Jorma Kaukonen isn’t quite so famous as some of his musical peers, a group that includes Janis Joplin, Jerry Garcia and Jimi Hendrix. Yet unlike those eminences and many others, Mr. Kaukonen—a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame guitarist best known for his work with Jefferson Airplane—has hung around. Still touring as he approaches 80, he has now written an engaging memoir that will interest even those who wouldn’t know Hot Tuna (his current band) from a can of sardines.
...When Kaukonen was 16, he was inspired by a guitar-playing friend to play music and, with his father’s help, bought his first guitar. In high school, he met Jack Casady, who would become the bassist for Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna, and the two began a lifelong friendship and musical partnership ... A mesmerizing storyteller, Kaukonen delivers a memoir as intricate and dazzling as his music.
...The son of a State Department attaché, Kaukonen’s formative years were spent traveling around the world. Along the way, he became an obsessive finger-picking guitarist and, luckily, wound up back on the family’s California home turf at a time when legendary bands were formed at a moment’s notice. Such was the case with the Airplane, which reaped a hefty advance from the beginning and created a new and defiantly trippy sound ... Kaukonen spares little in describing the winding path of his life, both the ups (writing and playing music) and the downs (addiction and a destructive codependent marriage). Unfortunately, his philosophical and spiritual ramblings become increasingly repetitive and tedious ... An honest personal portrait but also one where the author could have revealed more—and written less.