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Remembering Sam Andrew: lead guitarist for Big Brother and the Holding Company

Robert Fried at leiros202 through Creative Commons at Flickr

One of the men who helped make Janis Joplin a household name died Thursday. Sam Andrew was a founder and guitarist for Big Brother and the Holding Company. The San Francisco band gained fame in the mid-1960s as part of the city’s psychedelic rock scene.

In 1966, when I was 14 years old, Big Brother and the Holding Company performed a free outdoor concert at McNear's Beach in San Rafael. They featured a 25 year old guitarist named Sam Andrew. And they had a 23 year old singer named Janis Joplin.

Janis wasn't a big star yet, but every young person in the Bay knew the band. I know some of the other groups playing that day, so I rode my bike over – I was lucky enough to live nearby. I would have crawled.

The stage was set up on a parking lot behind the beach. My friend Shelly and I showed up and saw the band back there. Shelly had made a beaded necklace for Janis. We walked over, and Shelly gave Janis the necklace. She put it on immediately, took a swig of Southern Comfort from a flask around her neck and they climbed onto the stage.