Janis Lyn Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas, on January 19, 1943, to Dorothy Bonita East (1913–1998), a registrar at a business college, and her husband, Seth Ward Joplin (1910–1987), an engineer at Texaco. She had two younger siblings, Michael and Laura. The family belonged to the Churches of Christ denomination.
Her parents felt that Janis needed more attention than their other children. As a teenager, Joplin befriended a group of outcasts, one of whom had albums by blues artists Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Lead Belly, whom Joplin later credited with influencing her decision to become a singer. She began singing blues and folk music with friends at Thomas Jefferson High School. Former Oklahoma State University and Dallas Cowboys Head Coach, Jimmy Johnson, was a high school classmate of Joplin.
Joplin stated that she was ostracized and bullied in high school. As a teen, she became overweight and suffered from acne, leaving her with deep scars that required dermabrasion. Other kids at high school would routinely taunt her and call her names like “pig,” “freak,” “nigger lover,” or “creep.” She stated, “I was a misfit. I read, I painted, I thought. I didn’t hate niggers.”
Joplin graduated from high school in 1960 and attended Lamar State College of Technology in Beaumont, Texas, during the summer and later the University of Texas at Austin (UT), though she did not complete her college studies. The campus newspaper, The Daily Texan, ran a profile of her in the issue dated July 27, 1962, headlined “She Dares to Be Different.” The article began, “She goes barefooted when she feels like it, wears Levis to class because they’re more comfortable, and carries her autoharp with her everywhere she goes so that in case she gets the urge to break into song, it will be handy. Her name is Janis Joplin.” While at UT she performed with a folk trio called the Waller Creek Boys and frequently socialized with the staff of the campus humor magazine The Texas Ranger.
Joplin cultivated a rebellious manner and styled herself partly after her female blues heroines and partly after the Beat poets. Her first song, “What Good Can Drinkin’ Do”, was recorded on tape in December 1962 at the home of a fellow University of Texas student.
She left Texas in January 1963 (“Just to get away,” she said, “because my head was in a much different place”), hitchhiking with her friend Chet Helms to North Beach, San Francisco. Still in San Francisco in 1964, Joplin and future Jefferson Airplane guitarist Jorma Kaukonen recorded a number of blues standards, which incidentally featured Kaukonen’s wife Margareta using a typewriter in the background. This session included seven tracks: “Typewriter Talk”, “Trouble in Mind”, “Kansas City Blues”, “Hesitation Blues”, “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down and Out”, “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy”, and “Long Black Train Blues”, and was released long after Joplin’s death as the bootleg album The Typewriter Tape.
In 1963, Joplin was arrested in San Francisco for shoplifting. During the two years that followed, her drug use increased and she acquired a reputation as a “speed freak” and occasional heroin user. She also used other psychoactive drugs and was a heavy drinker throughout her career; her favorite alcoholic beverage was Southern Comfort.
In May 1965, Joplin’s friends in San Francisco, noticing the detrimental effects on her from regularly injecting methamphetamine (she was described as “skeletal” and “emaciated”), persuaded her to return to Port Arthur. During that month, her friends threw her a bus-fare party so she could return to her parents in Texas. Five years later, Joplin told Rolling Stone magazine writer David Dalton the following about her first stint in San Francisco: “I didn’t have many friends and I didn’t like the ones I had.”
Back in Port Arthur in the spring of 1965, after Joplin’s parents noticed her weight of 88 pounds (40 kg), she changed her lifestyle. She avoided drugs and alcohol, adopted a beehive hairdo, and enrolled as an anthropology major at Lamar University in nearby Beaumont, Texas. During her time at Lamar University, she commuted to Austin to sing solo, accompanying herself on acoustic guitar. One of her performances was at a benefit by local musicians for Texas bluesman Mance Lipscomb, who was suffering with ill health.
Joplin became engaged to Peter de Blanc in the fall of 1965. She had begun a relationship with him toward the end of her first stint in San Francisco. Now living in New York where he worked with IBM computers, he visited her to ask her father for her hand in marriage. Joplin and her mother began planning the wedding. De Blanc, who traveled frequently, ended the engagement soon afterward.
