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Janis Joplin Guitarist James Gurley Passes

Posted: Dec 22, 2009

I was truly saddened when I heard from J.C. Juanis this morning that our old friend James Gurley had passed away.

As a life long fan of Janis Joplin and her band Big Brother and the Holding Company, I was very familiar with the psychedelic guitar work of Gurley, and when Juanis helped me hook up with him for a Goldmine interview back in 2001, I was thrilled.

Talking on the phone with Gurley was much like talking to a dear old friend. To me, he embodied the "peace and love" vibe of the 1960's, the hippie coolness that I always loved. Even after our interview, he invitd me to call him up and just chat, which I did several times. Here are a couple of excerpts from our interview.


"When I was about 8 or 10 years old I had a tremendous interest in Native Americans and studied them. I got into the lives of and Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Cochise. I was making beaded things and moccasins, and one day my Mom says, "You know, you are an Indian, your Dad's Mom was full blooded Cherokee.

I have always thought of myself as Indian since that time on. I do not know anything about my Polish, Irish , Swedish, heritage but I know lots about the Indians. I was raised in Michigan, Pontiac and Lake Huron, all named after the Indians. When I read about the history of how the United States treated the Indians, giving them small pox on blankets, and treating them worse than the slaves- when I got involved in the blues I saw the same repression of blacks by the government- that is what got me interested in Civil Rights. This all came from being of Indian heritage, and when I got involved in the blues got interested in those people and too it into Civil Rights."

On Janis: "She had a lot to overcome. That's why when you look at someone like Faith Hill, who would imagine that she wouldn't be a star? But Janis was the most unlikely of stars. It is amazing that she is so big today. She had lots to overcome with her weight, and her figure and her skin. Just everything. She was an ugly duckling who transformed herself into a swan. I am not saying that Faith Hill is not good or anything, but I do not see that she had to struggle as much, I guess those doors just opened up. Whereas Janis had to kick the doors down and say "let me in you bastards!" She was in a lot of pain and confusion and angst from her growing up and the way she was treated. The big thing about life is overcoming your upbringing. They filled your head when you were kids, and then you have the spend the rest of your life overcoming it."

We will miss you James. Read J.C.'s memorial to James Gurley here.

Keep it Real. Keep it Southern.


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copperhead says...

Damn that was a good interview. Sorry to hear of his passing.

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