Hot Tuna Founder Among The Coolest Of Athens, OH Recently, The Athens News ran a competition to determine the "coolest" person in the Ohio county. The results? A local banjo player beat out a founding member of The Jefferson Airplane.
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Hot Tuna Founder Among The Coolest Of Athens, OH

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Hot Tuna Founder Among The Coolest Of Athens, OH

Hot Tuna Founder Among The Coolest Of Athens, OH

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This is Talk of the Nation. I'm Neal Conan at the studios of the WOUB radio network in Athens, Ohio. Here are the headlines from some of the stories we're following at NPR News today. The Bush administration is considering taking part ownership in a number of U.S. banks hoping the move would end the lending freeze that's threatening to turn into a global recession. And the new draft of a National Intelligence Estimate says Afghanistan is in a downward spiral and that the Afghan government has been ineffective in preventing the rise of influence by the Taliban. You can here details on those stories, and of course, much more later today on All Things Considered.

Tomorrow, it's Science Friday and Ira Flatow will be here with a look at a new law that ensures better coverage for mental health and addiction, plus tips on bracing your garden for chilly weather and composting in your kitchen. That's all tomorrow on Talk of the Nation's Science Friday from NPR News.

Our next guest is a founding member of the Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna. He lives here in Athens, Ohio. Jorma Kaukonen runs the Fur Peace Ranch Guitar Camp here in Southeastern Ohio. A radio show of concerts from there airs on the WOUB Radio Network. Jorma Kaukonen's newest album is called "Stars in My Crown" and he is kind enough to join us here today. Thanks so much for coming in.

Mr. JORMA KAUKONEN (Founding Member, Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna): Thanks for having me.

(Soundbite of crowd applauding)

CONAN: You got a couple of fans here, too. If you have a question for Jorma Kaukonen, then give us as call, 800-989-8255, or zap us an email, Why don't you start us off with at a tune?

Mr. KAUKONEN: Sure. I was - thanks for having me. I'm a local guy. I live here you know. It's nice to see what you look like. I listen to your show all the time.

CONAN: Sorry about the shock though.

Mr. KAUKONEN: I was thinking about doing a song that I wrote, you know. Well, we get insignificant amounts of money for doing that but I figured I'm going to do a song about by Reverend Gary Davis and it's called "Let Us Get Together" because I think that maybe we ought to be getting together on something here. So...

(Soundbite of song "Let Us Get Together")

Mr. KAUKONEN (Singing): Well, let us get together right down here. Get together children, yeah. Get together (unintelligible) right down here. Get together, children. Head right down here. Well let us do our living right down here. Do our living, children, yeah. Do our living right down here. Do our living, children, right down here. Well, let us do our voting right down here. Do our voting I said, right here. Do our voting right - right down here. Do our voting, children. Head right down here.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: Jorma Kaukonen, did Gary Davis write all those words?



Mr. KAUKONEN: Well, he said God give them to him.

CONAN: All right. (Unintelligible) about that. Anyway, most of us - you say, you live here. Most of us associate your name with San Francisco and guitars with pickups on them.

Mr. KAUKONEN: That's true. I do that also. I'm actually from Washington, D.C. I'm an East Coast guy and my family's lived and my grandfather lived in Marietta and I went to school at Antioch College before they closed it. So I have an Ohio history. I've been there for almost 20 years now.

CONAN: And the Fur Peace Ranch, what's that's about?

Mr. KAUKONEN: Well, the Fur Peace Ranch - it's called the Fur Peace Ranch because it's a fur peace from anywhere.

(Soundbite of laughter)

And we have a music school down there and we're open from April through November. We have a lot of really wonderful artists that play and we have, as you know, a little radio show here in WOUB and I'm proud to be a member of the community here.

CONAN: November from - through April when the weather here is not so great.

Mr. KAUKONEN: Well, you know, we're about wintry mix down here. It's not that bad.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: You know I meant to challenge people around the country. Tons of songs about rain, tons of songs - but there's no songs about wintry mix.

Mr. KAUKONEN: I can't begin to think what would rhyme would that. But I'm going to think about it for awhile.

CONAN: Sure, I'm a fan of Stevie Nicks. Boy do I love - anyway.

Mr. KAUKONEN: Wait a minute. Let me write that down.

CONAN: I noticed that the Athens News recently asked its readers to name the coolest person in Athens County. And Jorma Kaukonen, you came in second.

