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  • Can't Be The Only One

    cantbetheonlyonecoverCan't Be The Only One
    The Dave Getz Breakaway
    Label: Indie
    Reviewed: May, 2010

    The Dave Getz Breakaway. Odds are better than even that you’ve never heard of the band unless you live in Marin County in California. You will know Dave’s first band of notoriety, Big Brother and the Holding Company, for which he began playing drums for back in the 60’s.

    He was with the band as they began to make a name and a following for themselves in the idyllic, flower power days in San Francisco. He was there when an unknown girl from south Texas wandered into the band’s life and worked her way in as their lead singer.

    The girl? Janis Joplin. The rest, as they say, is history.

    As you’ll read in the interview with Dave Getz (here), the title song from the album were lyrics that she gave to Dave after hearing a riff that he was playing in a rehearsal studio. Not long after giving him the lyrics, she left the band for a solo career and an untimely death.

    The lyrics remained unrecorded until now, with two renditions of the tune: one opening the album and the other closing it. In between those two gems of the same song is a rich tapestry of musicianship from Big Brother mates Sam Andrew, Peter Albin and the late James Gurley. The vocals are provided mostly by the incredible Kathi McDonald as well as Andra Mitrovich, Sonny Walker and Lyn Asher.

    If you’re looking for “Son of Big Brother” project, forget it. While the work of BBHC stands on its own, this work by Getz is excellent in its own right and gives the legendary drummer plenty to be proud of.

    In addition to the title song, the album has plenty of tunes that are sure to give the listener plenty of very pleasant earworms. The smooth moving More, with lyrics written by Sam Andrew, displays subtle but intricate musicianship and vocals that will mesmerize the discriminating ear.

    The bluesy Borderline (The Show Goes On) conjures up visions of a smoky bar and a seasoned band providing the perfect backdrop to the beautiful pipes of Andra Mitrovich. It won’t surprise me one bit to learn that Nora Jones picks this song up for a future project. I’m just sayin’.

    Next in the line up is the smooth-jazz sounds of Blue Tears. Getz proves his diverse musical ability by not only providing great work on the skins but on keyboards as well. The guitar work offered up by Tom Finch is outstanding, reminding me of some of the jazz licks by Phil Keaggy that I’ve enjoyed over the years.

    She Come In Dancing is an easy-listening instrumental delights the ears, making you wish that it would never stop. The blues creeps back in with House On Fire, delivered once again by Kathi McDonald. I can listen to her beautiful, bluesy voice all day long. Her voice is connected at the soul with the guitar work of Chris Collins and organist Peter Penhallo. This is one of those songs that just “is”. I love it!

    Another instrumental jewel follows by way of Dark Song. While the musicianship is great on this tune, I was especially struck by the bass work of Scott Thompson as well as the excellent drumming by Getz. I find myself putting this song on “repeat” almost every time I listen to it.

    The Sade-like Waiting For You is positioned as the perfect follow-up to Dark Song. Soothing and relaxing, the compelling lyrics draw the mind to be engaged deeper than at just an audible level.

    Heavning is another beautiful instrumental that I love working or relaxing to. The tune will clear your mind to focus on the task at hand or, if you’re just relaxing while listening to this tune, your mind will be taken to lands far away.

    Trail of Tears showcases the experimental guitar work of former Big Brother lead guitarist, James Gurley, who passed away last December. Tears provides the album a unique and pleasant twist. It’s sad to know that the world will never get to see this performed in a live setting by the Big Brothers. Rest in peace, James.

    The album closes with a more upbeat version of the title song, again sung be the incredible Kathi McDonald. Don’t get me to lyin’ by asking me which version I like the best. They’re both great.

    Can’t Be The Only One is a must have for your music library for so many reasons but mainly because it’s just a great album to listen to. But don’t take my word for it. Download it now and listen for yourself.

  • Coast To Coast (On A Piece Of Toast)


    Coast To Coast (On A Piece Of Toast)
    Sam Andrew, Mary Bridget Davies, Ben Nieves, and Jim Wall
    Label: Whole Tone Entertainment
    Review Date: March 29, 2015

    “Coast To Coast (On A Piece Of Toast” was the last musical project worked on by Sam Andrew of Big Brother And The Holding Company before his untimely passing on February 12th of this year. What an amazing opus for this legendary pioneer of Psychedelic Rock to leave us with! 

    The album is fifteen tracks of original tracks that are a brilliant blend of styles including Rock, Blues, Jazz, Gospel and Funk and is intriguing in its smooth complexity and attention to musical detail. The aforementioned genres are written and performed to perfection.  The musician ship is top shelf and Mary Bridget Davies voice exudes a star quality that should be heard and appreciated around the world. I know that Sam had to be incredibly proud to work with her as well as Ben Nieves and Jim Wall to produce this treasure chest of musical memories.

