Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman remembers a woman who played autoharp and sang folk songs before becoming a rock music legend.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you.
And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.
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Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas, on January 19, 1943. As a teenager, she listened to blues, jazz and folk music. In 1962, Joplin moved to Austin, where she joined a folk-country band called the Waller Creek Boys. Joplin, who sang and played autoharp, often performed at Kenneth Threadgill’s bar on North Lamar Boulevard in Austin. In 1963, she moved to California to join the West Coast music scene. In 1967, Joplin got her first big break at the Monterey Pop Festival, where her powerful performance of Big Mama Thornton’s “Ball and Chain” launched her career as an international rock superstar. However, in 1970, Janis Joplin died of a heroin overdose. Her posthumous album, Pearl, included the single biggest hit of Joplin’s career, “Me and Bobby McGee,” written by her friend and fellow Texan Kris Kristofferson.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll celebrate a pioneering trumpeter who performed with some of the biggest names in jazz.