Segarini – Janis (updated with 2 short audio clips)

 

The phone rang for quite a while before I realized it wasn’t part of a dream I was having, but actually ringing in the Real World. Its insistent clatter, sounding more like a fire alarm than a phone, woke me from some quality REM sleep and a dream I do not recall except for the dim memory of naked hippie girls with flowers in their hair and sex on their minds, all dancing before me in a sylvan glen surrounded by a stand of Giant Sequoias in which, besides the lovely bevy of lustful chickies named Moonbeam, Sunflower and Debbie, there stood a Pink’s Hot Dog Stand and Tony Curtis’s limousine. Go figure.

Too tired to be angry and unable to open my eyes just yet, I groped around in the bed’s headboard until I located the source of my sudden departure from Heaven and wrestled the receiver from its cradle, pranging my wife on the head with the damn thing and waking her up as well.

It was 7:00 am. October 4th 1970

I met Janis sometime in 1966.

Not sure where or when exactly, but I do remember it was an impromptu gathering in someone’s kitchen that went on until dawn.

Trying to remember did bring back a vivid memory of watching The Byrds on NBCs ‘Hullaballoo’ on a 19 inch black and white TV plopped down on a kitchen counter next to the sink in the kitchen of  a woman known to me as “Earth Mother”, whose San Francisco crash pad was home to a few members of a band who would soon become the Quicksilver Messenger Service.

I remember the totally Twilight Zone-ish experience of watching the Byrds do “Mr. Tambourine Man”, sitting on a folding chair next to a guy whose naturally curly hair was rolled up in beer cans to straighten his hair into its well-known “Ivanhoe” style, and who was in full colour, unlike his black and white self on the television we were all riveted to.

The show had been taped 2 or 3 weeks before in New York, and was celebrating The Byrds number one record, which happened long after the Byrds were booked into a 2 week stand at The Peppermint Tree Teen Night Club on Broadway in North Beach. They begrudgingly fulfilled their obligation, made months before, but how odd it must have been to have the number one record here and abroad, and be playing a room the size of a neighborhood pub in North Beach, which was quickly being overrun by Topless Nightclubs and The Breasts of Carol Doda.

Having been a fan (and a nodding acquaintance of David Crosbys, who was the gentleman seated next to me with his hair in beer can rollers) parked me at the club most of the nights they played there…but no, that wasn’t where or when I met Joplin. In fact, Janis wasn’t even IN San Francisco when The Byrds were there. She had gotten strung out on speed and smack, and whittled down to 88 pounds, and her friends, concerned with her health, raised enough money to send her home to Texas to dry out.

Janis and Chet 1966

She had originally made the first trip to San Francisco in 1963, hitchhiking with her buddy, Chet Helms, mainly to get out of Port Hope, Texas where she was bullied and ostracized by the ‘normal’ kids, who regarded her as a ‘beatnik weirdo’. And if you were a beatnik weirdo back then, what better place to run off to than San Francisco?

=0=

By the time 1966 rolled around, my band, The Family Tree, was playing up and down the West Coast from San Diego to Vancouver B.C, but our three biggest markets were Portland Oregon, usually at the amazing Crystal Ballroom, Los Angeles, primarily at the Whisky, and San Francisco, usually at the Fillmore, but with occasional gigs at The Avalon Ballroom, and the California Hall.

Along with Stockton, we became accepted as a “local” band in Portland, L.A, and San Francisco, even though the posters and commercials for our appearances were confusing at the outset. When we played L.A, we would be touted as “…from San Francisco”, when we played San Francisco, we were billed as “…from L.A”, and in Portland we were from either/or, depending on the promoter.

From Seattle Washington – 

Sadly, no one ever claimed we were “…all the way from Stockton”. Not once.

It was after one of the Fillmore dates in ’66 that Janis and I first met, after she had come back from Texas at the insistence of Chet Helms, who by then was managing Big Brother and the Holding Company, and had opened up The Avalon Ballroom. He talked Janis into coming back to ‘The City’ (San Francisco’s given name by its denizens) to become lead vocalist for Big Brother. The band, a second string outfit at that point, became an overnight sensation when Janis joined the group and dropped jaws from the very first time anyone heard her.

Janis joins Big Brother and the Holding Company

=0=

In the pantheon of Rock’s female elite, there would only ever be Janis towering over them all. She was more than just a voice…she had soul to spare and a melancholy matched only by a frightened kitten, hiding under a car in a garage during a thunderstorm…

…until she started to sing and turned into a lioness protecting her cubs.

So timid, that for a long time, she had to be drunk to get up the courage, and in so doing, made Southern Comfort the go-to drink for every woman on the West Coast…and most of the men as well. …and the woman could drink most of us under the table.

