Song of the Week – Hesitation Blues, Janis Joplin & Jorma Kaukonen


This week a new Janis Joplin documentary, Little Girl Blue, was broadcast on PBS’ American Masters. I had a chance to watch it and think it was worthwhile. It wasn’t the best documentary I’ve ever seen, but it earned some kudos for access to family letters and discovery of some previously unseen archival footage that the filmmaker provided to us.

There were also a few interesting bits of information that were new to me like her romance with David Niehaus, an American she met while she was on a “detox” holiday in Rio in early 1970.

Another bit of information that grabbed my attention was the existence of the “typewriter tape” – a recording she made with the pre Jefferson Airplane/Hot Tuna guitarist Jorma Kaukonen in 1964. The tape got its name because you can hear Kaukonen’s wife typing a letter in the background as Janis and Jorma tape a rehearsal in his Santa Clara home when he was still a senior at Santa Clara University (prior to moving into San Francisco’s Haight district).

Today’s SotW is “Hesitation Blues” from the Typewriter Tape.

The fidelity of this recording isn’t great (it wasn’t a true demo) but the performance and historical value makes it worth a listen. Joplin’s command of the blues and Kaukonen’s finger picking guitar style are both very impressive for their age and experience. “Hesitation Blues” would remain a standard in Kaukonen’s repertoire. It was the first cut on Hot Tuna’s first album in 1970.

If you would like to learn more about the Typewriter Tape, check out KQED’s Gabe Meline’s recent interview with Kaukonen.

Enjoy… until next week.

5 thoughts on “Song of the Week – Hesitation Blues, Janis Joplin & Jorma Kaukonen

  1. They could play, and I like the typewriter. Plus, she could sing.It’s a funny thing to find virtuosity in this stuff. I don’t mean it is better than everything, but nobody did it better. That’s cool.

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