In 1965 and 1966, Joplin commuted from her family’s Port Arthur home to Beaumont, Texas, where she had regular sessions with a psychiatric social worker named Bernard Giarritano at a counseling agency that was funded by the United Fund, which after her death changed its name to the United Way. Interviewed by biographer Myra Friedman after his client’s death, Giarritano said Joplin had been baffled by how she could pursue a professional career as a singer without relapsing into drugs, and her drug-related memories from immediately prior to returning to Port Arthur continued to frighten her. Joplin sometimes brought an acoustic guitar with her to her sessions with Giarritano, and people in other offices within the building could hear her singing.
Giarritano tried to reassure her that she did not have to use narcotics in order to succeed in the music business. She also said that if she were to avoid singing professionally, she would have to become a keypunch operator (as she had done a few years earlier) or a secretary, and then a wife and mother, and she would have to become very similar to all the other women in Port Arthur.
Approximately a year before Joplin joined Big Brother and the Holding Company, she recorded seven studio tracks with her acoustic guitar. Among the songs she recorded were her original composition for the song “Turtle Blues” and an alternate version of “Cod’ine” by Buffy Sainte-Marie. These tracks were later issued as a new album in 1995, titled This is Janis Joplin 1965 by James Gurley. (by wikipedia)
Watching that other misfit Paris Hilton bawl about her jail sentence made me reach for this recording. Janis Joplin was from the other side of Paris Hilton’s social class. By all accounts, Joplin never fitted whether in school or with her peers. The only time she felt super-confident was when she sang. Hilton on the other hand is a misfit because she behaves like a spoilt brat. Both have in common a recording career.
The seven-tracks on this CD come from an audition Joplin did before she joined Big Brother & The Holding Company. The year of this recording is either 1964 or 1965. Where it was recorded remains a mystery. The tapes come from James Gurley, the Big Brother guitarist. Originally just Joplin and her acoustic guitar, Gurley has embellished it with a full band to make this sound like a real Big Brother session.
“It’s unheard Janis Joplin material,” Gurley says. “It’s probably the best album she’s done since ‘Cheap Thrills.'”
“It was a work of love,” he says. “I wanted it to be something, if she was looking over my shoulder, she would be proud of. I tried to keep her first and I didn’t change what she did.
“This is what she was doing before Big Brother. I wanted to bring out that innocence before she got crazy from rock ‘n’ roll.”
In 1996, Gurley said he made 100 copies and gave them away or sold some through eBay. These seven tracks later appeared on the nine-CD fan compilation Blow All My Blues Away that collected everything else Columbia saw fit not to release. But Gurley has shied from releasing this citing ownership issues. He owns the master reel-to-reel tape but clearly Joplin’s family would have something to say about any release.
Since this is pre-fame Joplin, her voice is unblemished by alcohol and drug abuse – just pure blues phrasings. The original version of Turtle Blues, Joplin’s own composition, is here plus a different version of Buffy St Marie’s Codine which Joplin adlibbed with her own lyrics.
Joplin was singing here in the hope of getting into Big Brother. Everything is pretty. In Alice Echols’ book, Scars Of Sweet Paradise, she quotes Joplin friend Frank Davis offering a view of Joplin’s darker side, when she wanted to piss everyone.
“I have a recording of her doing a song where she’s yelling at the top of her lungs for 10 minutes about dead black people,” he says. “She was too damn strong for everybody.”
After just one album with Big Brother, by mutual consent, Joplin split for the bright lights and the big city. (by the Big O Archive)
What a great album … Janis Joplin celebrates her own and very special way to sing the Blues … what a voice !
Hongo Gurley -(drums, tambourine)
Ras Jab Jimmy (bass, tambourine, afucho cabasa)
Janis Joplin (vocals, guitar)
Abie Perkins (piano)
Etaoin Shrdlu -(guitar)
Giuseppe Insingo (bass on 02., 04. + 05.)
St. James Tabernacle Choir
The “Grouchy old Hillbilly” – Slide Guitars
01. Apple Of My Eye (unknown) 2.29
02. Zip Train 219 Train) (Desdunes) 3.18
03. Cod’ine (Sainte-Marie/Joplin) 4.27
04. (Nobody Knows You When Your Are) Down and Out (Cox) 3.42
05. Turtle Blues (Joplin) 2.47
06. I Ain’t Got A Worry (Axton) 3.36
07. Brownsville (Jackson) 2.46
Janis Lyn Joplin (January 19, 1943 – October 4, 1970)