Roadhouse Album Review: “The Legendary Typewriter Tape” a magical session between Janis Joplin and Jorma Kaukonen — 58 years in the making

Janis Joplin & Jorma Kaukonen — “The Legendary Typewriter Tape” — Omnivore Recordings

The complete title, which wouldn’t fit in that line above, because my design standards, is more explanatory: “The Legendary Typewriter Tape: 6/25/64 Jorma’s House.”

It’s a very personal look at two artists in the making. Joplin would soon join Big Brother & the Holding Company and go on to be — Janis Joplin.

Kaukonen would go on to join the Jefferson Airplane and then Hot Tuna bands.

This all-too-brief album was the result of the taping by Kaukonen of a rehearsal session between himself and Joplin at his house on Fremont Street in Santa Clara, Calif. — more than half a century ago.

They were both young: Joplin 21; Kaukonen 23. They were in process of becoming the stars they would become in just a few years.

Janis was fascinated by the early women blues singers, and that’s what comes through in the raw, honest simplicity of this music. Even though she didn’t really perform this kind of music later, you can feel how she had already absorbed the blues into her persona.

The songs are a handful of classic, traditional blues: “Trouble in Mind,” “Long Black Train,” “Kansas City Blues,” “Hesitation Blues,” “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out,” and “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” There’s a little bit of chatter here and there as they discuss what to play. And the tapping heard occasionally in the background — Kaukonen’s wife Margareta typing a letter — is what gives this session its name, the typewriter tape.

Despite its lack of polish and production, this is the best kind of music. It’s two young performers exploring their possibilities. It’s plain and simple acoustic music, but filled with the complexities of the songs, and you can hear Janis testing her ability to convey their passion. You can hear the formative notes of her later, powerful style.

It’s also the kind of music you should hear even if it comes 58 years too late.


Jorma Kaukonen 2016 interview on the “Typewriter Tape” from KQED.


“Hesitation Blues” from the album:

Track list:

  1. “ARE WE TAPING NOW?” (dialog)
  2. TROUBLE IN MIND
  3. LONG BLACK TRAIN
  4. KANSAS CITY BLUES
  5. HESITATION BLUES
  6. NOBODY KNOWS YOU WHEN YOU’RE DOWN AND OUT
  7. “HOW ‘BOUT THIS?” (dialog)
  8. DADDY, DADDY, DADDY

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