Big Brother and the Holding Company, history, part one. 1965-1966

1965 – 1966        Big Brother is watching you.

Since I was 14 or so, I have been in one kind of a musical group or another.

Guitar groups.

Vocal groups.

The Cool Notes              Okinawa                  Japan.

At the University of San Francisco I played trumpet, saxophone and a lot of typewriter, because I edited the literary magazine.

Just about this time some of us were listening to Skip James, Ma Rainey, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Victoria Spivey, Mance Lipscomb, Bessie Smith, Mississippi John Hurt, LaVern Baker, Joe Turner, especially Joe Turner and especially Louis Jordan.

Big Brother and the Holding Company             1965-2014    …and counting…                Golden Anniversary soon.      This is our history.

I went through a real soul searching here. Should I drop everything (including graduate school at UC Berkeley) and commit to this band, when, really, there was no prospect in sight? Remember that this was very early. This was before James Gurley even came to the band, let alone other people who would come later when there was success and money and even a bit of prestige involved, and when there was no such gamble for them.

Peter and I started playing as Big Brother in this house… 1090 Page Street          San Francisco  1965


2015 will be our 50th year since we began playing in this house.

People I know in this photograph: Peter Albin, Sam Andrew, Rita Bergman, Mike Ferguson, Dave Getz, Martin Gorak, Hongo Gurley, James Gurley, Nancy Gurley,  Phil Hammond, Chet Helms, Lori Helms, Dan Hicks, David Homage, George Hunter, Janis Joplin, Alton Kelley, Mortimer Lindner (veterinarian),  James Moylanin, Richie Olsen, Paula Preston, Sancho (the family dog), Mike Wilhelm.

Chet Helms, Sam Andrew, Peter Albin, Chuck Jones, James Gurley.   Our first promotional photograph. We are in a cable car barn.       San Francisco, 1966.

November 1965               We play a gig on Clement Street, but we are not called Big Brother yet.  We are taking a big chance here. I mean, who would care about us? There’s no success, there’s no money.  People who were interested in success and money came later.

Mike Ferguson and Lynn Hughes.

Bob Seidemann

10 January 1966                We held auditions for singers at The Matrix on Fillmore Street down in Cow Valley.  Bob Seidemann, left.

15 January 1966             Our first public performance with the name Big Brother and the Holding Company.        Open Theatre              Berkeley.

Lynn Hughes actually auditioned for us at one point. Here she is with Jesse Cahn.

BG Wall

21-23 January 1966             Longshoreman’s Hall               San Francisco     This is where I first met Bill Graham.  He wouldn’t let our drummer Chuck Jones into the Trips Festival and I called him a motherfucker, with rather predictable results.  I never heard anyone scream that loud.  We had a few of these episodes over the years.

more cowbell

12 February 1966                Fillmore Auditorium              San Francisco     What can I say, but, “More cowbell!”

19 February 1966

George Conger, Ritchie Olsen and George Hunter.

BG 1967

26 February 1966                  The Family Dog at the Fillmore       I always liked Bill. He was easy to deal with. Very clear about what he wanted and no hidden agenda.


Darby Slick wrote this. I was TEACHING the lesson. Jerry Garcia and I were both guitar teachers at this point.

Chet Helms and James Gurley in one of Herb Greene’s beautiful photographs.


And here’s Bill in front of that same wall.

One of our glamour poses. Not glamor, glamour, please.

1-6  March 1966                The Matrix      Chet was our brother and the Matrix was our mother.

Anchor Steam Brewery


18-20 March 1966                Fillmore Auditorium        San Francisco


19 March 1966         The Firehouse

James Gurley.

1 April 1966          Harmon Gymnasium           Berkeley   Delano Grape Strikers Benefit      We were proud to be a part of the Grape strike.

2 April 1966                  Geary Temple

1 April 1966          Harmon Gymnasium           Berkeley          Delano Grape Strikers Benefit

San Francisco Matrix Oakland Tribune August 13 1965

4-6 April 1966                  Matrix

longshoremanshall resized

9 April 1966                                       Longshoreman’s  Hall.


29-30 April 1966                     Avalon Ballroom

Peter Albin learning his craft.

6 May 1966


Duboce Park, very near to where I lived at the time, 36 Steiner Street.


It was always a big thrill to see our name in the San Francisco Chronicle.


13-14 May 1966                 Red Dog Saloon                  Virginia City             Nevada

21 May 1966                  Muir Beach                 Marin County

Finding our way, not sure of where we were going.

Janis was a trouper. She was a real musician and she supported the band as much as we supported her.


