Fur Peace Ranch

I recently had the opportunity to spend a couple of days at Fur Peace Ranch in Pomeroy, Ohio. FPR is a camp which was set up eleven years ago by Jorma Kaukonen and his wife, Vanessa. Jorma brings in 3 or 4 instructors during instruction weekends and class sizes range from 3 to 12 students per class. Students study with only one instructor for the weekend and the sessions are pretty concentrated. Jorma manages to get some really talented instructors, too, all of whom like to teach. I noticed that a guy named Steve Kaufman is on the schedule for next year. Never heard of him but he’s probably okay.  Jorma’s pretty picky.

I was fortunate enough to spend the weekend along with 12 other guys hanging with Tommy Emmanuel, certainly one of the finest acoustic guitarists that has ever lived. Tommy is a lot of fun to hang out with. He’s “one of the guys” and loves to tell lame jokes along with the rest of us. We really had a lot of fun. That first photo below is Tommy telling a joke to Steve James, a really superb blues guitarists who specializes in what he calls “blues roots.” Steve hails from Austin, Texas and is a very entertaining guy with more than a few opinions on this or that.

Bad pirate joke Student performances Tommy playing on the deck Tommy playing on the deck

The second photo is of the student performance. I think this is Jorma’s favorite part of the weekend. When he’s there he acts as both emcee and “roadie” for the students.

One of the joys of spending a weekend with TE is getting the chance to listen to him play and talk. Chet Atkins was his idol and he spent a lot of time with Chet in the years before he died and tells a lot of really cool stories of their time together. Tommy thinks with his hands and it’s just amazing to watch someone be able to express themselves so effortlessly with an instrument.   The last two photos are an impromptu session that Tommy had before class one day, after breakfast, when Tommy just felt like playing in the sun.  That 45 minutes was worth the price of admission alone.

Ray Bookbinder was there that weekend and did a short performance as did Steve James and Marjorie Thompson.  On Saturday night TE did a solo performance to a sell-out crowd at the Fur Peace Station, a small auditorium that is open to the public on concert nights.  FPR is located about 15 minutes south of Athens, Ohio, the home of Ohio University and Stewart-MacDonald luthery supplies.  You can check out some of the performances here. Tommy’s concert will air later this month. If you’ve never seen this guy perform, I recommend it highly. He has amazing stage presence.

The food’s just amazing, too. Virtually everyone who goes to FPR comes away with the same reaction: it was the best weekend of their life (not counting the 48 hour R & R in Thailand or whatnot). That was my third trip and certainly not my last.  Highly, highly recommended.

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