    The album is special to me for personal reasons. Sam was kind enough to meet with me in 2009, not long after I had launched Boomerocity. His openness about details about his life and career made my chat with him very special and something that I’ll always reflect on and never forget. It’s against that mental backdrop that I listen to this album and remember a man who didn’t need to give me the time of day, let alone a couple of hours of his time. 

    If you want to own a piece of musical history as well as be thoroughly and delightfully entertained, you will most definitely want to order your copy of “Coast To Coast (On A Piece Of Toast). You can order or download your own copy through CDBaby (here).


  • Dave Getz

    Posted May, 2010

    DavePortraitAnyone who is a classic rock aficionado is aware of Janis Joplin and the band that propelled her to super-stardom, Big Brother and the Holding Company.  The history of Janis meeting up with BBHC back in the flower days in San Francisco has been more than well documented. Consequently, I won’t rehash the entire history.

    However, I would like to briefly focus on the days immediately before, and the weeks after, the release of their historic number one hit album, Cheap Thrills.

    In the summer of 1968, shortly before the release of Cheap Thrills, the band was rehearsing in a rehearsal studio in Manhattan. At one point they were jamming to a blues riff that drummer, Dave Getz, had come up with the year before. He originally called it, “C# Razzamatazz”.

    Janis heard the bluesy call and response of the tune and promised to write some lyrics for the riff.  According to Dave Getz, sometime between that rehearsal and her announcement a few weeks later that she was leaving the band, Joplin came through.  Written on a party flyer that he still has, were, and are, the lyrics to what became the song and title to his latest album, Can’t Be The Only One.

    Recently, Dave Getz and I chatted by phone about Can’t Be The Only One and the story behind the song and the stories behind the album. After discussing the history about the song, I asked him for a run down to getting the song onto this disc.

    “Essentially, the song never got played so I had to, in some way, assume a melody to actually do it. And, over the years, I had in my mind – I heard what I thought she would have intended the melody to be, knowing the riff and the music.

    “But, it just kind of got away from me.  I think that it was partly because of the nature of Big Brother – the way it’s gone up and down over the years. It’s been very hard for me, in that band, to introduce my music into that band and to get people to play it.  I don’t want to get into the personality thing or being critical.  I just don’t want to do that.  But, it’s just that the chemistry wasn’t right for me to bring my stuff into it. It just didn’t work.

    “I tried a couple of other times with some other things and, at some point, I just said that I would just do my music off by myself in some way.  It’s not going to happen here in this situation with these particular players. I love Big Brother and I love what we do.  It’s been more like a vehicle for Sam (Andrew) because he’s in front and he’s playing the guitar and he’s singing a lot.  It works better in some way that he kind of interprets his songs.  But when it comes to my material or when James (Gurley) was in the band, and we would try to get that stuff done by the band, it just didn’t work.  The chemistry just wasn’t right.

    “But, then, I’ve been in a few other bands. I have a band with my wife.  She’s a singer . . . sings American Song Book, jazz and things like that.  But she wasn’t the right singer to do it (the ‘Janis’ song).  I’ve worked with a few other people and I’ve done gigs with a few other bands over the years but it was just never right.

    “But, then, in 2002, is when I really started to think seriously about doing an album. I went into the studio with some guys that I had been playing with – Tom Finch and a guy named Rob Fordyce – who are both on the CD. Some of the first tracks that we did then – the track that James Gurley is on – that track was originally recorded at that time – 2003. We did a bunch of other tracks which I later discarded.

    “But it was somewhere in the last four years that I really, all of a sudden, looked at that song again – the Janis song – and said, ‘You know? I’ve gotta do this one. It’s just got to be part of it.’  It was that realization that motivated me back into recording again because I had done a bunch of stuff and then discarded it and had gotten kind of disillusioned. I put it away for a couple of years where I didn’t record at all and then I went in again and did some other stuff with Peter Albin and David Nelson that were some other tunes that I had written that had gone in sort of a country direction.  All sorts of things happened over a period of about six years.

    “But, when I finally got the thing that ‘Can’t Be The Only One’ had to be almost crucial to it – I had to bring that song into reality, then everything else started to fall in place.  It’s just a funny kind of thing.  As I said in the liner notes, for a long time I had those lyrics and I would show them to people and I would lend them to people.  There was a book that came out called ‘The Janis Joplin Performance Diary’.  It was printed, I don’t know, about ten years ago and I had lent them those lyrics to put in that book.  People had been aware of the lyrics for a long time.  I think that Janis’s sister (Laura) knew that they existed and things like that. But putting it (the lyrics) into a song was a key thing for me and then everything else began to fall into place.”

