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Big Brother & The Holding Company

Big Brother are primarily remembered as the group that gave Janis Joplin her start. There's no denying both that Joplin was by far the band's most striking asset, and that Big Brother would never have made a significant impression if they hadn't been fortunate enough to add her to their lineup shortly after forming. But Big Brother also occupies a significant place in the history of San Francisco psychedelic rock, as one of the bands that best captured the era's loosest, reckless, and indulgent qualities in its high-energy mutations of blues and folk-rock.

Big Brother were formed in 1965 in the Haight-Ashbury; by the time Joplin joined in mid-1966, the lineup was Sam Andrew and James Gurley on guitar, Peter Albin on bass, and David Getz on drums. Joplin, a recent arrival from Texas, entered the band at the instigation of Chet Helms, who (other than Bill Graham) was the most important San Francisco rock promoter. Big Brother, like the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service, were not great songwriters or singers. They didn't entirely welcome Joplin's presence at first, though, and Joplin did not dominate the group right away, sharing the lead vocals with other members.

It soon became evident to both band and audience that Joplin's fiery wail -- mature and emotionally wrenching, even at that early stage -- had to be spotlighted to make Big Brother a contender. But Big Brother weren't superfluous to the effort, interpreting folk and blues with an inventive (if sometimes sloppy) eclecticism that often gave way to distorted guitar jamming, and matching Joplin's passion with a high-spirited, anything-goes ethos of their own.

Big Brother catapulted themselves into national attention with their performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, particularly with Joplin's galvanizing interpretation of "Ball and Chain" (which was a highlight of the film of the event). High-powered management and record label bids rolled in immediately, but unfortunately Big Brother had tied themselves up in a bad contract with the small Mainstream label, at a time when they were stranded on the road and needed cash. Their one Mainstream album (released in 1967) actually isn't bad at all, containing some of their stronger cuts, such as "Down on Me" and "Coo Coo." It didn't fully capture the band's strengths, and with the help of new high-powered manager Albert Grossman (also handler of Bob Dylan, the Band, and Peter, Paul & Mary), they extricated themselves from the Mainstream deal and signed with Columbia.

The one Big Brother album for Columbia that featured Joplin, Cheap Thrills (1968), wasn't completed without problems of its own. John Simon found the band so difficult to work with that he withdrew his production credit from the final LP, which was assembled from both studio sessions and live material (recorded for an aborted concert album). Cheap Thrills nonetheless went to number one when it was finally released, and though it too was an erratic affair, it contained some of the best moments of acid rock's glory days, including "Ball and Chain," "Summertime," "Combination of the Two," and "Piece of My Heart."

Cheap Thrills made Big Brother superstars, a designation that was short-lived. By the end of 1968, Joplin had decided to go solo, a move from which neither she nor Big Brother ever fully recovered. That's putting matters too simply: Joplin never found a backing band as sympathetic, but did record some excellent material in the remaining two years of her life. Big Brother, on the other hand, had the wind totally knocked out of their sails. Although they did re-form for a while in the early '70s with different singers (indeed, they continued to perform in watered-down variations into the '90s), nothing would ever be the same. ~ Richie Unterberger
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: Hold Me - Live In Germany!