Mr. KAUKONEN: I did? Good grief.

CONAN: Joining us know is the bonafide coolest person in Athens County, Hilarie Burhans. It's great to have you with us here.

Ms. HILARIE BURHANS (Coolest Person, Athens County, Ohio; Banjo player): It's nice to be here, Neal.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: Like Jorma Kaukonen, you're a musician, a banjo player. And I should point out, I probably have probably inadvertently heard you. We both spent parts of summers in a part of Massachusetts across a different part of a small lake locals there call a pond. So, I probably heard your banjo music just coming across the water.

Ms. BURHANS: Maybe. Yeah. I've visited my friend, Peggy Conan(ph), in her place there. So...

CONAN: Well, would you be - play us a tune on your banjo now?

Ms. BURHANS: Sure.

(Soundbite of song "Pretty Little Dog")

(Soundbite of applause)

Ms. BURHANS: Thanks.

CONAN: And Hilarie Burnhans, what was that tune?

Ms. BURHANS: It's a tune called "Pretty Little Dog." It's a traditional tune.

CONAN: And I have to ask, what do you think qualifies you to win the election as the coolest person in Athens County?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BURHANS: I've always suspected that playing the banjo made you really cool, you know. But I didn't really - no, I don't know. My employees did a lot voting, I think.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BURHANS: Because we have a restaurant here in town, sort of a silk road cuisine restaurant called Salaam and I noticed we won first runner-up for best place to work which makes me think that my employees and their friends must have been doing a lot of voting.

CONAN: Stuffing the ballot box here if you think, yes.

Ms. BURHANS: Yes, the first place was Ohio University and they can offer a lot better benefits than I can. So...

CONAN: Let's see if we can get a listener on the line, 800-989-8255. Email us, And our first caller is Tom and Tom is calling us from Rochester in New York, Tom.

TOM (Caller): Hey, Jorma. How you doing?

Mr. KAUKONEN: Never better. How are you?

TOM: Not bad. You did a show here at the Penny Arcade probably 20 years ago and I was doing monitors and it was just a wonderful time.

Mr. KAUKONEN: Thanks. Did I do anything I need to apologize for?

(Soundbite of laughter)

TOM: I'm sorry.

Mr. KAUKONEN: Do I did - did I do anything I need to apologize for?

TOM: Not at all.


TOM: No, you were here with Jack actually back then.


TOM: You moved from Woodstock. Weren't you in Woodstock at that point?

Mr. KAUKONEN: I was.

CONAN: Woodstock, New York.

Mr. KAUKONEN: I did. I moved from Woodstock to here.

CONAN: And why did you move from Woodstock, New York to here.

Mr. KAUKONEN: Well there are number of reasons, you know, Lord works a mysterious way. I got a friend on the farm down there. He called me in '89 and I came down. I looked at this piece of property which had nothing out but multi-floral rose and pricker bushes and stuff. I just had a feeling it was a good idea to get it. So I bought it for probably less than it cost to heat the place I was renting in New York for a year, so I moved down here.

CONAN: OK, that's interesting.

TOM: Oh, we miss you. Get back up here.

Mr. KAUKONEN: We'll get up there.

CONAN: All right, Tom. Thanks very much for the phone call. Appreciate it. And we also have somebody here in the studio in Athens, Ohio.

Ms. DIANE MCBAY (Audience): Hi. Yeah. I'm Diane McBay(ph). In fact recently, I heard a show on NPR that was talking about music and math and education with children. And I know Jorma, you have a young child now.


DIANE: I'm wondering if you have some ideas of how we can get more music into the schools because financially it's a problem.

Mr. KAUKONEN: Right. Well first of all, we need a government that supports that kind of stuff. I was - I worked in Australia at a festival on November of last year and they really support the artists down there. It just a different climate. It's totally a different climate. We just don't have the money to do it. So, you know, I guess you need a lot of volunteers.

CONAN: And a government to commit to it. Given the crisis situation that we're going in you can't do anything but believe the money is going to get tighter.

Mr. KAUKONEN: It's - unfortunately, it looks that way.

CONAN: And let's see if we can get another caller on the line. Let's get to somebody else, go ahead please. Who is this?

TIM (Caller): Tim

CONAN: Tim. Hi, Tim. Where are you calling from?

TIM: Portland, Oregon.

