Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Interview with Sam Andrew from Big Brother & The Holding Company

big brother and the holding company Evolving out of the San Francisco rock scene of the 1960s, Big Brother was in the forefront of the psychedelic music movement.

The band was formed by Peter Albin, Sam Andrew, James Gurley and Chuck Jones in San Francisco, in a Victorian mansion/boarding house owned by Peter's uncle at 1090 Page Street in the Haight-Ashbury. That house became the site of Wednesday night jam sessions which were organized by Chet Helms who was the real "Big Brother," naming the band, bringing James Gurley into the fold and later seeing that his old friend Janis Joplin came to sing with them.The first official Big Brother gig was at the Open Theater in Berkeley, January 1966. Within a short time they became the house band for Chet at the Avalon Ballroom and began to develop a loyal following, largely due to the charismatic, pioneering guitar work of James Gurley. The band had what Sam Andrew called a "progressive-regressive hurricane blues style," playing such tunes as Hall of the Mountain King, Coo Coo, That's How Strong My Love Is, and Down On Me. (from

big brother and the holding company

Big Brother & The Holding Company 2005 w/ Sophia Ramos

Cincy Groove: So how did Big Brother first end up getting together?

Sam Andrew: I was walking down the street one day in San Francisco and heard some guitar playing coming out of a window. It turns out it was Peter Albin, who plays bass in Big Brother. It sounded really good so I told him "Lets start a band". So we started playing together every week, sometimes more frequently than that. Over the course of a year we evolved into a band. We were very well known in the San Francisco music scene before Janis came on board. But after she arrived we really started having fun.

Cincy Groove: During 1972-1987 when Big Brother & The Holding Company wasn't together, what were you doing musically?

Sam Andrew: I went back to New York and studied music at a couple really good schools with some great teachers. Studied things like harmony, counter point, and wrote a lot of classical music. Also in that time frame before Big Brother got back together, I went to Seattle and became a father, got married and settled down for a while.

big brother and the holding companyCincy Groove: Who brought up the idea of Big Brother & The Holding Company getting back together in 1987?

Sam Andrew: There was this promoter who called us who asked us to play this 20 year anniversary of the Summer of Love gig he was putting together.

Cincy Groove: How many of the original members are currently touring in the band?

Sam Andrew: There are 3 of us from the original band, and we will usually pick up another guitar player and a female vocalist when we go out on tour. I have about 10 different singers that I can call to come out and play with us depending on what part of the country we are performing in. We will be in the Ohio area performing in August and will have a great singer playing with us. She is Mary Bridget Davies and Ben Nieves is a guitar player from Cleveland, OH. Ben is definitely a better guitar player than me, James or anyone else in Kozmic Blues or Full Tilt.

You can't really compare anyone to Janis because she is unique just like Billie Holiday or Tina Turner. Janis is one of those people you can't copy without being ridiculous. What we end up getting are some really strong singers with a great sense of self.

Read the full interview here

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