1. Down On Me (Live 2007)

2. Combination Of The Two (Live 2007)

3. Call On Me (Live 2007)

4. Save Your Love (Live 2007)

5. Blind Man (Live 2007)

6. Summertime (Live 2007)

7. Turtle Blues (Live 2007)

8. It's Cool (Live 2007)

9. Hold Me (Live 2007)

10. Women Is Losers (Live 2007)

11. Piece Of My Heart (Live 2007)

12. Ball And Chain (Live 2007)

x

Track List: Cheap Thrills

2. I Need A Man To Love

3. Summertime

4. Piece Of My Heart

5. Turtle Blues

6. Oh, Sweet Mary

7. Ball And Chain

8. Roadblock

9. Flower In The Sun

Comments

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A. Album name was originally "Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Thrills." Columbia nixed that.
B. Best lead guitar I ever heard live. 1968 I love you.
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The PBS Series American Masters had a good documentary on Janis entitled Little Girl Blue. You can watch it online
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Such an awesome kick a** Jam Janis Joplin. She sings her a** off on this Jam! Such a classic tune! Big brother @ the holding, at their finest! Rest in peace Janis Joplin. This music will live on in the annals of rock & roll forever! Rock on!
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Janis had great success after leaving Big Brother but many of us who lived in the era know that Janis made Big Brother & The Holding Company famous and BB&THC made Janis famous.
The album cover of Cheap Thrills is as iconic as that of Cream's Disraeli Gears. Captures the fantasy of the era very well.
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My Good friend gave me The Book about her life Success and failure.. More and more I read; I'm thinking I'm ready my Life.. She's my favorite Female Singer..R.I. P . . J a n i s Joplin
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I'd be watching t.v. late at night and my bro, who was 6 yrs older, would steal the changer & there would be the monteray Pop on CBS. Back in those days they played it all the time (late 70s?). Every time Ball and Chain was performed my bro would try to explain that what I was watching was akin to Billy Holliday, Charlie Parker, Howlin Wolf et. al. rolled into 1. It always blew my mind. NO ONE put the energy into th music that she did. Tears in my eyes. God spoke toys thru her and the others.
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@Zorro she wasnt killed in veitnam! She had passed out dead in her motel room. She didnt die cause of a land mine
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Tattooed a red heart on my chest because of Janis just like hers! And still have a tapestry of her on my wall.She will always live. Because she was a gift to us all. A singer and talent like no other.
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Love this song .you were awesome janice
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Viet Nam? Landmine?
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My JJ fav: I Need A Man To Love
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Big Brother was raw, which fit some of their songs, but sloppy and amateurish. Janis' final work with the more polished Full Tilt Boogie band better suited her maturing career. But day-um ! Play Combination Of The Two off of Cheap Thrills at concert level volume some time and you can see how Big Brother & Janis Joplin must have rocked their audiences back then.
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The immortal Joplin
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ittybiddyfar m
Never been matched. ...not even close!
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geraldine.eh i n g e r
Sister SOULMATE YES Love it
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@darcybergh Janis was not with big brother when she recorded Pearl
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Why is Pearl not listed in the discography? ? ? ?
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Saw jimi in 1969 at Lloyd noble center in Norman I was 16 cathy moore
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Caroline Wonderland
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Ok, ..Someone earlier just asked WHO IS this Singer ??? Are you on Crack, Sue?? It is The ONE and ONLY, JANIS JOPLIN !!!! We will never see another like her !!! Only ONCE in this Lifetime, all other singers don't come CLOSE...xoxo
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The immortal Joplin
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Sophia Ramos did a phenomenal job. Janis would have been proud!
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Saw big brother after Janis died with Kathy McDonald playing at a keg party in Iowa city
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The album is every bit as good as the album cover ~ a classic!!
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brightnessfa l l s 0 5
Yeah I saw her with the legendary bottle of Southern Comfort leaning up against a friend I had come to the concert with. The moment had us all rubbing our eyes.
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brightnessfa l l s 0 5
I was lucky enough to see Big Brother and Janis in performance at a rolling rink in northern Virginia just outside D.C. They were the opening act and they were followed by Jeff Beck when Rod Stewart was the led singer and the album Truth had just been released. The last band to perform was The Steve Miller Band. The light show and the atmosphere was great. Big brother opened with the same tune as in this album. It was, and still is the kickin a** best opening tune I've ever heard.
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I miss Janis grow up with her music still listen today. That's how much love I have for her my sweet little red head love ya
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Damn, I had this album,Cheap Thrills! I was 12 years old! Janis was he heart and soul of rock. She was a great soul sister. Everything came from her heart and soul. I miss you Janis. RIP.
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sweetlou275
Flower in the sun is a masterpiece. Man, what a song!
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GREATEST BAND TO EVER EXIST
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Listen to the whole album, it just amazing...
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I'm sitting in the Mission district of San Francisco keeping her vibe alive! Janis Joplin, a Goddess of Liberation��
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sue038
OK, she is Sophia Rommel. Let's get her touring!
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sue038
Who IS this singer? OMG!!!! Man oh man. Sophia Rommell? At the end of this song they introduced the band quickly and this is what I heard. need to research.
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A soulful singer, love her styled. Bless her.
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Me bio.
Ott pleasr
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Hey e.f. hegeman. I don't believe it was 'pyschedelic s that caused the death of one of the greatest female singers.
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Heartbreak hotel.. these stories of these psychedelic bands are not often happy endings
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One of the most amazingly talented artists who exhibited the true beauty of Uniqueness!
Will love her forever.
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I remember Janis Joplin when I was a teen. Janis was one soulful sista!! Janis did get best work with Big Brother. They personified excellence. There back up vocals were mad crazy with hers! Love her rendition of Piece of my Heart! RIP Janis and shout up there in heaven if it makes you feel good!!
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R Crumb nuff said yo!
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love.....
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love this song
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Hell of woman!
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I have listened to Janis Joplin my whole life. My dad was a huge fan. But it wasn't until I was an adult that I finally heard Janis Joplin. To say it affected me would be a gross understateme n t . What she says in Ball and Chain has resonated with me. She understood. She got it. ....you gotta make that one day your life man...
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reverendceo
I think Janus had a daughter; her name is Carolyn Wonderland. Luv ya both ladies.
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Loved her in the sixties. I'm 64 now still think she hits my soul even now. What a talent to waste!
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The Full Tilt Boogie Band was a better match for Joplin than the sloppy Big Brother band, but there was something about Big Brother's rawness that worked in the early days.
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rsantini3
WHAT A WASTE OF OF A GIFTED TALENT-SHE WAS THE GREATEST BAR NONE.
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LAST I SAW JANIS WAS AT ATLANTIC CITY POP FESTIVAL.... . : (
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