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Sam Andrew, Guitarist for Big Brother and the Holding Company, Dies

Sam Andrew


Sam Andrew, the founding Big Brother and the Holding Company guitarist who powered many of Janis Joplin’s biggest hits, has died after a heart attack. He was 73.

The following message was posted to Big Brother and the Holding Company’s Facebook page this afternoon (Feb. 13). “Dear Friends, Yesterday, 10 weeks after his heart attack and the open-heart surgery that followed it, Sam lost his gallant fight to hold onto the life he lived so well. He died peacefully in Elise’s arms at 5:15PM. There will be much more to say about him in the days to come and there will come a time when we will gather together to remember him. Now is a time for Elise to regather her strength after the long vigil she has kept and the vital role she played in overseeing Sam’s care. For now we can all remember him in our own ways until we can remember him together. He lived his life in music and art and a loving marriage. It doesn’t get much better than that.”

Born into a military family in 1941, Andrew caught the rock bug and learned to play guitar while living in Okinawa, Japan, where his father was stationed. They moved to Northern California, where he became part of the San Francisco folk scene and met fellow guitarist Peter Albin. Adding James Gurley and Dave Getz, by 1966 the band was gigging around San Francisco, with Andrew as the lead singer, when their manager recruited Joplin to front the band.

Together, they released two albums, a 1967 self-titled debut and Cheap Thrills a year later, with the latter reaching No. 1. Despite their rising star, by the end of 1968, they broke up when Joplin, with Andrew in tow, left the band for a solo career.

Big Brother and the Holding Company reunited, without Joplin, in 1969 and continued until 1972, at which time Andrew studied music formally in New York. This led to him scoring several films and composing classical music.

After a 15-year break, the four men reformed the group and continued in various incarnations of Big Brother and the Holding Company over the years. Gurley left in 1997 and died in 2009.

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