR ME, HE WAS THERE FOR OTHERS, SERVING IN THE SAME CAPACITY – GOOD, SOLID CONSUL….I CAN ONLY HOPE AND PRAY THAT HE WILL CONTINUE TO WHISPER TO US.

LILIA….YOU ARE A MITZVAH!!! YOU SHARED SO MANY GREAT TIMES & YEARS WITH DON….YOU DEDICATED YOURSELF TO HIM DURING THE TRIALS OF THESE LAST 9 MONTHS.  HE WOULD HAVE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO WAGE HIS FIGHT WITHOUT YOU….HIS CLOSEST ALLY & LOVE OF HIS LIFE.  HE WAS SO PROUD OF YOU & THANKFUL FOR YOU…….AS ARE WE ALL!

IN PSALM 15 DAVID SAYS:  ” GOD….WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO ENTER YOUR TENT, OR TO LIVE ON YOUR HOLY MOUNTAIN? THE MAN WHOSE LIFE IS RIGHTEOUS…..WHO SPEAKS THE TRUTH FROM HIS HEART”. DONNIE IS HIGH ON THE MOUNTAIN TOP….  LET US ALWAYS REMEMBER HIM & BE INSPIRED BY HIS LIFE WELL LIVED!

Vanessa followed this with another reading…..this time from Jorma’s blog……..it ended with ….. ” He was good man.  Fair winds and following seas, my brother.  Yes, my brother…..you were truly a very good man and I’ll always remember you and find inspiration in the life you lived!!!  BLESS UP !

HERE IS DON’S OBITUARY…………..

Va Benne!

It was just a week ago that Jorma was dropping me off in my driveway, just around 3:00 AM…..he had informed me… “We’ve been traveling now for over 24 hours” just about the time we made the turn into my yard. It was the last stop on a two-week trip that had started in that same driveway……headed to The Full Moon Resort in the Catskills…..dropped down to the Great South Bay Music Festival in Patchogue on Long Island……..before flying out of JFK for Milan, Italy and a week of Electric Hot Tuna shows.

Sunday morning ….24th of July…..we meet down in the lobby at 6:00 am and load up for our trip to the airport. The kind folks at the Hotel Touring set us up with several bags of some great Italian coffee and some espresso on the spot. The trip is smooth to Milan Malpensa and we arrive with time to spare before boarding our flight back to JFK in New York. Our arrival is smooth and before long we’ve got our bags and a driver too and we’re heading off to New Jersey to drop off Abram “Abe” Fogel…..Hot Tuna’s drummer on this recent run. Mon, oh, mon……what a drummer he is…… more on that coming up. After saying a farewell to Abe and one more bless up, we’re onto Scotch Plains and the home of Barry Mitterhoff…….who just tour it up in Italia……..and even though Barry isn’t home……we have the key and Jorma’s jeep is still in his driveway. So……we fresh up and pack it all in and about 5:30 pm start the trip west for the great state of Ohio. Jorma and Myron do a great job of driving…..in fact, I felt so comfortable in the back seat, I fell off and got in a great nap.

The Italian tour was short but mighty and it was the first time ELECTRIC Tuna had made its presence in the country. As we departed the US for Italy I was remembering my first trip to Italy….with Jorma, Vanessa and Michael Falzarano…..twenty years almost to the day ago. It was one of those where does the time go moments followed by lots of giving thanks and praises. I’ve had the pleasure of making several trips to Italy over the years….. with Jorma and a glorious trip with Mom and Dad once as well. It is a beautiful country and I’d have to put it right between the USA and Jamaica in my top three places I love report.

So……we leave JFK at night and land in Milan in the morning. After clearing customs we meet up with the Italian tour promoters…..the fine folks from Blue Sky Promotion …..Jorma has worked with these folks for so long now…..it is like visiting with family……and it is good to be back in Italy and their company. The two tour managers we worked with on this run …..Vania and Alberto…

The Tuna gang with Vania of Blue Sky Promotions

The Tuna gang with Vania of Blue Sky Promotions

..have become old friends and they do such a great job of facilitating every little thing……it makes the travel fun and easy. I really enjoy both of them very much and they both are great at teaching me the finer points about Italy and forever helping me with my attempts at speaking Italian. Yeah, I get the feeling that my attempts are providing Vania with a lot of amusement. I told Vania, on one of the last nights, that Alberto is the King and you are the Queen……and Sergio… the Field Marshall General……..is the King of the kingdom! Just great people to work with and a joy to travel with through the remarkable regions of their homeland…..Italy!



