A chance meeting led guitarist Sam Andrew to form a band with Peter Albin more than 40 years ago. After all these years, Big Brother and the Holding Company are still around. “It was one of those aimless things,” says Andrew. “If I had turned left instead of right, it might have never happened. I was walking down Page Street [in San Francisco], which is parallel to Haight, and I heard him playing a John Lee Hooker guitar style, which he could do really well. I was like, ‘We should form a band. This sounds great.’ We jammed for quite a while and then it took off.”
The guys eventually recruited a singer from Texas named Janis Joplin and their psychedelic blues took on an entirely new dimension. The late Joplin will be honored next month at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's 14th Annual American Music Masters series, but because Big Brother and the Holding Company will be on tour (they’re scheduled to play a few shows in Greece that week), they’re arriving in Cleveland a few weeks early to kick things off.
At 5 p.m. Thursday in the Rock Hall’s 4th FloorTheatre, the band (which also includes Dave Getz) will conduct a brief interview session and sign autographs. Later that day, they’ll perform at the Beachland Ballroom at 7 p.m. with local singer Mary Bridget Davies, an actress and singer who played Joplin the stage production Love, Janis. The Rock Hall event is free; tickets to the Beachland show are $18 in advance and $20 the day of the show.
While Andrew expressed regret that he wouldn’t be able to attend the American Music Masters Series, he reminisced fondly about the late Joplin, who died in 1970 of a heroin overdose. "She was tough," he says. "She wouldn’t go along just to get along.
“She was self-contained. She was a girl coming into the band from a really rural town in Texas. I can’t imagine what it was like then, although it’s kind of gentrified now, like everything else She came into a band and a counterculture scene and she wasn’t intimidated at all. She was collected and non-compromising. She was really funny in kind of a Texas way that’s hard to describe. She was loud. I liked Janis a lot. She showed up on time. That’s a great thing when you work with someone every day.” —Jeff Niesel