Chamblee54

On The Road With Janis Joplin

Posted in Book Reports, History, Library of Congress, Music by chamblee54 on February 23, 2017

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John Byrne Cooke, the son of public television star Alistair Cooke, had gotten a liberal arts degree from Harvard. He stumbled into a job filming the Monterrey Pop Festival. Like the rest of America, he was impressed by Janis Joplin. Soon, Mr. Cooke got a job as the road manager for Big Brother and the Holding Company. One result is a book, On the Road with Janis Joplin.

The management of Big Brother did not want the band filmed at Monterrey. After their saturday afternoon show, the film makers realized that Miss Joplin was important to the film. A second show was arranged for sunday night. This show was filmed. When you see Cass Elliot saying oh wow, that was saturday afternoon. The film crew filmed the crowd during that show.

Mr. Cooke arrived in San Francisco as the summer of love was playing out. Many old timers on the scene were already getting out. At first it was an uneasy fit with the band… the eastern bluegrass player, and the hippies. There was one meeting, where Mr. Cooke thought he was going to be fired. Things were patched up, and the show went on.

There were a lot of people who knew each other. Mr. Cooke had been trying to romance a California girl. It turns out she was a friend of someone, possibly Linda Gravenites, the roommate, and close friend, of Miss Joplin.

Peggy Caserta was another connection. Supposedly Miss Caserta had a lesbian thing going with Miss Joplin. Whatever did, or did not, happen, Miss Caserta wrote an awesomely trashly book, Going Down With Janis. The opening line: “I was stark naked, stoned out of my mind on heroin, and between my legs giving me head was Janis Joplin.”

The year spent with Big Brother was 1968. Miss Joplin was staying in an apartment on Noe Street. Robert Kennedy made a campaign appearance on nearby Castro Street, with Miss Joplin in the crowd. When Mr. Kennedy was killed, after winning the California primary, the band was in Los Angeles. Mr. Cooke sought solace with Judy Collins that night.

Around this time, some people convinced Miss Joplin that she should leave Big Brother. There was three weeks between the last Big Brother show, and the first show as a solo artist. The Kozmic Blues band never really worked. Miss Joplin felt she was a failure. Miss Joplin started to use heroin frequently. Except for a European tour, 1969 was a bad year.

In 1970, Miss Joplin quit using heroin, and started to play with Fult Tilt Boogie. Things wer going well. The band was in Los Angeles recording an album. One night, Miss Joplin got some extra strong heroin. Mr. Cooke found the body.

This book report leaves a great deal of the story out. Miss Joplin broke a whiskey bottle over Jim Morrison’s head, and got into a fist fight with Jerry Lee Lewis. There were three appearances on the Dick Cavett show, 1969, 06-25-70, and 08-03-70. At 1:12 in this video, Miss Joplin observes “you’re a real swinger I can tell by your shoes man.” (Here is a screen shot from 1969, with heroin, next to another from clean 1970.)

Pictures are from The Library of Congress. The 1927 pictures were taken at “California Beauty Week, Mark Hopkins Hotel, July 28 to Aug. 2, auspices of San Francisco Chronicle.”

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