Janis Joplin

REVIEW: Janis Joplin & Jorma Kaukonen “Legendary Typewriter Tape 1964”


Janis Joplin & Jorma Kaukonen – Legendary Typewriter Tape 1964

This spare 23-minute historical document recorded in the Fall of 1962 is where kindred spirits — future Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen met the young blues Texas belter, Janis Joplin. It was at a hootenanny at the Folk Theater in San Jose. Of course, life interferes. Their pairing was brief.

But they managed to create what’s become known as the “typewriter tape” at Jorma’s home. It was recorded on June 25th, 1964. The 6-music tracks (2 cuts of brief dialogue) were captured during a rare rehearsal for a benefit scheduled at Grant Street’s Coffee Gallery in San Francisco. It’s just Janis (vocals), guitarist Jorma with Margareta Kaukonen on a typewriter.


Produced for an Omnivore release by Cheryl Pawelski, this is the set’s first official release as the Legendary Typewriter Tape 1964 (Drops Dec 2). It isn’t meant to be a high-end production because it was something rehearsed. So, though it’s meant more for the curious, the purists, aficionados & completists – it’s a miracle it survives at all — 60 years later.

It’s not confirmed what type of machine was used to record but it was Jorma’s reel-to-reel tape recorder. The restoration & mastering of the original sound source was made by Grammy-Award winner Michael Graves. There are 2 Joplin originals, 1 traditional song arranged by Janis & 3 individual blues classics by Richard M. Jones, Lonnie Johnson & Jimmie Cox.

The rehearsal is in the same room where Margareta types & which wasn’t intended to be an effect. Hearing Janis’ voice speak is pleasant & she’s loose because she’s doing what she loves to do & not hampered by any anxiety of fame.

“Trouble In Mind,” is straightforward blues that even with a younger voice stings of living hard, out on the road, poor times & slipping from the mouth of a girl only 19 years old & not yet bruised or damaged by life.

Janis Joplin

For a home reel-to-reel (Wollensak was popular at this time) the clarity & quality is surprisingly good. So, I suspect the microphone may not have been a tape recorder mike but a good high-end one that Jorma plugged in.

“Long Black Train,” has a developing vocal style & “Kansas City Blues” both sound good since Jorma’s guitar never competes with Joplin’s vocals (assuming they’re using only one mike). The quality sounds like a Robert Johnson hotel recorded session from back in the 1930s. The beat is by Jorma’s foot with at times the typewriter sounding quite striking (no pun).

The other tunes: “Hesitation Blues,” (very Bessie Smith oriented), “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down & Out,” & “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy.” Interesting takes that suggest this young soulful lady has something that comes from a deep bluesy place.

The 6-panel fold-out CD has nice B&W images of Janis & Jorma by Marjorie Alette via the California Historical Society. CD @ Amazon + https://omnivorerecordings.com/shop/legendary-typewriter-tapes/


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