=0=

Janis was a Force of Nature. A hurricane in a Granny Dress or Bellbottoms, a Diva, a Devil, an Angel, One of the Boys and All Woman. She could be Xena – Warrior Princess one minute, and an adorable kitten everyone wanted to protect the next. And through all of it, defined by a voice and stage presence that towered over everyone else.

The only one who wasn’t aware of this at all times…was Janis herself.

=0=

The world was a smaller, more intimate place back then. Being part of the human fabric in Los Angeles and San Francisco would guarantee being in the same places as everyone else who was driven by the music, the lifestyle, and the desire to be at The Centre of The Universe we all shared…the culmination of the Church of Elvis and the Cult of The Beatles, the belief that California was The Promised Land, not London England or New York, where previous Dreamers had flocked to be heard, be discovered, be anointed, and be ushered into that Magic Land where guitars were more powerful than guns, lyrics more meaningful than speeches, and songs could change the course of human events.

The Doors at the London Fog

To this day, I am occasionally overwhelmed with the amount of people with whom I partied, hung out with, got high with, or had a passing acquaintance with, who went on to define their generation.

I have always considered myself lucky to have been there.

=0=

Janis and I crossed paths many times both in San Francisco and L.A. Moments that seemed unimportant at the time, but became cherished memories in a heartbeat.

Memories of crashing at her place when I found myself stranded in The City, neither one of us with the thought of hanky or panky on our minds.

Memories of sharing a joint while dangling our bare feet in the pool at some wealthy gentleman’s lavish house in Bel Air, who threw a party every Tuesday night for the Sunset Strip kids who knew how to find it.

Of standing at the private bar at The Aquarius Theatre in Hollywood with drummer Ainsley Dunbar trying to order a drink when Bonnie Bramlett and Janis walked up behind us and slapped me on the ass and tried to talk me into going to Canada with them to ride across the country on a train and play concerts at every stop.

Interview shot and produced by Michael Tomasek

Of looking out across the dance floor during soundcheck at The Bitter End West on Santa Monica Blvd. and seeing Janis, Patty Farralla, Rita Coolidge, and my wife talking and laughing, passing a bottle of Cuervo back and forth between them, while having Jerry Garcia ask me to join the Grateful Dead.

Just passing moments in time that became cherished memories in a heartbeat…

=0=

We were in Lake Tahoe in a big, beautiful home rented out to rehearse for upcoming shows at The Fillmore, Santa Monica Civic, and other venues. Rita, Travis Fullerton, Rand Bishop, and a few others, including my wife and myself….

The phone rang for quite a while before I realized it wasn’t part of a dream I was having, but actually ringing in the Real World. Its insistent clatter, sounding more like a fire alarm than a phone, woke me from some quality REM sleep and a dream I do not recall except for the dim memory of naked hippie girls with flowers in their hair and sex on their minds, all dancing before me in a sylvan glen surrounded by a stand of Giant Sequoias in which, besides the lovely bevy of lustful chickies named Moonbeam, Sunflower and Debbie, there stood a Pink’s Hot Dog Stand and Tony Curtis’s limousine. Go figure.

Too tired to be angry and unable to open my eyes just yet, I groped around in the bed’s headboard until I located the source of my sudden departure from Heaven and wrestled the receiver from its cradle, pranging my wife on the head with the damn thing and waking her up as well.

It was 7:00 am. October 4th 1970

And then came that heartbeat….

It was Paul Rothschild calling from L.A.

I asked my wife to run down the hall and get Rita.

Janis had died at The Landmark Hotel of an apparent overdose.

Paul was in the process of producing “Pearl”, which would become her last LP.

It was 2 weeks after Hendrix had passed and 9 months before Morrison would be found dead in a bathtub in Paris.

They were all 27 years of age.

They are all Legends now…

…but they were all just people like you and I who had the same dream so many have to this day.

You can still hear that in their music…

…and especially in Janis’s voice.

…that one of a kind voice…and that one of a kind woman.

Goodnight, Pearl

Sweet Dreams

=0=

Segarini’s regular columns appear here no matter how many versions of A Star is Born get made

dbawis-button7giphyBob “The Iceman” Segarini was in the bands The Family Tree, Roxy, The Wackers, The Dudes, and The Segarini Band and nominated for a Juno for production in 1978. He also hosted “Late Great Movies” on CITY TV, was a producer of Much Music, and an on-air personality on CHUM FM, Q107, SIRIUS Sat/Rad’s Iceberg 95, (now 85), and now publishes, edits, and writes for DBAWIS, continues to write music, make music, and record.

3 Responses to “Segarini – Janis (updated with 2 short audio clips)”

  1. when I wanna sing Janis.. I always wanna sing this … https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LALqJzmjnaA

  2. I just love this….what a wonderful story! There was only one Janis.

  3. Funny what you find during your travelling time.

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