The one-time house band at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom, Big Brother & The Holding Company was an early Bay Area sensation, but their raw, primitive sound drew harsh criticism from the national press.
After their Monterey Pop Festival appearance in 1967, their album Cheap Thrills (1968) was eagerly anticipated. It swiftly topped the US charts and stayed there for eight weeks, going gold in the process – with the single, Piece Of My Heart, reaching #12 in the singles chart.
Shortly after the album, lead singer Janis Joplin was persuaded to leave the group by her management and record label.
By the time Janis died of a heroin overdose in 1970, Big Brother was fast becoming a mere footnote to her legend. The band long known for its fearless consumption of drugs and alcohol was on the downhill slide, and guitarists Sam Andrews and James Gurley were shooting up speed and heroin.
Big Brother recorded two more LPs without Janis – Be A Brother (1970) and How Hard It Is (1971) – but both flopped and the band split up in 1972.
Drummer David Getz said, in retrospect; “the biggest mistake in our career was we didn’t get another singer and go on after Janis left. We could have done that. We had a big name. We could have made records – and money.”
After the band broke up, David Getz and Peter Albin (the bassist) joined Country Joe McDonald, touring and recording as Country Joe & The Allstars.
Albin ended up as the marketing manager for a manufacturer of architectural models and dolls house accessories. He also played in a part-time band called The Dinosaurs, alongside former members of Quicksilver Messenger Service and Jefferson Airplane.
Getz became a struggling painter and printmaker.
Sam Andrews played in bar bands for a while, then turned to teaching guitar at the Blue Bear School of Music in San Francisco, before working for an electronics company.
James Gurley kicked around the Bay Area before moving to Palm Desert, California, and forming proto-punk bands such as Red Robbin and The Worms. He suffered a heart attack and passed away on 20 December 2009, aged 69.