Joplin’s unique expressive blues singing propelled her, along with her groups (particularly Big Brother and the Holding Company), to the pinnacle of popularity, establishing her as the psychedelic blues-rock heroine and trend-setter of the 1960’s and the first great female rock star whose fame and influence were independent of a record label....
Joplin’s unique expressive blues singing propelled her, along with her groups (particularly Big Brother and the Holding Company), to the pinnacle of popularity, establishing her as the psychedelic blues-rock heroine and trend-setter of the 1960’s and the first great female rock star whose fame and influence were independent of a record label.
Janis first moved from Texas to San Francisco in 1963, and began playing local clubs. She also tried a stint in New York. However, neither of these was successful, and in the process she became dangerously hooked on speed. In May, 1965, she decided to move home to Port Arthur. She was there for a year, living in her parents’ home, away from the metropolis and the lure of drugs, singing in her room and playing some local gigs.
Autograph Letter Signed, 5 pages on three large 4to lined sheets of notebook paper, Port Arthur, Tex., Oct. 6, (1965) to Peter DeBlanc in New York, her boyfriend and she hoped future husband, describing the development of the singing style that would only months later catapult her to the very fame she yearns for, using the most dramatic language we have seen in a letter of any important rock star. “My guitar playing is growing by leaps & bounds though. I do a really great version of a blues called ‘Come Back, Baby’ in G. I really wail on it. If you can call it wailing when you do it all alone in your bedroom w/ your doors closed. I call it wailing. I’ve got a high spade-type falsetto part in it that’s too much! I wish I had fans that thought I was as good as I do. So far this is my best thing. I’m working on some others & I do them fairly well but I still don’t have enough to do a set or anything. Besides, where would I do it? Poor dad is being driven to distraction by my practicing. Laura’s guitar playing didn’t bother him too much – she plays quietly & sings softly. But me! I’ve got a big thumb pick & I really play & really sing too. And he sits in the living room feverishly trying to be calm & placid & listen to Bach. Poor thing. But there’s nothing else I can do. I try & practice when no one’s home, but there’s usually someone there all the time. He’s pretty glad I didn’t get that guitar…Mother is getting worried about me because I stay at home too much. She doesn’t think I spend enough time with ‘people my own age.’ So I think I’m going to have a bridge party. Doesn’t that sound like fun!? I thought I’d have Philip & Diane of course and another girl I know named Kristin. She’s the daughter of my father’s & mother’s best friends & I’ve known her literally all my life…So these are my social plans…Don’t I lead an exciting life! Whee.” Then the subject returns to DeBlanc. “Sure do hope to hear from you soon. You mentioned that you would call before Debbie came – before next weekend that is, so I’ve been straining my ears in anticipation of a phone call… Don’t be so negative, Janis.” Fine, signed “J,” but with her name as “Janis” in the text, and with the original postmarked envelope in her hand.
One of the most remarkable letters imaginable of any musician, describing the very birth of the style that would make her the most famous female rock singer in history. During the early time in San Francisco and New York (1963-May, 1965), her style was only adequate to keep her in minor venues. Addicted to drugs and alcohol, she got engaged to DeBlanc, but he basically stood her up at the altar, and although she came home in 1965 and enrolled in college, quit using drugs and alcohol and was trying to straighten out her life, this failed romance with DeBlanc would prove to be damaging. She began singing publicly again in May of 1966 and, using the wailing style of blues she describes developing in this very letter, she came to the attention of a band called Big Brother and the Holding Company who were looking for a lead singer. Her rise after joining this group was meteoric, again because of the style she describes developing here. Janis’ intelligence, emotion and style shine through this letter, and the picture of her alone in her bedroom practicing the style that would make her great and yearning for fame, is priceless. It is an amusing irony that her mother thought that the extroverted Janis was not spending enough time with people her own age. In just months she was surrounded by them, and they idolized her.
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