    The estate management business is a huge and fiercely guarded business.  Knowing that one of the most ardently protected estates is the Janis Joplin estate, managed by legendary estate manager, Jeff Jampol, I asked Getz if there was any firefight over his use of the lyrics Janis had written.

    “You know, that’s a funny thing.  You can put this in the article because it’s kind of interesting. About two years ago, I put together a band - it’s called the Dave Getz Breakaway - and I wanted to perform that song. I put out an e-mail announcement that the band was going to perform locally - in Fairfax (California).

    “Laura (Joplin, Janis’ sister) came down to that show and she was in the audience.  I announced from the audience and said, ‘Laura Joplin’s here tonight and we’re going to play a song that Janis wrote the lyrics for’ and we played it.

    “A guy named J.J. – who’s not a great singer – was the singer (of that song) that night.  There were other singers sitting in but J.J. was the one who wanted to learn the song and wanted to perform it.  He did an okay job at it.

    “Even before that, I had talked to Jeff Jampol about it, when I started thinking about putting this band together. He said, ‘Send me the song!’ I sent it to him and he wrote me back and said, ‘I LOVE it! It’s GREAT! Let me find somebody to record it.’  He called me a couple of times and started throw out names like Alicia Keys and Beyonce and he started to throw out these things and I said to myself, ‘This guy is full of crap.’

    “He just doesn’t get it.  He was being nice in a way but I just thought the thing sounded like a lot of jive. But I said to him, ‘Yeah! Great! Fantastic! I’m willing to do anything, Jeff.  If you can get this song recorded by someone – Pink would be fabulous or Joss Stone would be great!’

    “He said, ‘Well, let me handle it. Let me do it and I’ll get back to you.’ So, two – two and a half years went by and never heard from him again.  So, anyway, long story short, when I get my CD’s about three weeks ago from Disc Makers . . . I sent one to Michael Joplin (Janis and Laura’s brother) and I sent one to Jeff Jampol. I’m being sincere.  I really think that my album is great – let me just say that. But, I just think, also, that I did as great a job as I possibly could on that song and I thought that Kathi McDonald did a fabulous job.

    “So, I send them (Laura, Michael and Jeff) these CD’s and then immediately got on my computer and wrote them an e-mail, telling them that I had sent them the CD with the track on it and that I hoped they really liked it and to call me and we could talk about it and, maybe, promote it together.

    “In my mind, the way I look at it, I’m doing them a great favor. I’m creating product that, in some way, they’re going to own part of it that didn’t exist before - something that is more like Janis.  It’s a Dave Getz product but Janis is the songwriter and she’s going to have to be paid and it’s going to bring money into their pockets if they promote it.

    “Anyway, four hours after I send this e-mail out, I get an e-mail back from their lawyer who handles their publishing legal stuff.  His name is Randal Wickson. I get this e-mail back and this is what it says: ‘Hi, Dave.  We represent Janis Joplin’s publishing interests, Strong Arm Music. The first use of a song is a very valuable right and constitutes an exclusive right which can only be granted by all copyright owners. The potential first use of this song is a very significant approval and irreparable harm and financial damage would come from a use not authorized by all parties.  You should not, under any circumstance, issue an exclusive first use mechanical or other license for ‘Can’t Be The Only One’. Let’s make this song as valuable as possible for all concerned.  Before you move forward, you should discuss approaches with the Joplin estate. Please contact Jeff Jampol, their manager.  Kathi McDonald, as a first use, would greatly devalue the intrinsic worth of the song because of potential and significant opportunity lost.  Thank you very much for your understanding.’

    “So, I never even wrote back. Because, one thing, he’s just completely wrong.  I’m not granting a mechanical license.  I don’t know if you know what these things are but a mechanical license is when someone writes a song and another artist performs the song – like if I want to perform ‘Summertime’ by George Gershwin, I have to get a mechanical license from whoever runs his publishing company or owns the copyright.

    “But, I don’t have to get a mechanical license for the Dave Getz Breakaway to do my own song!  And, I don’t have to get a mechanical license for Kathi McDonald to sing it because she’s part of my band on the record.  Anyway, I just felt that it was very insulting and, again, it’s like everything that’s ever happened with the Joplin’s in the last 25 or 35 years with them is that they try to sink any project that anybody else attempts unless they can control it. That’s been my experience with them.