We leave the airport and a few hours later we are in Genova and we have the afternoon to relax and dinner at 8:30. We all meet up and walk to a nice tratoria not far from the hotel and commence to have our first of many killer meals that would mark the splendor of the day and the Italian way of cooking. We…..the Tuna gang……were joined by Bruce Cockburn and his manager, John, for a night of great eating. This area ……Liguria…..is known for it’s PESTO and the opening dish of pesto pasta was just exceptional as was my calamari friti that followed. All in all a great start….and a great meal… and the owner took it over the top when he pulled out of his personal stock of a rare Italian aperitif….Genepi…and poured a drink for those whose pleasure it was.



Monday, 18th of July and the first show. The show is right down on the port and Genova is a big port city. Indeed …..while setting up and during the show …big boats were pulling in and some were going out. These cruise ships are gigantic and the boat captains handle them as if they were pulling a car into a parking space…..maybe better…..they pull in then back them out with amazing precision…..which I guess is important when commandeering such a huge transport. Bruce Cockburn plays a well received opening set ….solo …..to start the night off. He sounds good from out in the house where I’m positioned by the merch table and his voice and guitar are powerful as are his lyrics. Electric Hot Tuna is ready to go and there is excitement in the air when they take the stage. The mix is good and Jack’s bass lines trail over the propulsive drums of Abe’s …..Jorma is singing better then ever and Barry and JK are putting plenty of great leads into the right places. At the end of the night……it’s all va benne……and everyone is feeling good……the people who came to hear and the people that came to play. You never know how these kinds of things will go……foreign place and using someone else’s equipment……so this is a great way to start things off. Jorma has posted pictures and set lists from all the Italian shows on his blog …….so check in with CRACKS IN THE FINISH!



Tuesday, 19th of July……After a nice breakfast at the hotel, we’re all in route back to Milan to catch a flight to Palermo, Sicily. At the airport we have the Blue Sky team of Vania and Alberto to help us get everything through gate check and onto the plane. After a full day of traveling …… I can see it……it is the welcoming coastline of Sicily glistening in the distance. The local promoters are on hand to pick us up and bring us to the Hotel Casena Dei Colli….and after checking in, we all have a little time to relax before we plan to meet for a nice dinner at the hotel’s fine restaurant. Being on the road with the gang gives me insight to the finer points of touring and the life of a musician on the road…..by the time we had touchdown in Palermo it had been a full day of traveling and as Jorma so appropriately put it….”Glad we had a day off.” We were all rewarded with a bountiful feast at dinner…..and everything from the home made Minestrone ….right through dinner …..to the home-made strawberry cream cake were tutu benne!!!!



Wednesday, 20th of July…..Myron and I go out for a morning walk. We first head literally right next door to the Teatro di Verdura where tonight’s show is going to take place. This show is part of the WOMAD festival that is taking place in Sicily over the next few days. Tuna is on the bill along with the Buena Vista Social Club. Everyone is hard at work setting the stage and after sussing things out …..Myron and I take a nice walk into town to check out the local flavor. In the afternoon we head on over to set things up and then come back to the hotel for another great dinner. Then it is back to the theatre and the show. I’m doing merchandise on this run as one of my duties and the head of security at the show is messing with me……they move me four different times before I end up at the front gate. At the end of the Tuna set…..which I could hear perfectly…I am joined at the merch table by Myron and Alberto and we have us a heck of a good time. Alberto is telling the concert-goers in Italian to buy a CD or we won’t be able to get back home. We’re cracking the people up and they’re buying the new CD too. Every night Tuna plays is bombastic and the Electric Tuna is fully charged. Jorma and Hot Tuna have a big following in Italy and some of the comments I catch from folks at the show illustrate this…..one guy….”I’ve waited 40 years to see Electric Hot Tuna”…..another….”Jorma is the greatest rock guitarist”. Yes, indeed…….longevity and greatness!!!! The Buena Vista Social Club puts on a great show and it is a thrill to get to hear them live. Big group…..I think I counted 13 members…..and the sound was even bigger…..Respect!



