Big Brother and the Holding Company is an American rock band that formed in San Francisco in 1965 as part of the same psychedelic music scene that produced the Grateful Dead, Quicksilver Messenger Service and Jefferson Airplane. They are best known as the band that featured Janis Joplin as their lead singer. Their 1968 album "Cheap Thrills" is considered one of the masterpieces of the psychedelic sound of San Francisco; it reached number one on the US Billboard charts, and was ranked number 338 in Rolling Stone's list of the 500 greatest albums of all time.
The band was formed by Peter Albin, Sam Andrew, James Gurley (1939 – 2009) and Chuck Jones in San Francisco, in a Victorian mansion/boarding house owned by Peter's uncle at 1090 Page Street in the Haight-Ashbury. That house became the site of Wednesday night jam sessions which were organized by Chet Helms who was the real "Big Brother," naming the band, bringing James Gurley into the fold and later seeing that his old friend Janis Joplin came to sing with them. The first official Big Brother gig was at the Open Theater in Berkeley, January 1966. Within a short time they became the house band for Chet at the Avalon Ballroom and began to develop a loyal following, largely due to the charismatic, pioneering guitarwork of James Gurley. The band had what Sam Andrew called a "progressive-regressive hurricane blues style," playing such tunes as Hall of the Mountain King, Coo Coo, That's How Strong My Love Is, and Down On Me. Janis Joplin made her debut with Big Brother at the Avalon Ballroom in June 1966, and a year later, in June 1967, Big Brother and Janis performed at The Monterey Pop Festival. From that point on, Janis became the main focus of attention, with her high voltage and raw emotional performances, while Big Brother faded into the backgroud and became known for being her back-up band.