    “So, here they were, trying to torpedo me . . . but they’re not going to. Immediately, of course, I had to forward the e-mail to my lawyer and she assured me that there’s nothing there. Just ignore it.  I’ve had several conversations with Jeff Jampol who called me – and I like Jeff.  I like Jeff a lot.  He’s jive.  I said to him, ‘Jeff, I’m seventy years old and I gave you the song two and half years ago and you never called me back.  You never did anything with it.  You had your opportunity and I did something with it and I love what I did with it and I’m going with it. If you can still help me –‘ I told him and we agreed – ‘if you can get somebody like Pink to record the song and Pink calls me up and says, ‘I want to record this song but you have to – don’t sell any more of your CD’s.  Whatever’s out there is out there but let’s stop it and let me record it next month and we’ll put it out.’ Do you think I would say ‘no’? C’mon! That would be my dream but that ain’t going to happen.  He promised me that he would play the thing for people.”

    I’m not a musician.  I don’t even play one on TV. However, even my simple mind realizes that drumming is quite a bit different artistry than, say, playing piano or guitar.  So, I was curious how a drummer writes and plans a solo album.  Dumb question, huh?

    “Yeah, it’s a good question.  It’s not a dumb question because there are drummer jokes! There are whole websites full of drummer jokes and, basically, drummer jokes are like Polack jokes: they’re based on the drummer being a dumb animal type person and no skills.

    “I consider myself the best musician in Big Brother and the Holding Company and I’ve been told that many times over the years by other musicians who I respect. Sam knows a lot about music. Sam’s more educated in some ways about certain things. But, I probably have been a professional musician longer than anybody in Big Brother.  I was in the musician’s union in New York when I was 15 and I was playing professionally when Sam and those guys were still in adolescence. I’m older than them.  I’ve been playing longer and I’ve played more different kinds of music, probably, more than any of them.

    “I've played a lot of jazz.  I toured Europe when I was 19 with a Dixieland band.  I've played in Latin bands. I've played in country bands. I've played Gumbo, New Age music, Indian music, Polka bands, Klezmer music  I've played in actual orchestras and all kinds of bands. And I play some keyboards.  I'm not a great keyboard player but that's how I compose.  I started taking lessons as a kid but then I gave it up and I got into the drums when I was 15.

    “When I was 27, when Big Brother was just starting to come out, I bought a piano – an actual piano.  After that, I had several different keyboards and I always, from the get-go, got back into it and started composing right from the beginning. I didn’t try to take piano lessons or take classical piano, I just used it – it became a voice for me.

    “So, I taught myself a lot.  I taught myself chords and scales and how to read music. It’s been a long process and I still don’t know a lot in certain things but I probably know as much as anybody else about harmony.  Maybe I don’t know as much about harmony as Sam.  I don’t know. I probably know more about jazz than anybody else in that band.  I think my musical understanding is pretty sophisticated.

    “So, that’s where it comes from.  When I’m recording something like that, the process is like this: I’ve composed all of these pieces and most of these pieces, if it has lyrics to it, it comes about by me giving a track that I’ve written that have, say, keyboards and drums on it that I’ve made – a demo track in my house. Then I give it to somebody and they might write lyrics to it. Then I’ll go into the studio and I’ll start out by laying down some sort of percussion track electronically. I’ll use a drum machine and just play on that.  And, then, I’ll play the keyboard part that I’ve written on that. And, then, from that, I’ll start adding parts, bringing in the bass.  I’ll build the thing one at a time, just as a musician – as any musician would.  When a bass player comes in, I’ll tell them what I want to hear. I’ll play the part on keyboards or something similar to what I want. I’m usually assuming that a good bass player or a good guitar player, of course, is going to embellish it and add to it and make it a little more complicated than I can play it, technically, on keyboards.

    “I’m laying out these ideas. In some cases they’re more specific than in others. On the CD, for example, on the first and second tracks,  the bass part is something that I told the bass player to play. I played it for them.  Peter Albin is playing the bass on the second track but what he’s playing is something that I told him exactly, note for note, what to play.  He couldn’t play it, technically, all the way through. So, we take what he played perfectly and we patch it and we create a bass part from it – me and the engineer.  It’s all kinds of experience.  My musical experience, my ability to play something on keyboard, plus what I know can be done on Pro Tools.  I’m not adept, myself, at it but I know what the possibilities are so I can direct an engineer and say, “Okay, take this bar here and put it there” and create these tracks.

    “You talk about as a drummer - my position on this particular CD was very limited.  I didn’t want to make it a drumming CD. I had to put just one place on there where I play a solo. But, in general, I’m really subordinating myself as a drummer and just putting in the part that I want to hear a drummer play . . . think more as a producer and as a total musician rather than as a drummer.”

    I suggest that this speaks volumes to Getz’s ability to communicate what he wants at various levels and to a variety of musicians. His reply is unashamedly forthright.

    “Right, that’s what I was saying before about Big Brother.  With Big Brother, the chemistry is a certain way – there’s a certain inability for me to be that kind of director that I needed to be. When you’re making your own CD and your literally hiring people and paying people to come in, in some cases some people just want to be on it without being paid.  In most cases, I like to hire people because the psychology is different then.  I’m hiring you and I can then direct you – give directions.

