Power Pickers
of the '60's

Musicians of the Flower Generation


“Pleased ta Meetcha, Janis”

The first time I remember meeting Janis Joplin was in the winter of 1963 during a dope break on the sidewalk outside The Cabale, a Berkeley coffee house where my bluegrass band, The Ridgerunners, was playing. This was before she was known to more than a tiny handful of people who themselves had just met her.

It was, in retrospect, an august if scruffy group, including one of the Jerries, either Garcia or Kaukkonen, Bob Neuwirth, a smart, snaggle-toothed SOB who became Bob Dylan’s #1 confidant, Greg Lasser and Scott Hambly, the banjo and mandolin players in my band, Fritz Richmond, he of the round, smoked eyeglasses who became the gut-bucket bassist in the Kweskin Jug Band, Janis, and an even scruffier guy than the rest of us who roared off on a motorcycle a few minutes after we all started talking.

“Jesus, what a mangy guy,” I said to no one in particular as I passed a joint to my left, “who is he?”
“That’s my old man, you asshole,” said the young woman on my right, “so shut the fuck up or I’ll drill your little tushy into the sidewalk.”

And so began my first exchange with Janis.

As I said, I had no idea who she was and didn’t care. Please forgive me, but what I saw that nite was an unattractive, twenty-something chunk-ola with stringy blond hair, zits and a scabby, half-bandaged, half cast-set right leg, probably why she looked so skanky, her not being able to shower and everything.

She said she’d just come up from Texas on the back of the guy’s motorcycle, which he’d set down someplace on the road and that that’s where her leg injuries had come from. She told me she and he were living in either North Beach or Haight-Ashbury, both in SF, and was in Berkeley to see if she could get a singing gig.

“You and every other chick with a ukelele and a Joan Baez record,” is what I wished I’d said. But being a people-pleaser, I gave her the name of Rolf Kahn, a very cool older guy, a genuine tattoo-armed Holocaust survivor who had a weekly folk music show on KPFK, the local tree-hugger FM station.

Within a couple weeks he was introducing her as a “genuine Memphis screamer,” the real deal who should get some serious play around the scene. I think by the next year she did something musical with Kaukkonen that didn’t do much except appear on her resume years later.

By the way, I played on Rolf Kahn’s show myself, tho’ where he’d introduced Janis as above, he introduced me as a “genuine Jewish whiner.” But that’s another blog page completely.

One-liner Notes:

“Tastes like shit to me, sir.” Reputedly, Frank Zappa when he was in the service, after scooping up a gob of peanut-butter he’d put in a cleaned-out toilet before an inspection  by a tyrranical drill sergeant.

Leave a Reply