CONAN: Go ahead, Tim.

TIM: Jorma, a good friend of Terry Robbs(ph) here in Portland.


TIM: And he's a marvelous player. Anyway, I understood that you guys got back together for a little while with Jefferson Airplane.


TIM: Were you involved in that?

Mr. KAUKONEN: It was 20 years ago but who's counting?

(Soundbite of laughter)

TIM: Oh no, no, no I mean really recently I remember.

Mr. KAUKONEN: No, no, goodness, no.

TIM: I have that album.

Mr. KAUKONEN: You know, just so you can file this away. My friend, Jack, and I who - he's a bass player. He and I played together since '58. We've been friends and cohorts for 50 years.

TIM: Yes. He's a...

Mr. KAUKONEN: Grace Slick, God bless her, is doing all right and she's resolved never to play again, so this completely removes any question of us getting back together again. I don't have to think about it because without her it's not the band.


TIM: OK. I understood that she was there, but she wasn't on stage or anything.

Mr. KAUKONEN: I think you're thinking about the Starship. That's another being.

TIM: Yeah, I understand, Paul's, Paul Cantner's(ph) thing. All right. Well, I really - I love your playing. I play "Sea Child"(ph) whenever I can. I can almost play it.

Mr. KAUKONEN: Bless you. Come on down to the ranch. It's so easy, I'm embarrassed to show you.

TIM: Well, (unintelligible). It's G, C, D with a sliding C note.

CONAN: Don't get away the secret.

(Soundbite of laughter)

CONAN: Anyway, thank...

TIM: Oh, I really should know. I should know how (unintelligible).

CONAN: All right, thanks very much for the call. We appreciate it.

TIM: Thank you. Take care. Bye.

CONAN: We're talking with Jorma Kaukonen, the founding member, as you might have heard of the Jefferson Airplane and the first runner up for the coolest person in Athens County and with the winner of that contest, Hilarie Burhans. They're with us here at WOUB Radio in Athens. You're listening to Talk of the Nation from NPR News. I wonder. Have you guys ever played together?

Mr. KAUKONEN: You know, we haven't and we should.

Ms. BURHANS: We probably should one of these days.

Mr. KAUKONEN: I need to take some banjo lessons from you. That's what I need to do.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. BURHANS: Well, every time I look at you playing guitar, I can't tell where you end and the guitar - where the guitar stops and you end. It's so seamless that I just blown away.

Mr. KAUKONEN: I've been doing it for a long time.

(Soundbite of laughter)


CONAN: You want to try a tune?

Mr. KAUKONEN: Sure. Me or Hil?

CONAN: Well, why don't we hear from - you guys haven't rehearsed so...

Ms. BURHANS: If we're going to play a tune sometime, we should get together not on National Public Radio.

Mr. KAUKONEN: She's really (unintelligible).

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KAUKONEN: People talk about - yeah - the magic that happens.

Ms. BURHANS: Right.

Mr. KAUKONEN: That could be good magic.

Ms. BURHANS: Magic could happen, but it's probably wouldn't happen right here, right now.

CONAN: Yes. OK. Well, Jorma, why don't you go ahead?

Mr. KAUKONEN: Sure. I'd like to do a song that on this last album I did for Red House Records, and it's a Lightning Hopkins song. I love Lightning when I was a kid and it's a song called "Come Back, Baby."

(Soundbite of song "Come Back, Baby")

Mr. KAUKONEN: (Singing) Well, come back, baby. Baby, please don't go. Way I love you, child I want the world to know. Oh, come back, baby. Talk it over one more time. Well, this whole world was made one day. Come back, baby. Sha na(ph), don't go away. Well, come back, baby. Talk it over one more time. Well, come back, baby. Baby, please don't go. Way I love you, child. I want the world to know. Well, come back, baby. Talk it over one more time.

(Soundbite of applause)

CONAN: Jorma Kaukonen. I'm going to ask Hilarie Burhans to play us out. I'm going to do one of those cool radio voice over things as she plays a tune to wind up the program here.

Ms. BURHANS: We do have a new CD, which you can go to to locate. Little "Hangman's Reel," just to take us out.

(Soundbite of song "Hangman's Reel")

CONAN: Jorma Kaukonen and Hilarie Burhans, the two coolest people in Athens County, joined us here in the studios of the WOUB Radio Network in Athens. You could find links to both their websites on our blog at

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