    “When you are making a CD you have to be able to work people who are willing to take direction. At the same time, if people are only JUST going to take direction, that can be a limitation, too.  You want people who are willing to take direction but are also willing to try bring in something of their own – their own ideas. If the ideas enhance what you’re trying to say, that’s fantastic! It’s a great thing!”

    Speaking of the people that Getz brought in to help on the album, I commented on the very long history he has with one of the vocalist on the project, Kathi McDonald. His delves into the history with enthusiasm.

    “Yeah, actually, we do! After Big Brother broke up in the late 60’s, I actually was in a band with Kathi that we had together.  It was called Pendergrass. It wasn’t really my band. It was her band.  She had a boyfriend at the time – a guy who played bass. The guitarist in that band, for a very short time, was Ronnie Montrose. Ronnie was playing lead and a guy by the name of Michael Pendergrass – we used his name for the band – he was the lead guitarist.  There was a piano player named Roy Schmall and myself and Kathi and her boyfriend, Howie Schamm, who played bass.  It was a great band and we played mostly rhythm and blues.

    “So, what happened was, when Big Brother got back together, which was when Sam was out there on the road with Janis and the Kozmic Blues Band  - this was when in late 1969 – and she fired him. And he came back and that’s when Big Brother got back together with Sam. And then I brought Kathi into Big Brother from Pendergrass.

    “Eventually, I brought Michael Pendergrass in, too, and a couple of other people.  That’s when Big Brother got back together with Sam, myself, and James Gurley played bass.  He didn’t want to play guitar anymore. Peter Albin played guitar and we had a guitarist named Dave Schallock that I brought in from another band that I was in at the time called the Nuboogaloo Express. There was also Nick Gravenites who was sometimes in it.

    “So that’s how Big Brother got back together in 1970.  But Kathi and I were playing together between the time that Janis and Sam left Big Brother to go with the Kozmic Blues Band, during that period, I had that band with Kathi, Pendergrass.

    “There’s a Big Brother CD that I put out in 1995.  I put it out on a French label and it’s called, You Can’t Go Home Again. It’s by Big Brother and the Holding Company and Friends.  The friends really are the tracks that Pendergrass recorded. The first three or four tracks on that CD are really Big Brother.  They’re really Pendergrass with Kathi McDonald, myself playing drums and Ronnie Montrose playing guitar. But three fifths of that band later became part of Big Brother.

    “Kathi’s played with Big Brother probably, since 1987 when we got back together, she’s probably done, I’m going to guess, somewhere in the neighborhood of six and twelve gigs with us – just a once in awhile kind of thing. I wish she’d do more, actually, but she’s also a funny kind of person in that she doesn’t really want to learn a lot of the new Big Brother stuff. She wants to come in and do what she knows from the past.  She’s not real willing to learn some of the new material that we’ve done since that time.  It’s a little difficult. She’s great, though.  I love her! I really love her!  She’s thrilled – totally thrilled with this CD.”

    The legendary original guitarist for Big Brother, James Gurley, who Dave referenced earlier, passed away last year on December 20, just two days before he was to turn 70 years young.  Getz and Gurley had a falling out thirteen years prior, never to speak to each other that entire time.  However, I noticed that there was a cut on Dave’s CD entitled Trail of Tears that featured James on the guitar.

    Obviously, I was very curious what the story was behind this. I also knew that a lot had already been said about Gurley’s passing and didn’t want to ask Dave to belabor his passing.  So, I asked Getz if he wanted to share anything else that about Gurley as well as the story behind Trail of Tears.

    Getz matter-of-factly relays a couple of stories.

    “I’ll tell you a story. It’s the first thing that comes to mind because it just happened this weekend and it’s fresh in my mind. I just told it to my wife and I’ll share it with you. We were driving in the car from Providence, Rhode Island, to somewhere in New Jersey on Saturday morning. Our singer, Sophia Ramos, is in the front seat.  Sophia, I don’t know if you know who she is, but she’s a monster! She’s a beast!  She’s one of the most incredible singers in terms of her technical ability and what she can do with her voice that we’ve ever sung with. She’s just way beyond!

    “Anyway, she’s sitting in the front seat.  Peter Albin is driving and I’m sitting in the backseat and I hand Sophia one of my CD’s and I say, ‘Hey, Sophia, here’s a present for you.’ She says, ‘Oh, yeah! Great! Thank you!  Is this some of the stuff you played for me a few months back?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, some of it’s on there but there’s some new things on there, too, that you haven’t heard.’ Then Peter says, ‘Well, let’s play it!’ Peter’s already heard it and he really likes it. He’s been very complimentary and has said that it’s really great.

