BRAD COOK/ THE CHRONICLE – The band’s lead singer, Darby Gould, grinds out one of Janis Joplin’s hits during an opening-night performance at the Hippie Museum in front more than 100 people.
SPRINGFIELD – Big Brother and the Holding Company left a piece of their heart on stage at Saturday night’s grand opening of The Hippie Museum in Springfield.
“It’s filled with romance, it reminds me of some of the places where we played when we were getting started,” bass player Peter Albin said when asked to describe the Main Street facility, which is all decked out with tie-dye and hippie-themed artwork.
Albin, 78, and drummer Dave Getz, 82, are the lone original members still in the band made famous by the soulful singing of Janis Joplin, who died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27 in 1970 after making only two albums with Big Brother and one solo album.
“She was a terrific performer and a brilliant woman,” Getz said. “People who knew her could see what an intelligent person she was.”
Joplin joined Big Brother in 1966, but she wasn’t a natural fit, former guitarist Sam Andrew recalled years later:
BRADLEY COOK/THE CHRONICLE – Normal Bean, owner and booking agent at the new Hippie Museum in downtown Springfield, introduces Big Brother and the Holding Company on Saturday night.
“We were the established rock and roll band. We were heavy. We were like: All right, out of three or four bands in this city, we are one of them. … We are doing this woman a favor to even let her come and sing with us. She came in and she was dressed like a little Texan. She didn’t look like a hippie, she looked like my mother, who is also from Texas. She sang real well but it wasn’t like, ‘Oh, we’re bowled over.’ It was probably more like our sound was really loud. It was probably bowling her over. I am sure we didn’t turn down enough for her. …
“She was real intelligent, Janis was, and she always rose to the occasion. She sang the songs. It wasn’t like this moment of revelation like you would like it to be. Like in a movie or something. It wasn’t like, ‘Oh my God, now we have gone to heaven. We have got Janis Joplin.’ I mean she was good but she had to learn how to do that. It took her about a year to really learn how to sing with an electric band.”
More than 100 eager fans were on hand for Saturday’s official grand opening, which included a jam session after Big Brother’s performance. “Down on Me” and “Piece of My Heart” were two songs that just about rocked the house down.
Albin said his early days of playing folk music in the Bay Area were among his fondest memories.
BRAD COOK / THE CHRONICLE
“Back in 1960 and ’61, me and my brother played folk music around Palo Alto with Jerry Garcia and Bob Hunter,” Albin said. “We had a club called the Boars Head and there was a little Kepler’s bookstore in Palo Alto and people said there was a great guitar player always in the back romancing the girls down there, and it was Garcia. He came to our club and played and my brother went to a house called the Chateau where Jerry lived for a while. We got to know them pretty good, I went to Jerry’s wedding. We weren’t close friends, but we were friends.”
Though he has always lived in the Bay Area, Albin has family ties to southern Lane County. His dad is from Portland, went to school in Eugene, then worked for a Cottage Grove newspaper in the 1930s before moving to San Francisco.
“He was the editor of an alcoholic drinks publication,” Albin said. “I don’t think they have newspapers like that anymore.”
Albin said he will be back next month as part of the Barry Melton Band. Melton is otherwise known as Country Joe & the Fish.
After a long hiatus, Big Brother and the Holding Company have been going strong since 1987 … at least most of them have kept on ticking.
Both original guitar players – Andrew and James Gurley – succumbed to heart issues. When it was found that Andrew needed double-bypass surgery, he was given medication that he was allergic to. After nine weeks in intensive care, he died, in 2015.
Gurley had a heart attack and feared that he was going to die. So he told his wife, “Let’s have sex,” and that’s how he went, in 2009, two days before his 70th birthday.
“We’ve played all over the U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, Japan, Thailand, Italy, and we’re looking to play elsewhere in Europe,” Albin said. “Playing music keeps you feeling young.”
BRADLEY COOK/THE CHRONICLE – Bass player Peter Albin was an original member of the Big Brother and the Holding Company before Janis Joplin joined the band.