Janis Joplin bandmates pop in at The Hood

September 3rd, 2013 | by Bruce Fessier | Comments
Roni Lee and Alvin Taylor perform at Saturday's Tribute to Joey Covington at The Hood Bar & Pizza. Ming C. Lowe photo for The Desert Sun

Roni Lee and Alvin Taylor perform at Saturday’s Tribute to Joey Covington at The Hood Bar & Pizza. Ming C. Lowe photo for The Desert Sun


Saturday’s tribute to Joey Covington featured a lot of heartfelt remembrances of the late drummer for Jefferson Airplane, Jefferson Starship, Hot Tuna.

It drew a near capacity crowd, including Covington’s widow, Lauren, and raised an undetermined amount of money for Well of the Desert and Covington’s funeral expenses.

It even featured prayers from a minister that brought a gospel feel to The Hood Bar & Pizza in Palm Desert.

The best part was the opportunity to hear Cathedral City resident Alvin Taylor live up to his reputation as one of Southern California’s best drummers. He’s not only an impressive soloist, he’s the type of drummer that makes everyone in the band better. That was especially true of Roni Lee, a former member of the Runaways (she co-wrote “I Wanna Be Where the Boys Are”), who sang two great Jefferson Airplane numbers as Taylor added a new sense of dynamics.

One disappointment was that Peter Albin and Sam Andrew, two the last three members of Big Brother and the Holding Company (following the deaths of Palm Desert resident James Gurley in 2009 and Janis Joplin in 1970) weren’t introduced. They drove down from the Bay Area just for the tribute.

Big Brother and the Holding Company reunited 16 years after Joplin’s death and held auditions for a new singer in Covington’s Marin County home studio. I asked Andrew, who has thinning, short brown hair at age 71, why they held their auditions there. “That’s a good question,” he said. “I don’t know.” But he described the studio as a “boite,” which is a literate way of saying it was a box.

Andrew, who was passing out cards like he was at a Chamber of Commerce mixer, now writes an intelligent weekly blog called Sundays with Sam at http://bbhc.com/samsblog/. He was taking so many photos at the event, I imagine some of them will show up on it.

Gurley’s widow, Margaret Gurley, introduced me to Albin, who now sports a gray head of hair. He told me to pull up a seat and he’d tell me some tales, but all I got was a story I couldn’t repeat verbatim.

He was playing in San Francisco, he said, with Grits, a mid-1970s country rock band featuring Albin, Covington and Billy Roberts, who wrote the Jimi Hendrix classic, “Hey Joe.” Covington was late to the gig and woman approached him and said she had something for Joey. She then lifted her skirt to reveal no underwear – just a pair of new tattoos.

I asked Albin for his career highlights and he said the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival and the 1966 Trips Festival.

Not bad choices. Monterey was rock’s first great music festival, where many of us first heard Janis and Jimi. The Trips Festival at the Longshoremen’s Hall in San Francisco was the first great psychedelic music event. Tom Wolfe said in his seminal “Electric Kool Aid Acid Test,” it was where the psychedelic 60s began.

I offered to introduce Albin to the crowd, but he declined. He was having trouble hearing the speakers and he didn’t want people to have trouble hearing him.

Our mutual friend, Ming C. Lowe, who attended Monterey, suggested Albin and Andrew try to book their band at Pappy & Harriet’s in Pioneertown.

It’s a great idea. Big Brother’s last gig in July was in Virginia City. They obviously know how to play Old West saloons.

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