    “I’m a little reticent so I say to Peter, ‘Oh, just play the first three songs. I don’t want to toot my own horn and play this album.’ They said, ‘No, play the whole thing!’ So, I say, ‘Well, play it up to the third or fourth track because then it starts getting weird.’  Sophia then said, ‘What’s wrong with that?’ So, I say, ‘Okay, okay, play it!  I’ll just sit back and I won’t say anything.’

    “So, we’re playing it through and they’re digging it and we get to Trail of Tears. Peter’s talking to Sophia, saying, ‘This has got a track with James Gurley on it.’ I interrupt and say, ‘Yeah, you’re not going to like this’ because a lot of people say that his playing just isn’t ‘musical’ and I know what they mean by it. I understand completely.  It’s not ‘musical’ in the sense that it’s not melodic. It’s not your classic kind of blues playing or anything like that. And, in some ways, it’s almost like modern music. It has a certain noise factor that James was always in to.

    “One of the first things that I remember about James is, when I wasn’t even in the band, watching him pick up his amplifier and slam it down on the stage to create sound and noise like explosions.  James was always into the sound factor and not so much the melodic, lyrical kind of player at all. Some people just can’t go there. So I thought to myself that Sophia might have trouble with this because she’s such a magnificent musician.

    “Anyway, she listens to the track and she says, ‘Play that again!’ He (Peter) puts it back on and she listens to it again.  She then said, ‘That is HUGE balls! Huge balls! That is fantastic!’

    “I thought that was great. There was somebody who got it – who could go there. A lot of people cannot go there.  They’ll listen to James and just say, ‘Turn that off.’ He was really willing to go there – willing to go to places like that and I wanted to have that on that track.”

    Continuing his thoughts about James Gurley, Dave shares a little more insight to the riff that developed between Gurley and the rest of Big Brother. He then shares how it came about that James contributed to Can’t Be The Only One without actually speaking with him.

    “One of the reasons why James left the band was that James and I had a big falling out together. Then it wound up that James and Sam having a big falling out then James and Peter.  But it started out with me and the reason that it started with me is that I had a lot of doubts about James’ guitar playing. I loved what he did in the past with the psychedelic stuff that we did in the sixties. But when we got back together in the 80’s, I felt that we had to do some new material and wanted to go to other places – more lyrical places with songs – more pop stuff.  I felt that he was unwilling – that he was stuck just doing what he was and that’s the kind of player he was. He just didn’t fit in in a lot of places and he knew that I felt that way.

    “There was a passive-aggressive resentment built up between and eventually, when he left the band in ’97, it freed us up.  We couldn’t record anything when he was in the band because none of the music that we were trying to record provided the proper context for his style of playing. It was Sam’s material and Sam’s songs - more like soul. Sam doesn’t really write psychedelic stuff like James could play on.

    “Anyway, I wrote Trail of Tears somewhere in the late 90’s – just a riff – something that I was playing on the keyboards. When I originally went in to record the track, it was with Tom Finch and Rob Fordyce and myself playing the drums. After we recorded the track, I thought, ‘This is a context in which James’ guitar playing would work.’ But, at the time – this is in 2003 – we’re not talking to each other at all – no relationship at all but I loved this guy. I felt for him and I appreciated his playing in some way that he didn’t really understand.  I think I also have an overview of it that he didn’t understand, either.

    “Long story short, I called up a friend that knows James and saw James often.  I said to him, ‘I’ve recorded this track and I think that James would be great on it but I know that I can’t call him up – he won’t talk to me. So, would you call him up and ask if he would be willing to play on this track – see if he would be willing?’

    “The guy called me back and said that James said to make him a CD of the track and he would listen to it and he’ll tell you.’ And that’s what happened. I made him a CD. I sent it to Richard. He sent it to James. James called Richard and said, ‘I’ll do it.’ Richard called me and said, ‘James will do it.’ I said to Richard, ‘Okay, this is the date that I’ll leave a check in the studio with the engineer. James can show up at one o’clock.  I won’t be there. No vibes. Nothing. We’ll see if he can do it.  Do several takes until he’s satisfied that he’s got what he wants and then he can take the check and go home.’

    “And that’s exactly what happened. The next day, after he had recorded it in the studio, I went to the engineer and said, ‘Okay, what have we got?’ He played it for me and I was just thrilled. I thought, ‘This is it!’”

    I knew that it was a sensitive area but I had to ask Getz, “So, you guys never spoke after that, huh?”

    “Uh, no. We never spoke again. I saw him once at a party and I tried to talk to him and he turned away. And, it’s funny. After he died, I spoke to his wife and she said that he really felt the same way towards me but that he just couldn’t get past what had happened but that he also had love and warm feelings toward me. It’s very sad.”