Thursday, 21st of July……We have a somewhat leisure morning and we’re all taking advantage of the nice breakfasts that they put out in the Italian hotels. We all head back to the Palermo Airport and before long we are on our way to Rome. We land in Rome and pick up all the bags and guitars and head for the hotel…traffic is already crazy, so after just a short stop Myron, Alberto and I head to the venue, which is a nice outside park stage. We get everything all worked out and are ready for sound-check by the time the band pulls in. After the sound-check, it is a short walk to another great place and another great meal. Everything was just fantastic! We all ate well and we all were very satisfied and maybe because we ate so well…when the server came over to ask us if we were ready for dessert….there was a unanimous NO…..we all were filled to the top. But he prodded us that we must have dessert and in Italian he told Alberto….that it was something special not to be missed…..so alright, he talks us into it and despite the fact that not one of us felt we could eat another thing….the fantastic …delicate… philo-dough pastry with cream and berries disappeared before you could say…….caffe dopio. Now it wasn’t all about eating and the music sustained me as much as the food. As I mentioned earlier……every….and I do mean EVERY show was primo….but my favorite of this run had to be Rome…..it just seemed like hotter then fire. It was a nice full audience……a fine outdoor setting ……great sound….and a great set! A highlight for me was getting to hear my song, A LITTLE FASTER, (from the NEW Steady as She Goes CD) LIVE for the first time and it was ……words fail……but, a dynamic version accompanied by wondrous solos and it just totally kicked or hurled butt!!!! We beat it out of the Rome traffic and I do mean traffic and made our way back to the hotel and I was amazed at the energy of the day……..and how much energy Tuna put out ……even after a full day of traveling. Buona Serra Roma!



Friday, 22nd of July……We leave Rome and start on our 5 hour drive, heading east into the countryside. This tour is a busy one and when I mention to a friend about going to Italy…..they always ask if you got to do some sight-seeing? Unfortunately, the answer is no…..we’re working here…..5 shows in 6 days. However, on a nice 5 hour drive there is lots of beautiful scenery to view as you drive by……hey look at that neat castle up on that hill……look at those fields of sunflowers…..yes, it would be nice to drive up that hill and explore that castle…..but just seeing it is going to be as good as it gets today…..and that’s cool too. We get into Faenza and check into the hotel and then it is off to the Piazza Nenni for the show. The stage is set up right in the plaza and it is packed and the band feels the vibe and puts on a super-charged show. The promoter takes us to a great restaurant for dinner. This is once again an old place and the walls and decorations on them all eek with antiquity. The place has a wood cooking grill and the foods cooking smell great. It has been a real treat for me to be on this Italy run. So many wonderful things and I’m getting to hear my favorite band every night and they are truly sounding better then ever. I’ve got to give a BIG UP to the drummer, Abe…..This is our first time meeting and Abe is am impressive cat. He sure has a nice way about him and it’s easy to enjoy his company……but, whooaa……is he ever one heck of a drummer. Abe is filling in for Skoota and that could be a hard task, but he is right there and if I didn’t know better…..I’d swear he’s been playing with them for years. He’s right on the one…..and even when we get to hear him play “I know you Rider” for the first time…..he picks it right up and is quick to learn the ending that JK and JC school him on. Each night towards the end of the set Abe gets a drum solo and each one …..although varied they were……is a mass set of explosions and he’s got each drum talking…..keeping the pedal on the bass drum while intermingling snare drum snaps. I can’t say enough about how great each drum solo was……but I can tell you he really stirred the crowd…..and he was on the tip of many tongues when after the show people came by to express their love for the band and the music. At the Rome show JC came in on the end of the drum solo and did some real ambient mind blowing bass stuff and the two of them worked real nice together!



Saturday, 23rd of July…….
We’re off again……last show of this run is tonight, but first we must make the almost 300 km trip to Chiari….near Brescia. We are staying at the Hotel Touring and it is a nice spot. A short drive over to a bandstand where Tuna will once again play to full house of enthusiastic fans. There’s not a seat in the house that isn’t filled and everyone is treated to another great night of music. Remember to check JORMA’S BLOG for set lists and his comments about each show…….



