NJ Honors Jorma Kaukonen For Entertaining ‘During Difficult Times’

One of the few rock legends ever to be immediately recognized by his first name got a bi-partisan ovation from New Jersey lawmakers this week.



Photo Credit: Jefferson Airplane FACEBOOK

In town for a socially-responsible, two-night outdoor run at Monmouth Park’s Blu Grotto, Jorma Kaukonen received a commendation from the state Legislature for providing New Jerseyans with “wonderful respite and entertainment during difficult times.”

The Grammy-winning former Jefferson Airplane and long-running Hot Tuna lead guitarist has played livestreams and capacity-reduced gigs throughout the pandemic.

Kaukonen, 79, has compared the current-day effects of the pandemic on American society to the Great Depression of nearly a century ago. His style harkens to eras that far back -- and beyond -- melding traditional blues, folk and gospel with both hard rock and spacey psychedelic riffs.

“You guys are tough out there. If I had a hat, I’d take it off to you,” Jorma told the crowd before sliding into “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” a circa 1920s blues number that he recorded with Hot Tuna and more recently was popularized by Eric Clapton.

Other traditional blues, folk and country selections over two nights included Jelly Roll Morton’s “Don't You Leave Me Here,” Jimmie Rodgers’ “Waiting For a Train,” Blind Blake’s “That’ll Never Happen No More” and the Dellmore Brothers’ “Blue Railroad Train.”

Jorma also performed Hot Tuna’s “Serpent of Dreams,” “True Religion,” “In The Kingdom,” “Barroom Crystal Ball,” “Water Song” and “Uncle Sam Blues.” 

Kaukonen's was a young man when he got the nickname “Blind Thomas Jefferson Airplane,” which was later shortened to what became the name of the pioneering Sixties psychedelic rock band from San Francisco. He worked in several Airplane numbers during his Blu Grotto shows -- among them, “Trial By Fire,” “Third Week in Chelsea” and “Embryonic Journey,” among others.

Red Bank’s Count Basie Center for the Arts has been staging supper club-type shows at the Oceanport racetrack featuring musicians and comedians the past few months. The outdoor tables at the Blu Grotto are spaced six feet apart and patrons must wear their masks when they get up to go anywhere.

Max Weinberg’s Jukebox is there Friday. Comedian Bill Burr shows up for two shows each next Tuesday and Wednesday. Wynton Marsalis is among the artists scheduled next month.

GO TO: Blu Grotto Upcoming Events

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