Janis Joplin and a Letter From Her Mom
It was 1967, and I was the afternoon drive guy and Music Director at KILT in Houston. Bobby Shad was a friend who owned a small record company. He sent me a copy of a new group called Big Brother and the Holding Company and pointed out that the lead singer was from down the road a piece in Port Arthur, Texas. I liked a cut on the album called “Down On Me” and suggested to Bobby that it would make a nice single. Soon after, we began to play the song on KILT and pointed out that Janis was from Port Arthur. The song began to sell in Houston and spread into a minor hit across the country. One day, I received a letter from Janis’s mother in Port Arthur explaining who she was and thanking me for playing the record. Fast forward to 1969, and I’m now in Cleveland at WKYC. My friends, the Belkin brothers took my advice on booking Jimi Hendrix and asked who’s next. I suggested Janis Joplin who by now had shed her affiliation with Mainstream Records and was now recording for Columbia Records. She had a big hit with "Piece of my Heart." As with Hendrix, the story of Janis Joplin was soon in the vernacular of those who knew something about what was coming. Mike Belkin was with Janis, while I was on the air on the afternoon of her Cleveland concert. He had Janis call me, and we chatted a bit about Texas before going on the air. I told her that her mother had written me a letter while I was in Houston, and she was totally surprised and said, “My mother did that?” I assured her she did, and Janis suggested we get something to eat after her concert which I was MC’ing. I said that I’d see her at the show, did my on air interview, and finished my show. I saw Janis backstage about an hour before she was to perform, and we chatted a bit before Janis asked me if I’d take her to the back of the auditorium, so she could see the opening act perform. I believe it was The Soft Machine. We were able to get to the back of the auditorium without being noticed and then proceeded to go backstage again, where someone took a candid picture of me and Janis. I have that pictures posted on my web site. We again agreed to meet after the show and get a bite to eat. During the course of the show, Janis kept drinking from a bottle of Southern Comfort. By the time the show was over, Janis was feeling no pain. The crowd left the building except for about four members of the local Hell's Angels motorcycle club. Janis OK’d it, so the police allowed them on stage where we were talking with Janis. She looked at me and asked, “Wanna go with us to party?” It looked like trouble, so I declined and went home. Stan Kain ran the La Cave club where Hendrix did his “drop in” guitar playing with the band for Joe Esterhaus’ Time article. Nice guy Stan Kain invited the group to party at his house. A couple of days later, Stan told me the group got very rowdy and destroyed his sound system and broke a lot of his furniture and didn’t leave until dawn's early light. Sober Janis was sweet and considerate, but when she got loaded, it was party time. Glad I missed that party.