    I mentioned to Dave that my favorite songs on the CD are More and House on Fire. Kathi does a phenomenal job on the tunes, knocking them both out of the park but my favorite tune being House on Fire.

    “Well, she sang on the original. The original version is on the Big Brother How Hard It Is album that came out in ’71. I wrote that song in ’71 and the version that we did then wasn’t right for me. It’s a different rhythm. The band sort of changed the rhythm, which was okay. But I always wanted to go back and do the song again with just Kathi singing and not Sam and do it in the original rhythm which was kind of a slow shuffle rhythm that I originally wrote the song in.  I was real pleased with it. I really felt that was the way I wanted it to sound.”

    Getz has worked on countless recordings so I asked him what was different about working on this disc compared to other projects.

    “Oh, it’s totally different!  I’m a pretty good side man. I’ve worked on other peoples records and I try to just be neutral and add what I add to give someone what they want and be willing to take direction. That’s really important.  I’m always in a situation where I’m either playing in the studio with a band, which is the way Big Brother has always recorded.  Big Brother has always tried to record, essentially, live in the studio – bass, drums, guitar – two guitars - and then do the vocals after that. Very traditional.

    “With this situation, I pretty much, except for two or three tracks where we recorded bass, drums and guitar at one time, almost everything else was done the way I described before – with me starting with keyboards and an electronic drum track which acts like a click track because it’s perfect .  Eventually, I take those out and record live drums over it. So it’s pieced together to create the effect of real music.

    “In some cases it sounds more live than in other cases. I think the first track, Can’t Be The Only One, that track was remixed by a friend of mine, Johnny Thompson. Johnny came to me and said, ‘You know, I’ve listened to your original track of Can’t Be The Only One.  Would you give me a chance – I want to make a mix of it. If you’ll let me do it, we’ll make a radio playable type of mix.’ I said ‘okay’.  We’ve been friends for a long time, Johnny and I, and I totally respect his ears and his ideas. He’s a great guitar player, a great drummer.  He’s one of these multi-talented guys.

    “So, we went in, Johnny and his son, Mike, who was my engineer all through it, and myself, and I just said, ‘Go for it. I’ll be passive.  You do what you want.’ He took everything, cut it up and put it back together the way he wanted to hear it.  He took out all of the drum fills. He didn’t like the Chris Collins’ guitar.  He re-recorded his guitar, which was fine.

    “You know, I loved what he did.  It’s a whole other thing than what I would’ve heard.  I thought it was great! It’s great to have two different ways of doing the same song with the same material, basically, with the same voice and taking these parts. It’s what you can do with Pro Tools these days. It’s like an art form in and of itself and Johnny is good at it. I have to give him credit on that one for his mix.  I mean, I was the guy who created all the parts but he took all the parts and really re-assembled them in a way that was beyond what I would’ve heard in some way and made it very listenable and very simplified. He took it down to his essentials and brought Kathi’s voice really up and emphasized the lyrics and the song and not so much about guitar playing and drumming or the bad.  He just got the essence of the song.”

    Earlier, Dave commented that Kathi McDonald was kicking his butt about touring so I asked him if he had any plans to do so.

    “If the album gets some play – it starts to get some attention and something really happens to where it was really possible for me to put my band back together – put the Breakaway together – it’s like everybody is on go with that.

    “(But) we have to be able to make some money.  We can’t afford to go on the road any more if can’t we make any money.  Tom Finch and Chris Collins, they’re both great guitar players. They both make a very nice living staying in Marin County and teaching. They both have, like, 25 or 30 students. John Evans, the bass player, is playing with Tori Amos. I’d have to be able to offer up something substantial in order to make it worth our while.

    “Big Brother’s busy through the summer but if something’s happening (with the disc) late in the year, I would definitely consider going out and performing with this stuff. I’d love to. That would be my dream!”

    To find out if Dave Getz’s dream comes true, you’ll want to regularly visit the Big Brother and the Holding Company’s website,

    Can’t Be The Only One is an excellent CD to add to your CD library.  It can be purchased by clicking on the album cover picture at the upper right of this page.

  • Living With The Myth of Janis Joplin

    livingwithmythjanisjoplincoverLiving With The Myth of Janis Joplin
    Author: Michael Spoerke
    Publisher: Lulu Enterprises, UK Ltd.
    Released: July, 2009
    Reviewed: October, 2009

    Many people grow up in the shadow of an older sibling or an over achieving parent and feel like they always have to measure up, or that they’re being compared to, the siblings or parents. It’s well known that these environments create its fair share of emotional baggage and debris.

