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James Gurley, Guitarist in Big Brother, Dies at 69

Offbeat  (tags: Rock And Roll, Arts Entertainment, Big Brother The Holding Company, Music, Musicians, culture, society, death, sadness )

- 3100 days ago -
James Gurley, who played guitar in Big Brother and the Holding Company, the psychedelic rock band that brought Janis Joplin to fame, died on Sunday at his home in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 69.

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kat yazzie (400)
Friday December 25, 2009, 8:25 pm
Published: December 25, 2009

James Gurley, who played guitar in Big Brother and the Holding Company, the psychedelic rock band that brought Janis Joplin to fame, died on Sunday at his home in Palm Desert, Calif. He was 69.

The cause was a heart attack, said the band’s manager, Tim Murphy.

One of the central groups of San Francisco’s fertile mid-1960s rock scene, Big Brother and the Holding Company took blues-based songs on long, strange, electric trips that often featured Mr. Gurley’s protracted solos. In an interview in 2007 with The Desert Sun, in Palm Springs, Calif., Mr. Gurley said that his approach was inspired by the music of John Coltrane.

“I heard a lone saxophone raging like a madman,” he said. “And that’s what developed my style: Play it like crazy.”

The son of a Detroit stunt-car driver, Mr. Gurley moved to San Francisco in the early 1960s and became a staple of the music scene there. He joined his fellow guitarists Sam Andrew and Peter Albin to form Big Brother and the Holding Company in 1965. At the suggestion of the band’s manager, Chet Helms, Joplin joined as lead singer in June 1966 and the group quickly shot to fame.

After performing at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, Big Brother was aggressively pursued by Clive Davis of Columbia Records. Following months of negotiations to extract the band from an earlier record contract, Columbia signed the group for about $250,000, according to Fredric Dannen’s book “Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Business” (Random House, 1990).

“Cheap Thrills,” the band’s first album for Columbia, went to No. 1 and became one of the biggest hits of 1968. The group’s single “Piece of My Heart” reached No. 12 on the Billboard pop chart.

But by the end of 1968 Joplin had left the group to embark on a solo career. Big Brother and the Holding Company recorded two albums without her before disbanding in 1972.

Joplin died of a heroin overdose in 1970. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, without her former band.

“They invited us to come and play for the induction of her,” Mr. Gurley told The Desert Sun in 2007. “And we did it. My picture’s in there with her, but I’m not in the official list of inductees. That hurts.”

Mr. Gurley continued to play music after Big Brother’s breakup. He performed with a reunited version of the band from 1987 to 1997.

His survivors include his wife, Margaret, and two sons, Django and Hongo.

Alice C (1797)
Friday December 25, 2009, 8:32 pm
He and his music will continue to inspire

. (0)
Friday December 25, 2009, 9:04 pm
Rest in Peace my friend

Rhonda Maness (580)
Friday December 25, 2009, 9:16 pm
Sadly noted
Thanks kat

Janine Boguslawski (95)
Saturday December 26, 2009, 12:09 am
Sadly noted rest in peace.Loved your music!

Tierney G (381)
Saturday December 26, 2009, 6:09 am
Very very sad. I feel a wave of nostaglia coming on. RIP
Thanks Kat

Teresa W (782)
Saturday December 26, 2009, 12:17 pm

Carol L (0)
Saturday December 26, 2009, 12:36 pm
May you rest in peace. May your family be wrapped in God's love as they morn for their lost beloved.

Corey N. (0)
Saturday December 26, 2009, 10:16 pm

Ancil S (175)
Sunday December 27, 2009, 12:01 am
That is so very,very sad. My condolences to Mr.Gurley's family.Mr.Gurley,may you rest in peace,and may God's love be with you always.

. (0)
Sunday December 27, 2009, 1:56 am
Mr. Gurley may be gone, but will never be forgotten. R.I.P. our brother. Blessings and prayers go out to his family and friends.

Winefred M (88)
Monday December 28, 2009, 5:04 am
Sadly noted. Thanks Kat.

SuS NoMail Plez P (244)
Monday December 28, 2009, 10:06 am
So Sadly Noted! I grew up with Big Brother and my heart sheds many tears. May his family and friends be surrounded by ANGEL WINGS and Mr. you rest in PEACE, you will not be forgotten! LOVE & PEACE

Rhonda Maness (580)
Tuesday December 29, 2009, 3:09 pm
Thanks Kat

Lynn Christy (63)
Wednesday December 30, 2009, 7:11 am
noted, thanks Kat... =)

Cynthia Davis (340)
Wednesday January 6, 2010, 11:24 am
Sadly Noted

L X (529)
Monday January 11, 2010, 7:31 pm
Rest in peace, James Gurley and Janis Joplin!
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