Had it not been for the melodic and accomplished guitar work of Peter
Albin flowing out of an upper story window at 1090 Page Street in the
early summer of 1965, there might never have been a Big Brother and the
Holding Company. It was on that day that Sam Andrew happened down Page
Street in San Francisco and was so impressed by what me heard, that he
went in and introduced himself.
Peter was born on June 6, 1944 in San Francisco. He began playing guitar at an early age and became involved in the folk scene of the early 60s. While attending The College of San Mateo, Peter and his brother Rodney played in a bluegrass band called the Liberty Hill Aristocrats.
By the time Peter met Sam in 1965, he had aspirations of forming a band that would write and perform children's songs. One of the first songs he wrote while working with children at The Marin Jewish Community Day Camp, north of San Francisco, was "Caterpillar". This song went on the appear on the first Big Brother and the Holding Company Album.
But the guitarist who inspired the first meeting with Sam Andrew ended up making the transition to bass and has spent the majority of his career with that instrument. Although his fine guitar work can be heard on cuts such as "Coo-Coo", "Oh, Sweet Mary", and "Turtle Blues" and also on Big Brother LPs "Be A Brother" and "How Hard It Is".
Witty and personable, Peter provided much of the on-stage commentary and also served as the liaison for the group with managers and promoters. Also, in the early days of Big Brother, before Janis, Peter did most of the lead vocals for the band. Among the many songs he sang were "Blow My Mind" and "Down On Me". Even after Janis, the first album finds Peter's lead on "Blindman", "Light Is Faster Than Sound", and "Caterpillar".
Peter's musical pursuits have also extended beyond Big Brother and the Holding Company. He has played with Country Joe and the Fish and can be heard on their 1969 Vanguard album "Here We Are Again". He later toured in an all-star band with Joe McDonald that cut an album outside Paris (Paris Sessions, Vanguard - 1973) in September of 1972.
In 1982, Peter was one of the founding members of the Bay Area super group, The Dinosaurs. Along with Peter, the group consisted of, John Cipollina, Barry Melton, Merl Saunders, Robert Hunter, and Spencer Dryden.
Peter has loaned many items to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland. The most notable piece is his legendary psychedelic Fender Jazz Bass from 1968 which is now a popular museum attraction.
Today, along with keeping a regular tour schedule with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Peter serves as an advertising coordinator with City Hall Record Distributors.
He loved the relaxed atmosphere of San Francisco in the early 60s, and
spent many hours taking long walks through the city. One day while walking
down Page Street and admiring a huge Victorian on the corner, he heard
guitar music coming from an upper floor window. With a love for music and
a sense of adventure, Sam boldly walked into the house to investigate. It
was here that he met Peter Albin and the seed for Big Brother was planted.
Sam Houston Andrew III was born December 18, 1941 in Taft, California. As the son of a military father he moved a great deal as a child. Sam developed a love for music a very early age. By the time he was fifteen, living in Okinawa, he already had his own band called the "Cool Notes".
Samís early influences were Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, and Little Richard. He also listened to a lot a black delta blues. Not only did Sam have his own band at age fifteen, but he also had his own weekly TV show, an Okinawan version of American Bandstand.
Shortly after Sam graduated from high school his father was transferred to Hamilton Air Force Base north of San Rafael, California. It was during this period that Sam started attending classes at the University of San Francisco and got involved in the San Francisco folk music scene of the early 60s. But it wasnít until he returned from a two-year stay in Paris that he met Peter Albin at 1090 Page Street.
As Big Brother began to jell, Sam brought many songs into the band. He has been a prolific songwriter all of his life, penning his first tune at the age of six. Of his early compositions, "Call on Me" and "Combination of the Two" have been two of Big Brotherís most enduring classic tracks and are still concert favorites today. Sam continues today in his original role as musical director of the band.
Sam and original band mate James Gurley have produced some of the greatest psychedelic guitar solos of all time. In February of 1997, Guitar Player magazine listed Sam and James work on "Summertime" as one of the top ten Psychedelic solos in music history.
In December of 1968 Sam along with Janis Joplin left Big Brother and the Holding Company to form the Kozmic Blues Band. After about nine months and one album, "I Got Dem Olí Kozmic Blues Again Mama!", Sam returned to Big Brother.
After Big Brotherís stopped performing in 1972, Sam moved to New York where he studied harmony and counterpoint at the New School for Social Research and composition at Mannes School of Music. During this period he also scored several films in the US and Canada as well as writing two string quartets and a symphony. Sam remained in the east for eight years before returning to San Francisco where he began playing clarinet and saxophone.
