On March 1st, Milwaukee’s Shank Hall welcomed blues, folk, rock guitarist Jorma Kaukonen, Jr. for the first time in over 20 years. Jorma performed with Jefferson Airplane and still performs regularly on tour with Hot Tuna, which he started as a side project with bassist Jack Casady, and as of early 2022 has continued for 53 years. Rolling Stone magazine ranked Jorma #54 on its list of 100 Greatest Guitarists.
Kevin O’Toole first met Jorma when he attended the Fur Peace Ranch which is the 126-acre ranch that Jorma owns in Ohio and runs guitar camps from. Over the next 20+ years KOT and Jorma shared a friendship around their love of playing guitar.
Kevin played Shank Hall numerous times over the years as a solo artist and with his band’s H2OH and The Basement Boys. Kevin had a longstanding friendship with Peter Jest, owner of Shank Hall. When Jorma was unable to attend KOT’s funeral because he was touring in Europe, Peter had an idea. He decided to book Jorma to play the club and he would invite the O’Toole family to attend and together they could share in the experience of honoring and memorializing Kevin on the walls of Shank Hall.
Anyone who has been to Shank Hall remembers 2 things – the mini-Stonehenge suspended over the stage (thanks This is Spinal Tap) and the walls covered with 8 x 10 photos of all the national artists who have performed there. Kevin’s picture now adorns the wall too. After Jorma’s show, he invited the family backstage with him to catch up and then they all went out front to watch Kevin’s photo being placed on the wall.
It was a great night of amazing music and a fitting tribute to KOT from some very special and thoughtful friends. If you get a chance, attend a show at Shank Hall, explore the walls to find KOT, and remember how he believed in the healing power of music. Music Heals.
As KOT would say, “Thanks for listening”.