Guest Author - Lizz Shepherd
Big Brother and the Holding Company was a house band that played San Francisco's Avalon Ballroom in 1966. While they had a steadily-growing fan base for their instrumental rock sound, the band soon decided to hire a vocalist to expand their sound to lyrical compositions. While the band was already popular in San Francisco and believed that they were doing an unknown Janis Joplin a favor by hiring her for vocals, it was Janis' fierce lyrics and unapologetic vocal style that carried the band from the local scene to international stardom.
By the end of the year, the band had a record contract, releasing "Big Brother and the Holding Company" in 1967 and "Cheap Thrills" in 1968. Joplin and Big Brother and the Holding Company enjoyed success with both albums and performed at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. This performance became one of the best-known parts of the festival. The band's Saturday afternoon set was extended to a second day after the festival promoters witnessed the spectacular performance.
In late 1968, Janis Joplin split with the group in order to form her own band, eventually called Kosmic Blues Band. This new band released a gold record, I Got Dem Ol' Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, and the group performed at Woodstock. In early 1970, she again started a new band, this time called the Full Tilt Boogie Band. Unfortunately, the new band's releases were posthumous ones. On October 4, 1970, Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose.
Most of the surviving members of Big Brother and the Holding Company still tour occasionally. Since 1987 they have toured without a permanent lead singer to replace Joplin.
After 20 years, 12 unreleased songs recorded by Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company were released in a two-CD set called The Lost Tapes. The songs were recorded during local San Francisco concerts in 1966-67.
Do you recognize the audience member marveling at the end of Joplin's Monterey Pop performance?