Since Big Brother reunited in 1987, Sam has provided a wonderful variety of fresh new songs to the band. A sensitive and thoughtful man, his personality is reflected in the lyrics of his beautiful ballads. When Big Brother is not on the road, Sam pursues his solo project, The Sam Andrew Band.
Whether with the Sam Andrew Band or with Big Brother, Sam is a pure delight to see in concert. Not only is he a fabulous performer, he is also one of the most gracious, humble and kind human beings you will ever meet. One does not quickly forget an encounter with Sam Houston Andrew III.
Getz grew up in the Flatbush area in the heart of
Brooklyn during the forties and fifties. It was a time of the Brooklyn
Dodgers with Jackie Robinson and white kids getting turned on to black
Rhythm & Blues music through Alan Freed and the "Moondog"
shows on radio starting in the early fifties. Dave went to the very first
Alan Freed show at the Brooklyn Paramount in 1955.
Between the time he was eleven and thirteen he became totally involved in Native American culture and music and made, by hand, an authentic Plains Indian costume. He then joined a performance group called "Heyoka Indian Dancers"; it was in this group that Dave first began playing the drum and realized that he had a special gift and feeling for rhythm.
By the time Dave was fifteen he was already a member of Local 802 of the musicians' union and was playing the drums professionally. Over the next five years he played in numerous bands at resorts, parties, weddings, bar mitzvahs and even toured Europe in 1959 with a Dixieland band called "Rick Lundy and the Saints".
During this time Dave was also finding his other talents and pursuing his education as a visual artist, first at Erasmus Hall High School, and later at the prestigious Cooper Union Art School in New York City and the Skowegan Art School in Maine. It was in Maine that he met someone from the San Francisco Art Institute. Lured by the myths of Beat culture and the dream of total freedom from the restrictions of tradition, Dave decided to make the journey to the coast.
Between 1960 and 1964 he lived in San Francisco going to school and working various jobs to survive; he ran the cafeteria at the Art Institute and also worked as a cook in North Beach. In 1964 Dave received his M.F.A. from the Art Institute and also won a Fullbright fellowship for his painting. He lived in Krakow, Poland for one year. It was during this time in a foreign country that once again, Dave found himself in demand as a drummer, jamming and touring with some of the best jazz musicians in Poland a the time.
Upon his return to the U.S. Dave was hired to teach painting at the San Francisco Art Institute. 1965 in San Francisco was the dawn of the "psychedelic" era - the Free Speech movement, LSD and the first Family Dog dances were all happening and changing the consciousness of the city and would eventually affect the rest of the world. It was in this time of great change that Dave met Peter Albin and became the drummer in a four-man rock band called Big Brother and the Holding Company.
Big Brother with Janis Joplin went on to fame and glory, most of which has been documented in books and films. After Big Brother's first break-up in late 1968, Dave, along with Peter Albin, joined Country Joe and the Fish for short time, touring both Europe and the U.S. In 1969 his first daughter was born and he moved to Marin County with his new family and began playing with former members of the Sons of Champlin.
In 1970 Big Brother re-formed, jamming and rehearsing in the basement of Dave's house. Big Brother continued on for another two years and disbanded in 1972. Between 1972 and 1974 Dave continued to live in Marin County, playing and recording with about a dozen bands, including Country Joe, Banana and the Bunch (Youngbloods) and others. In 1974 Dave moved to Woodstock, New York and then to Cummington, Massachusetts, where he worked with Bruce Langhorne (Bob Dylan's band) and Al Shackman (musical director for Nina Simone and Harry Belafonte) producing some of the very first "new age" music for the Arica Institute, a spiritual school founded by the Chilean mystic and teacher, Oscar Ichazo.
From 1975 to 1987 Dave lived in Los Angeles with his present wife, actress-singer-songwriter Joan Payne. From 1975 through 1979 they performed together as part of the rock/cabaret group "Passengers". Around this time Dave began to seriously pursue his career as an artist once again, setting up his studio, "Made To Last Editions", in Santa Monica. Between 1980 and 1987 Dave produced about 30 limited edition serigraphs of his work along with numerous paintings, drawings and other one-of-a-kind pieces. During this time his work was represented by several galleries and art dealers in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York and San Francisco and was purchased by dozens of corporate and private collections world-wide.
In 1987 Dave, along with his wife and baby daughter Elizabeth, moved back to Marin. Shortly thereafter Big Brother, with the four original members, got back together once again and have been performing steadily ever since, playing concerts in Russia, Germany and Japan, as well as all of the U.S. and Canada.
Dave has also continued his work as a visual artist. In 1988 he had a show of large scale work and has also shown in many group exhibitions. In 1994 he was Exhibition Chairman of the California Society of Printmakers and in 1995 he began teaching part-time in the Novato schools.
