Sam Andrew, one of the founders of Big Brother and the Holding Company, died on Thursday from complications of a heart attack that he suffered a two months ago. He was 73.
The following was posted on the band’s Facebook page on Friday afternoon:
Yesterday, ten 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 5:15 pm. 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.
John Byrne Cooke February 13, 2015.
Sam Houston Andrew III was raised in a military family, moving often between countries and basses. At the age of 15, while his father was stationed in Okinawa, he formed a band called the Cool Notes and was hosting his own television show on the island’s station based on American Bandstand.
After a time at the University of San Francisco, Andrew moved to Paris where he met Peter Albin. The two worked well together musically and the basis of Big Brother and the Holding Company was formed. With the addition of James Gurley and Chuck Jones, the band played their first show at the Trips Festival in January 1966.
The band replaced Jones with jazz drummer David Getz and began work as the house band at the Avalon Ballroom, but they were limited to playing instrumentals until they were put in touch with Janis Joplin. She joined the band in June 1966 and immediately started steering the band in a more commercial direction.
Big Brother and the Holding Company signed with Mainstream Records who released their self-titled debut album in August 1967. The second single from the album, Down on Me, broke them nationally, going to number 43. They had recently wowed the crowd at the Monterey Pop Festival and the burgeoning underground radio scene added additional exposure for the group.
In November 1967, the band signed with Columbia Records and Albert Grossman became their manager. Their second album, Cheap Thrills, came out in August 1968 and gave the band their biggest hit, Piece of My Heart (1968 / #12). Success, though, brought bigger ambitions and Joplin decided to leave the band in the fall of 1968 with Andrew opting to join her in forming a new soul band.
Sam played with Janis in the Kozmic Blues Band for a year before rejoining Big Brother and the Holding Company where he took over co-lead duties with singer Kathi McDonald. They released the album How Hard It Is in 1971 but the band broke up soon after.
Sam moved to New York where he studied music at the New School For Social Research and Mannes School of Music. His musical direction changed to writing soundtrack music along with two string quartets and a symphony.
In 1980, Andrew returned to San Francisco where he played clarinet and saxophone. Big Brother and the Holding Company reunited in 1987 and Andrew has played with them ever since along with working with his own Sam Andrew Ban. He was also musical director for the Broadway show Love, Janis.
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