TWO WEEKS BEFORE…….Sunday, July 10th……Well, Jorma said he was going to pick me up at 8:00 AM and here he comes ……rolling into Hurl’s Hideaway.. We’re heading off to upstate NY and the Fur Peace Ranch “On the Road” at the Full Moon Resort. We meet up with Vanessa, Izze and Lucy, who is one of Izze’s best friends, and Lucy is joining the Kaukonens for this trip to the Catskills. We’re convoying as Vanessa has the kids and we have the bags, guitars and other miscellanea. It’s a long day of travelling…..about 11 hours later when we pull into Kingston……but a great day of travelling. I really enjoy a ride with the Cap…..we’re so busy anymore and a car ride serves as a great way to visit and shoot the breeze. It also makes the time just fly by. We get up Monday morning and make a stop in Woodstock for some coffee before heading on over to Big Indian and the Full Moon. It’s nice to be back, as this is the third year we have done an off-site workshop here in the Catskills. All the same wonderful people are still on board at the Resort and it’s great to see everyone. Later in the day, our people start to show up and it’s looking like it is going to be a great group of people to spend a week with. David Bromberg is here to teach along with Jorma…..and it’s great to see him as well. After dinner the students head right to their respective classrooms and the teachings begin. Jorma’s teaching in the Barn building and they have given it a nice renovation since our last visit…..very nice! All of our days begin to fall into a pattern that would be the rule of the day. You wake up to a beautiful and somewhat cooler then hot and humid Ohio morning……take a stroll on down to the Café in the Valley View House for breakfast…..greet the people and enjoy a nice morning meal. All the meals are exceptional at the Full Moon and that sure makes all the campers happy. We have a high bar of what we expect in the way of food and service……we’ve been spoiled by all the years at Fur Peace…..and the Full Moon is doing it right! After breakfast we ……Vanessa, Izze, Lucy and Me…..take a ride into Woodstock. On a couple of the days we are joined by Judy, Julia and Stacy…..wives of FPR students…..and they all enjoy the Woodstock vibe……cause it’s still there! The week goes by faster then Michael C. can drop into a D – tuning and we are blessed with one nice day after another. The student makeup is a mix of repeat offenders and some people on their first Fur Peace experience. The music is a great common denominator and the sounds of guitars ring in the mountain air. On the last night of this session…..Jorma and David have planned to do a private show for the FPR students and guests. We set up the barn building for the show and the Full Moon owners…..Michael and Henry and some of their friends are all here to hear a totally unplugged set of some fine music. Oh yeah, ….. we had a special guest join the guys for the really big show….Woodstock’s own……Happy Traum……has come to do some playing as well. It’s a great night of music and the three kings are set up left to right…..David, Jorma and Happy. Happy starts things off with “I am a Pilgrim”….this is a personal favorite and I’m glad …..very glad…..to hear Happy kick it off. As was the case in most all of the songs…..one guy picked the tune and the others joined in…and joined in they did putting their own touch into the music. Next JK followed with “Let’s Us Get Together, Right Down Here” and David followed that with “Wayfaring Stranger”…..you can see there was a pattern being established here. So we have a real special ……hopefully not once in a lifetime experience…..to end this great day at the Full Moon. As I headed on up to my cabin, I looked at the painted Full Moon marquee sign that hangs by the entrance and dang if there wasn’t an actual full moon hanging high in the heavens right over the sign. As the Cap likes to say……You can’t make this stuff up.



On the last day of classes……Jorma starts his recap early…..Jorma and I are looking to be on the road to the Great South Bay Music Festival by 10:30 am. We bid everyone a fine farewell and give thanks for another great session at the Full Moon. We’ve left at just the right time and we are able to make it through all the weekend traffic and out to Long Island before it gets too crazy. We get over to the concert sight for the festival and it is right on the water in a nice setting. It’s a great day of music and we get to hear David Bromberg with his quartet play a great set before Electric Hot Tuna takes the stage. This is Tuna Country…. people… and the place is packed and Hot Tuna delivers a blistering electric performance and from what I could see……this was a super charged audience getting a turbo charged booster from Electric Hot Tuna putting it out with no energy shortage in sight. Tomorrow we’re heading for Italy……..

PETE HUTTLINGER UPDATE

As some of you may know, our friend, Pete Huttlinger has been having some serious health issues. The gravity of these issues came to light for us at the beginning of this year’s Fur Peace Ranch camp season. Pete was suppose to be here on that weekend teaching and a few days before he would have arrived we heard from Erin, Pete’s wife, that he was back in the hospital and that it was unlikely he would be out of the hospital or able to teach on that opening weekend. We were able……with the help of Pete, Erin and Kim……to find a great substitute teacher for that class….and Tim Thompson did a great job of filling in for Professor Pete.

