Remembering Janis’ birthday

Published 5:43 pm Thursday, January 12, 2017

Sam Monroe, president of the Port Arthur Historical Society, grew up with Janis Joplin. They’re both the same age and were in the same class.

In fact, he has a picture when they were in the same Kindergarten class at Tyrrell Elementary.

He was reminiscing on Joplin’s birthday of Jan. 19 in which she would be 74 years old if she were still alive.

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Her home on 32nd Street also has a Texas Historical Commission marker that was placed in 2007.

“That was the home she grew up. The home where she lived as an infant on Procter Street is no longer there,” he said. “Back then, 32nd Street was known as Lombardy Street. She wrote her name in the concrete in the garage that’s still there.”

“She died at age 27. A lot of potential was lost. We get flowers sent to the museum (of the Gulf Coast) for her birthday from people here and from the U.K.”

The text of the 2007 historical marker reads as follows:

A native of Port Arthur, famed blues and rock and roll singer Janis Joplin lived here with her family.

She graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1960 and attended Port Arthur College and Lamar State College of Technology (Lamar University) in Beaumont.

A liberal and outspoken free spirit, Janis rebelled against the conservatism of her hometown, and in 1962 she moved to Austin to study art at the University of Texas. She connected to the burgeoning Austin music scene and began singing in clubs around town, most notably at Threadgill’s, a bar operated by Texas country singer and yodeler Kenneth Threadgill.

With her raw and raspy singing style exhibiting the blues, jazz, country, Cajun, Gospel and soul music influences of East Texas and Louisiana, she was a popular local performer.

Searching for wider acceptance, Joplin moved to San Francisco in 1963 and quickly became part of the growing folk music and counter-culture movement of the 1960s.

Her performances at the 1967 International Pop and Jazz Festivals in Monterey brought her widespread recognition.

Her first album, “Cheap Thrills,” with the band Big Brother and the Holding Company, was a wild success even as her personal life became marred with alcohol and drug abuse.

Later recording with the Kosmic Blues Band and the Full-Tilt Boogie Band, she was an international sensation by the end of the decade.

In August 1970, at the height of her fame, Joplin returned to Port Arthur for her 10-year high school reunion. Just two months later, she died of an accidental overdose of heroin and alcohol.

Her ashes were spread along the coast of Northern California. Her final album, “Pearl,” released after her death, earned a Gold Record.

David Ball: 409-721-2427