At present, Dave is still working with Big Brother, teaching and doing his own art and beginning work on a solo album which will feature his own compositions, drumming and keyboard playing as well as the talents of the other members of Big Brother and the Holding Company, along with some of the finest players in the Bay Area. He plans to finish and begin distributing this CD by fall, 1997.
Finch was not even born when "Cheap
Thrills" went number one in 1968, yet he trades licks with Sam Andrew
like he's been doing it for thirty years. Born August 13, 1969 in Van
Nuys, California, Tom began playing guitar at age twelve. At that time he
already had two years of banjo under his belt under the tutelage of his
uncle, "Banjo" Billy Mathews.
Tom loved creating his own music and as a young teenager began recording original material for family and friends. As he got older, he started experimenting with feedback, delay and Marshal halfstacks. In his later teen years he moved in to the exploration of classical guitar and the acoustic side of the instrument.
Tom's first "real" teacher was Czechoslovakian guitarist Yiri Svoboda. He studied under Svoboda for several years. After this, he began to gravitate back to rock and roll, but now with a new ear and a new thirst for rich harmony and melody which Tom felt the style generally lacked. This ultimately brought him to the exploration of Jazz and Fusion styles. At this point, Tom says, "I began to incorporate the exciting colors and rhythms I had started to hear into my playing and composing".
In 1993, Tom helped form the "Jazz Iguanas", later called "Iguana Tribe". Their music had a jazz flavor which journeys through funk, Afro-Cuban, and hip-hop rhythms. The band released two cds; "The Freaky Funk Jazz" in 1995 and "Subscribe to the Vibe" in 1997.
He is currently an active member of Eyes Open. They have just released a new CD.
When Tom joined Big Brother in May of 1997, he had come full circle. His first exposure to music as a child, had been his father's psychedelic rock band "Star Machine". Now he was a member of a legendary psychedelic rock band. This ever evolving musician has quickly injected his unique blend of harmonic and melodic guitar work along with his youthful enthusiasm into the Big Brother family. He's a joy to watch. Don't miss him.
"Big Brother and the Holding Company was a prime example of a band where the chemistry was right, where the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. You cannot buy or manufacture the natural feeling that was in that band. Big Brother played from the heart and soul with the goal of achieving a direct connection with the innermost feelings of the audience." - Sam Andrew
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 March12 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 blues-rock 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."
Following the Monterey Pop Festival performance, Big Brother was signed by Columbia Records. Their second album, Cheap Thrills, was a tremendous success, monopolizing the number one spot on the charts for eight weeks. The musicianship on the album is unparalleled. James Gurley, who has been called the "Father of Psychedelic Guitar" by Guitar Player magazine, and Sam Andrew took the dueling lead guitars to new heights. Rick Clark, in the All Music Book, said: "Anyone who thinks Guns N' Roses mastered hard electric blues-grunge hasn't heard Big Brother's James Gurley and Sam Houston Andrew duke it out on tracks like 'Ball And Chain', 'Summertime' and 'Combination Of The Two'."
By the close of 1968, Janis Joplin had decided to leave the band. Sam Andrew joined her in her new Kozmic Blues Band, and Peter Albin and David Getz joined Country Joe and The Fish. Big Brother ceased to exist for a period of months; but by the early fall of 1969 the band was resurrected. Peter, Sam, Dave and James were back together, joined off and on by David Schallock (guitar, vocals), Nick Gravenites (vocals), and Kathi McDonald (vocals), and others. Two more Columbia albums were released: Be A Brother (1970), and How Hard It Is (1971). Events and situations of that time in the bands history eventually took their toll and over a period of months beginning in 1972 Big Brother began to come apart as a band. The individual members remained friends and became involved in other bands and musical projects.
Between 1971 and 1978 Big Brother and the Holding Company reunited only once, for an October 1978 show organized by Chet Helms at the Greek Theatre in Berkeley. The rebirth of the band occurred almost ten years later in 1987, coinciding with the twentieth anniversary of the Summer of Love. Auditions for a female singer were held in July and the band began public performances in August with vocalist Michel Bastian. Since reuniting, Big Brother has played to enthusiastic audiences around the world. The dueling guitars of Andrew and Gurley, the rhythmic bass of Albin, and the solid beat of Getz had critics proclaiming their sound today as "fresh and crisp" as it was thirty years ago.
Lisa Battle spent two years with Big Brother, and 1997 saw the addition of Tom Finch on guitar. A new studio album, Do What You Love was released in 1998. This edition of Big Brother and the Holding Company is a band not to be missed.