Since that time we have fielded many calls from folks concerned about Pete’s health. We have also received calls from some of our most respected Fur Peace alumni suggesting that we help organize “Donations for Pete” through the Ranch. Over this past weekend we thought about how we could do this and we also reached out to Erin to see how she felt about this. We have been given the “Go Ahead” from Erin and will start to collect monetary donations for Pete. If you feel inclined and are able to help in this regard……PLEASE send your check to the Fur Peace Ranch and note on the check that it is to be used for the “Donations for Pete” fund. We will then forward one big check (each month) to the Huttlingers. Our address is — Fur Peace Ranch, 39495 St. Clair Rd., Pomeroy, OH 45769.

I got a note from Erin today. I’ve asked her if it would be OK to post it on my blog and she has responded with an OK. Here is the letter………..

Hi John;

Thank you for all the wonderful support we feel from everyone individually at Fur Peace and from Fur Peace collectively.

Here are some things you can share with those asking.

1. To follow Pete’s progress, I will be posting at CaringBridge www.caringbridge.org/visit/petehuttlinger

2. I know that people are wanting to offer financial support. I can’t tell you how much we both appreciate that. I am opening a special account for this. People can either send checks directly to me, or via Fur Peace. The check(s) should probably be made out to me (Erin Huttlinger) so I don’t have to worry about whether Pete is up to endorsing them or not. They can be mailed to: P.O. Box 58283, Nashville, TN, 37205.

Thanks so much for all your help.

YES ERIN…….we are glad to be of help and we offer our prayers, a most powerful helper, as well! I checked out the Caring Bridge site and it is very good way to keep up on Pete’s progress. There is a sign-in requirement to get on the site, but even I could do it…….so you shouldn’t have any problems.

Thanks and Respect to all our wonderful Fur Peace Ranchers who have called to inquire about Pete…..please keep him in your thoughts and prayers.

Hurl & The Captain

Hurl: Good Morning Captain…….Good morning to you sir!…..Hey Jorma, Thanks for taking the time to answer a few questions regarding the fantastic new Hot Tuna release, “Steady As She Goes”. I know you’ll be taking off on the bus soon, so let’s get started. FIRST OFF……Big congratulations on the new record……You know I’ve been a fan of yours and Hot Tuna’s music since I was in high-school and some how all these years later you are still able to create such a wonderful work of art and a masterpiece that hangs nicely with all of the other great Hot Tuna records in the group’s 40 year span. How have you been able to sustain your inspiration for Hot Tuna for so long??????

JK: Simple… It’s not only what I do… It’s what I love to do! I have been blessed to have a career that is inspired by the music. Hot Tuna’s been an active band since 1970. Jack and I are each others oldest friends………..I cannot think of another person on this planet that I have been able to explore my songs with. Jack lets me be me.

HURL: I really love the format of the new record as I like the mix of acoustic and electric …..ballads and blues…you have a nice variety of musical styling’s on “Steady As She Goes”. In some ways it reminds me of my favorites…..”Burgers”…..and “Phosphorescent Rat”. Is it a challenge for you and the band to mix things up in this regard as compared to an all acoustic project or the powerhouse electric records you made in the late 70′s.??????

JK: Nope… once again, this was simple for us. The songs themselves told us how they wanted to be treated. I’m not really sure why that is…..because there were a lot of years that I personally struggled to write. I don’t question it………..

Hurl: “Second Chances” is one of the best songs you’ve ever written Jorma and I know it is a recent composition. What can you tell us about this song….. the creative process of “Songwriting” …. and how you were motivated and inspired to write some of the new songs on “Steady As She Goes”????

JK: For me, songwriting is seeing that rabbit in the field, following him and when he goes down a hole, I’m right behind him. Second Chances was one of those songs that was already a part of me…my life. I just followed it until it revealed itself to me. Barry helped me out with the music one night when I was staying at his house. So I guess you could say that it revealed itself to him too. We are lucky to have second chances in this life.

Hurl: Were there a lot of songs in your head when you went into the studio to record or did you go into the studio with all the material pretty much all worked out?

JK: Some of the songs were in a finished state, and some sprouted as the project advanced. For instance, Jack had been living with the music to Smokerise Journey for a very long time apparently. He came to me with the music at Levon’s and said, I need lyrics. The next morning, those lyrics rose from the smoke of a memory I had. Larry forged the chords and my lyrics into a chart for a great song. It turns out that it was exactly what Jack was feeling. That doesn’t happen often…..it was meant to be written I guess:

Hurl: “Smokerise Journey” is a sweet song and it marks the first time that Jack and You have collaborated in the art of songwriting……very nice….. I love the way “Easy Now Revisited” turned out….One of your great songs from back in the day gets a fresh visit with some new lyrics to boot…..Why did you choose to revisit “Easy Now”?