21 May 1966                     Avalon Ballroom


27-28 May 1966                Red Dog Saloon            Virginia City               Nevada

Harry ?

sukkers likkers

30 May 1966                  Winterland                San Francisco


3-4 June 1966            Avalon Ballroom

10-11 June 1966                  Red Dog Saloon                  Virginia City

Janis and Dorothy Joplin

19 June 1966               Timothy Leary Benefit at the St. Francis Hotel             San Francisco

24-25 June 1966  Avalon Ballroom  Janis Joplin’s first engagement with Big Brother unless Chet made a special place for her at the Avalon on 10 June. I can’t remember.

We did all kinds of gigs. This one was for our friend Dennis Nolan.

Dennis drew this poster.   One of my favorites.

I’ve done a few paintings of this band.

1 July 1966                            Fillmore Auditorium               San Francisco

Rodney Albin, another big brother. Rodney once asked us to turn down… at gunpoint. The only way you can make guitar players turn down, despite an old joke that says otherwise.

2 July 1966              Monterey Fairgrounds

8-9 July 1966                   Red Dog Saloon            Virginia City

14 July 1966                  Fillmore

15-16 July 1966                This one didn’t happen.


Nancy Gurley and her son Hongo who grew to be a fine man. Nancy was a free spirit.

22 July 1966

Lisa Law did some plein air photography of  Big Brother out in the San Geronimo Valley of Marin County.


28 July 1966                 California Hall                   San Francisco

29-30 July 1966                Garden Auditorium          Pacific National Exhibition         Vancouver       British Columbia

29-30-31 July 1966

Ken Babbs in control at The Trips Festival.

Playing in Golden Gate Park.     It always seemed to be sunny and blue.

2-3-4- August 1966                    Losers South

5-6 August 1966        Avalon Ballroom

       Sancho, often misspelled “Soncho,” put his pawprint on this poster.

Keeping an eye on things at The Mojo Navigator which was the first psychedelic rock magazine.

7 August 1966               with Grateful Dead, Grass Roots, Sunshine, Jook Savages, PH Phactor, Si Perkoff Jazz Quintet, San Francisco Mime Troupe.


12 August 1966    afternoon show in the Park.

12-13 August 1966           Avalon Ballroom

Figuring out what we’re going to do when we sign with Mainstream Records.

Chicago !                 Our first big road trip. We were there from 25 August to 19 September 1966.

16 September 1966      Chicago Sun Times

I saw Howlin’ Wolf, Junior Wells, Muddy Waters, and a lot of other good people up close and personal. Wolf said to me, “You have more soul than I have on my shoe.” First time I heard that expression.


19 September 1966

Stanley Mouse did this beautiful work on my guitar.

23-24 September 1966              Avalon Ballroom.        Wolf canceled this gig, so Grass Roots replaced him.

Another beautiful work by Dennis Nolan.

6 October 1966        The Ark      Sausalito, California.       We also played in Golden Gate Park that afternoon.

The Ark              Sausalito, California

The Charles van Damme, alias, The Ark a few years later.

7-8 October 1966             Avalon Ballroom          Sutter and Van Ness, San Francisco, California.

13-14 October 1966

15-16 October 1966

Backstage in our elegant dressing room.

22 October 1967                  Winterland              San Francisco

On one of our pilgrimages to Fritz Maytag’s Anchor Steam Brewery in San Francisco.

We played 1-6 November 1966 at The Matrix.

and 4 November 1966 at The Ark, Sausalito.

Drinking Champagne and being happy backstage.

The artists then were so exuberant and industrious that they would often do two, three or four posters for the same event. The creative juices were flowing.

11 November 1966               We taped a “POW” TV show in San Francisco and played the Trip Room in Sacramento.

We always had a lot of fun at Sokol Hall which was right down the street from 1090 Page where Peter and I started the band.

12 November 1966          Sokol Hall       739 Page Street         San Francisco.

Peter Albin wears satin.

13 November 1966   Avalon Ballroom

19 November 1966               The Barn          Scotts Valley            Santa Cruz

23 November 1966          California Hall    625 Polk Street       San Francisco, California.


25-26 November 1966            The Avalon Ballroom             Isn’t this a beautiful poster ?

3 December 1966                  Wilbur Hall       Stanford University      A Happening in the Wilburness

9-10 December 1966            Avalon Ballroom


16-17 December 1966              Winterland          San Francisco

18 December 1966           We played the Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.

25 December 1966               We had a Christmas party at our house in Lagunitas. Lisa Law took this photograph of us by the kitchen door.

26 December 1966                The Ark          Sausalito

27 December 1966                  Avalon Ballroom

31 December 1966              Kezar Pavilion        Golden Gate Park

Next week, part two. See you then !

Sam Andrew

Big Brother and the Holding Company


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