Concerts & Events Calendar
Big Brother and the Holding CompanyAug 9, 2012 8:00pm - 11:00pm
Evolving out of the San Francisco rock scene of the mid-1960s, Big Brother was in the forefront of the psychedelic music movement. The band was formed by Peter Albin, Sam Andrew, James Gurley and Chuck Jones in San Francisco, in a Victorian mansion-cum boarding house owned by Peter’s uncle at 1090 Page Street in the Haight Ashbury section. 1090 Page became the site of Wednesday night jam sessions for local musicians. During the summer of 1965, Sam Andrew began to frequent 1090 Page Street and before long he and Peter Albin had formed a band. Originally called the Blue Yard Hill, with various members floating in and out, Big Brother became a reality in September of that year. The name was selected by legendary concert promoter Chet Helms from a list of names that the band was reviewing for consideration. “Big Brother” was near the top of the list and “The Holding Company” close to the bottom; with a decision to combine the two, Big Brother and the Holding Company was born.
They played their first official gig in January 1966 at the Open Theater in Berkeley. Within a short time they became the house band for Chet Helms at the Avalon Ballroom and began to develop a loyal following of fans. The band had what Sam Andrew described as a “progressive-regressive hurricane blues style” in the early days. Highlights of their early performances included “Coo Coo”, “That’s How Strong My Love Is”and “Hall Of The Mountain King” usually relying on Peter Albin for lead vocals. Later, Peter would also sing the lead on the early versions of “Down On Me”, and “Summertime”.
During the winter of 1966 Chuck Jones left the band and was replaced by Dave Getz. Dave played his first gig with the band on March 12 at the Matrix. The band also decided they should begin looking for a female lead singer as a “copycat thing” - the Jefferson Airplane and other San Francisco bands had woman singers. Chet Helms suggested Janis Joplin, a transplanted Texan who had performed in the Bay Area in 1963-64 before returning home.
The band became aware of her shortly after she came to San Francisco; Peter and James heard her in coffeehouses. On Chet’s urging Janis auditioned for the band at their rehearsal hall in an old firehouse. After performing a couple of songs from her coffee house days, it was agreed to invite her to join the band. Janis debuted with Big Brother on June 10, 1966, at the Avalon Ballroom. The majority of Big Brother fans approved of the addition, and Janis became an instant hit.
When Janis joined, the musical direction of the band began to change. In the early days they regularly launched into extended improvisations such as The Hall of the Mountain King, a number they playing in concert that often stretched out into a fifteen-minute flight of fancy. After Janis came, the format became more structured to accommodate a vocalist. In August 1966, Big Brother went to Chicago for an extended engagement at Mother Blues, a major bluesrock venue. It was there that they signed their first record contract with Mainstream Records. It was almost a year before their self-titled album was released. Throughout the winter of 1966 and the spring of 1967, their popularity and their audience continued to grow. In June 1967 the band was invited to play at the Monterey Pop Festival. It was their performance at Monterey - particularly Janis and her “screamingly mournful vocals and potently sexual stage act”, as a reviewer wrote - that truly shot Big Brother into the national spotlight. But though Janis was hailed as a great blues singer, Ed Denson of the Berkeley Barb observed that “it was the instrumentalists who really made the group out of sight.”
The current edition of Big Brother & The Holding Company is one you don’t want to miss. The hits are as alive today as they were back in the 60’s and the band is a true pleasure to work with.
Tupelo Music Hall - Londonderry
2 Young Road
2 Young Road
Londonderry, NH 03053