JK: Easy Now was a song back ‘in the day’ about a motorcycle trip I wanted to take but never did. Easy Now Revisited is about a motorcycle trip I did take last year.

Hurl: The addition of a female vocalist is a real nice touch and Teresa Williams does a fine job in that roll…..However, it is different for Hot Tuna……How was it having Teresa singing with you and how did that come about?

JK: Over the last couple of years I’ve been blessed by being able to do lots of projects with Larry and Teresa. If Teresa weren’t so busy, I’d love to have her with me everywhere I go. She always makes me sound good.

Hurl: Larry Campbell has been making quite a name for himself as a producer and he does a great job as the producer on “Steady As She Goes”…..What do you feel makes a great producer and how was it working with Larry???

JK: Larry’s musical sensibilities are impeccable. His talent to understand his artists and to totally become a member of the team makes him invaluable as a producer. The fact that he is one of the greatest musicians I know…..didn’t hurt.

Hurl: As a producer did Larry get Jack and you to do some things that you might have not thought to do….say if you were producing this project by yourself????

JK: I would never want to produce one of my own projects. How boring. Larry shines the light, we notice it and follow. At this point I cannot imagine using anyone else to produce our music. I was lucky enough to have Larry produce River of Time and I really believe that River of Time and the spirit that went in to that project inspired all of us to make Steady As She Goes…Larry included.

Hurl: Barry and Skoota are such fine musicians and they sure add a potent contribution to the recording…..What say you about working with these two newer members of the Hot Tuna family?

JK: A perfect fit no matter how you look at it. Barry and Skoota were definitely ordained to be part of our group. Good stuff!

Hurl: Everyone I’ve talked to about the new record has been pretty stoked and elated with the fact that first off there is a NEW record and secondly that it sounds so great! I’ve had more then a few folks say that there are a number of songs on the new record that go back even further then CLASSIC HOT TUNA……they hear a Jefferson Airplane sound and feel…….Did you feel that as well?

JK: Absolutely. Working on this project opened many doors and freed me in a profound way!

Hurl: Having an instrumental tune on a Hot Tuna record has become a welcomed expectation and on “Steady As She Goes” this is once again the case with the CD closer, “Vicksburg Stomp”. Would you comment on that and tell us about how that recording came together???

JK: Barry brought this great tune into my life and I encouraged him to let us record it for Steady As She Goes. Vicksburg Stomp is very much like a lot of the instrumentals I have done and written over the years…..it was a fit that I just couldn’t let go away.

Hurl: I really dig your guitar sound on “Children of Zion”……how did you achieve that sound and how long have you been familiar with this Rev. Gary Davis composition????

JK: Well, you know how much I love the Rev. I’ve known about Children of Zion for a long time. I just finally got the insights to make it happen. The guitar sound is a Gibson SST Chet Atkins through a Oahu steel guitar amp from the thirties.

Hurl: Jorma……..You’ve had a long and blessed career……What is similar and what is remarkably different in the recording process from back then and now????

JK: The creative process is no longer a haphazard mystery. There is always room for magic to happen, but I am now able to at least give it a little direction.

Hurl: Well, I could keep on going……but I know you’ve got to go……What can you say in closing as to how satisfied you are with the sound you achieved on “Steady As She Goes” and the joy of a new studio recording for Hot Tuna????

JK: I couldn’t be happier with this project. Now I’m starting to think about the next, but first… our show at the Avalon in Eastern MD with Larry and Teresa! Oh…..wait….you forgot to ask about “A Little Faster”. I have to thank you and Vanessa for that song. As a manager bringing a song to a band is always a delicate task. But Vanessa brought me a real winner. And You, John…..wrote that beauty. It gives me such joy to be able to do one of your songs. Jack and Skoota really play off of each other in the middle of A Little Faster. If I didn’t know better, I’d think it was an old Tuna classic! Thanks!

Vanessa, Resident Hot Tuna Artist Kevin Morgan and John Hurlbut

Vanessa, Resident Hot Tuna Artist Kevin Morgan and John Hurlbut

Hurl: Thanks Jorma, it is truly quite an honor to have one of my own songs recorded by one of my heros. Thanks for your time have a great tour. Bless Up! and rock steady!