    Michael Spoerke’s brilliant book, “Living with the Myth of Janis Joplin”, gives the low down on an inverted version of this type of environment. The book chronicles the history of Big Brother and the Holding Company that was the first band that Janis Joplin worked with and who was the catalyst for her meteoric rise to fame.

    Notice that I didn’t say that BBHC was her back-up band. Nothing could be further from the truth. Janis Joplin hit the hippie scene of San Francisco with dreams of being a singer. The problem was that she didn’t have a band. Through some well documented introductions, she was invited to join the already successful Big Brother and the Holding Company.

    With incredible research and exhaustive interviews, Spoerke has put together the definitive history of this legendary band and its members. He gives appropriate historical backgrounds of each of the members of the band and the thoughts and perspectives that each of them had of each other, of Janis joining the group, and their life after Janis dumped them.

    Unlike other books that mention the band as being in the shadow of Janis, there are no lurid details that cater to certain people’s prurient and voyeuristic interests. Just great, insightful information about the major players in this bands history is offered up. It’s a great, clean “read”.

    What’s also detailed very thoroughly is the schism that was caused when the band was being categorized as Joplin’s “band members”. While the perception is understandable, the book details why this caused the expected angst among the band and the residual effects on some of the members for years after Janis’s untimely death.

    The book also provides what the band members have been up to from the time of Joplin’s departure from BBHC to the time of the completion of the manuscript (2004). You’ll finish the tome with the knowledge that each the gentlemen are multifaceted, complex and highly talented individuals who make a lasting impression wherever they go.

    The book was originally published in German. What turns out to be an incredible touch and brilliant stroke of genius, Spoerke work with founding BBHC member, and expert linguist, Sam Andrew, to translate the book from German into English for publication in the U.S. Andrew’s expertise with languages and the turn of an English phrase adds additional depth and insight into this must have book for BBCH and Janis Joplin fans.

    You can order this book at,, or, being the incredibly nice and thoughtful guy that I am, you can click on the link at the upper right side of this page and order now. In fact, order two because, undoubtedly, you know someone who will also enjoy this incredible book.

  • Pearl: The Obsessions and Passions of Janis Joplin

    pearlcoverPearl: The Obsessions and Passions of Janis Joplin
    Author: Ellis Amburn
    Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
    Reviewed: September, 2009

    Ellis Amburn’s “Pearl: The Obsessions and Passions of Janis Joplin” is as much a textbook on human need, self-perception and interpersonal relationships as it is a biographer on iconic 60’s rock star, Janis Joplin. This book comes as close to providing a very clear and insightful look into the life of the legend as any I’ve read. It’s unlikely that you will ever find a more researched and objective book on her life than this one. By his own account, he traveled over 30,000 miles to personally interview family and friends to former band members, lovers and even hotel managers.

    Amburn peels back the layers of legend, hype and hearsay and gets to the upbringing and true events that made Janis Joplin into the kind of person she was. He details his visits to her home town of Port Arthur, Texas, and the classmates that she went to school with. He reveals the harsh treatments she experienced by friends and family alike that had to have broken her heart in to countless pieces.

    Ellis also exhaustively interviewed the many likes and loves of Janis’s short life and goes into detail of her infamous attendance of her high school reunion. What is especially amazing about Amburn’s research is that he was able to track many of the men and women that Janis had relationships with. Some may feel that the author is indulging in his prurient voyeurism but that is not the case at all. To learn about Janis Joplin is to learn about her trying to find love and acceptance from her many relationships. As a man, I wince when reading these accounts. As a father of a daughter and as a fellow human being, I found myself hurting right along with her. Such is the power of Ellis Amburn’s writing.

    Ellis’s detail as to how Janis functioned within Big Brother and the Holding Company as well as with Kosmic Blues is, by many accounts, as bang on as can reasonably be expected. Also painstakingly detailed was Joplin’s descent into alcohol and drug abuse. With the same attention to detail, Amburn puts together the last sad hours and minutes of Janis Joplin’s life.

    Just like Hendrix before her and Morrison after, just as quick as it seemed that she blasted her way into the core of the rock world, she self-destructed , with it all coming down to her ashes being scattered along the California coast.

    After reading “Pearl”, you feel that you’ve peered into the very mind and soul of Janis Joplin. You find yourself wishing that she could have found just one true friend in school that would have made her heart ache just a little bit less. You wish that the void in her soul would have been filled with something more fulfilling than the Southern Comfort and smack that she kept trying to fill it with. You wish that she could have experienced the love that she was obviously starving for.

    If you’re a Janis Joplin fan, then “Pearl” is a must read. After reading it, you may be saddened but you won’t be disappointed.

  • Sam Andrew






    Click On The Image Above

    To Read The Sam Andrew

    Interview Written By


    Randy Patterson



    Perfect Sound Forever


    December, 2009