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Jorma Kaukonen

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Jorma Ludwik Kaukonen, Jr. (born December 23, 1940) is an American blues, folk, and rock guitarist, best known for his work with Jefferson Airplane and Hot Tuna.

Born in Washington, D.C., the son of Beatrice Love (née Levine) and Jorma Ludwig Kaukonen, Jorma Kaukonen had Finnish paternal grandparents and Russian Jewish ancestry on his mother’s side. Kaukonen was a founding member of the popular psychedelic San Francisco-based band Jefferson Airplane, which scored two Top 10 radio hits in 1967 with “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit.”

Kaukonen learned to play guitar as a teenager in Washington, D.C. But before moving to the D.C. area, Jorma and family lived in the Philippines and other locales as he followed his father’s career from assignment to assignment before returning to the place of his birth. As a teenager in Washington he and future Jefferson Airplane bassist Jack Casady (who at the time played six-string guitar) formed a band named The Triumphs. Kaukonen departed Washington for studies at Antioch College where friend Ian Buchanan taught him fingerstyle guitar playing. Buchanan also introduced Kaukonen to the music of Reverend Gary Davis, whose songs have remained important parts of Kaukonen’s repertoire throughout his career.

In 1962 Kaukonen moved to the San Francisco Bay Area and enrolled at Santa Clara University. During this time he taught guitar lessons at Benner Music Company in San Jose. As a self-described blues purist, Kaukonen never had any ambition to play in a rock band.

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