Two new releases keep Janis Joplin's legacy alive
Published: March 21, 2012
Port Arthur singer Janis Joplin, who would've been 69 this year, is back in the record business with two "new" releases — Big Brother and the Holding Company's Live at the Carousel Ballroom 1968, a recently rediscovered lost concert, and, come April 17, The Pearl Sessions, which includes her original 1971 posthumous album, all the mono singles, eight previously unissued outtakes, and things overheard in the studio. It would seem that 42 years after her death, Joplin's power is growing still.
Sam Andrew, Big Brother's guitarist and the person who played more gigs with Joplin than anyone, has more than one San Antonio connection: he lived here for two years, went to St. Gerard's Catholic High School, and used to deliver newspapers on the Southside. Most importantly, he "discovered" Jennifer Espinoza, who went on to win a slot in the upcoming "The Queen Extravaganza," a band of young Queen fans that will perform the British quartet's music in North America starting in May. "Like Janis, Jennifer has a microphone in her throat," said Andrew, who spoke to the Current from nearby San Francisco.
What do you remember of the first day you heard Janis sing?
I didn't know about her voice, I hadn't heard her at all. The day she walked in, that was the first time I heard her sing. And she came in with a couple of folk-blues songs, and it was great. I mean, it was like hearing a record from the '30s or '40s or something. It wasn't an audition or anything.
She was in. She had this amazing edge on her voice. Janis and Jennifer Espinoza have that. [Their voices] project out in an arena like Aretha Franklin.
In 1969, Janis left Big Brother and the Holding Company and only took you with her to the Kozmic Blues Band.
It was very different. Big Brother was like family and we all kind of grew up together, but when Janis left she became the boss and it hurt a little. Big Brother was a guitar band and now we're in this blues band with keyboards and horn players and really different kind of people. So it was interesting.
But shortly after that you went back to Big Brother.
That's right, because she fired me! In Big Brother we were writing a lot of songs together, but in the Kozmic Blues Band we didn't write one single song. I wrote some, she wrote some, but it just wasn't the same, you know? … Have you ever been divorced? It's like that, it's like getting a divorce. Just not good and painful, and she saw it before I did and she acted on it before I did.
She just said to me: "Your services are no longer required." I was just sitting there and then she said: "Well aren't you going to ask me why?" And I didn't, but now I wish I would've said, "Yeah, why is that?" But I didn't, and now I wish I would've. I would have liked to have heard what she said, but I knew why — it just wasn't happening, we ran out of gas together. Plus, we were both on a downward spiral by then.
> Email Enrique Lopetegui