On March 1, 2012, Maureen Mahon, a cultural anthropologist who teaches in the ethnomusicology program in the Department of Music at New York University, will present a lecture entitled “Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton’s Blues and the Sound of Rock and Roll” in the Museum's Foster Theater. The event is free and open to the public.
One of Janis Joplin's prime influences, Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton was one of the great female blues singers of post-war years. She descended directly from Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and other major vocalists of the classic blues period. Thornton's raw, belting vocal style made her self-composed "Ball 'n' Chain" a study in blues expression. Joplin remade "Ball 'n' Chain" with the same intensity Thornton gave the song. Joplin's dazzling performance of it was a highlight of the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival. Oddly enough, Thornton is far better known for being the first singer to record "Hound Dog" – the tune penned by the team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and later recorded by Elvis Presley – than she is for biting blues numbers like "Ball 'n' Chain."
Today—with help from over 100 donors from around the country—our curators hung the iconic Yasgur’s Farm dairy sign in the museum. It was installed to coincide with the 42nd Anniversary of the Woodstock Art and Music Festival. See photos of the sign installation here!
Some readers will be familiar with the story. The remarkable sign was preserved for 40 years by a neighbor and was recently acquired by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. An anonymous donor agreed to contribute $12,000—half the purchase price—with the condition that other music fans provide the remainder through a grassroots online fundraising campaign. We elected to use website kickstarter.com. From there the fans took over and contributed the rest of the funds in a few short weeks—THANK YOU.
If you are passing through Cleveland stop in and see the sign. It hangs in the museum next to the famed awning from CBGB’s, about 50 feet from Jerry’s guitars, Janis’ Porsche, and a few thousand other incredible artifacts documenting the most powerful art form in history – ROCK AND ROLL!
Over 100 individuals supported the campaign including:
Craig A. Adams
The American Music Masters tribute to Janis Joplin, Kozmic Blues: The Life and Music of Janis Joplin, culminated Saturday night with a tribute concert at PlayhouseSquare’s State Theater. The concert ended with Bobby Wood’s terrific house band playing “Get It While You Can,” a Jerry Ragovoy song that Janis Joplin recorded on Pearl. I felt such gratitude to the performers as they came out for a curtain call—they had all brought their best to tell Janis Joplin’s story. Over the course of the night, they showed us Janis’s deep musical roots in blues and folk, her galvanizing rock music, and her love for the soul music of her day.
An early highlight of the show was Guy Clark’s “She Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere,” a song he recorded on his debut album, Old No. 1 in 1975. Although the song wasn’t written about Janis, it was a perfect song to capture her desire to leave Texas and make a space for herself out in the world. Guy and Janis played the same circuit in Houston and Austin, Texas in 1965, and he recalled meeting her back then. Janis also crossed paths with Roky Erickson ...
There are few things better that come out of our education programs than the real “behind the music” style stories shared by the artists and musicians who we celebrate. Such a story was told to me this past weekend by the co-founder and lead singer of Santana, Hall of Fame Inductee Gregg Rolie when he was in town to perform with fellow Inductee Michael Carabello for our 14th Annual American Music Masters series honoring Janis Joplin.
In most of the biographies you will read about Santana, they are rather ambiguous about the details of how the band was actually formed. You read about how Gregg Rolie and Carlos Santana were both in San Francisco in the 1960’s and then magically, there was Santana. When Gregg Rolie said to me, “you know how Santana really formed, don’t you?…it was in a tomato patch.” I knew I was about to be let in on a rock and roll secret.
This is how it really happened.
The origins of the Santana Blues Band, which later became just Santana, lie in a chance meeting between keyboardist and lead singer, Gregg Rolie and guitarist, Carlos Santana. The two knew of each other ...
American Music Masters is in full swing. Last night our signature Hall of Fame Series featured Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Jorma Kaukonen – a founding member of two legendary bands, the Hall of Fame Inducted Jefferson Airplane, and the still-touring Hot Tuna. The packed audience was treated to a special evening of live music and conversation that gave us all an insider’s look into the San Francisco music scene that Janis Joplin was a part of in the 1960s.
Some of the most fascinating discussion of the night came when Kaukonen talked about how in the early 1960s he had moved from Washington D.C. to Ohio, and finally out to San Francisco. As a new student at Santa Clara University Kaukonen walked into a small club that was featuring a hootenanny (a term typically used at the time to describe a folk-music party). That night he met several people who would become his friends, among them Jerry Garcia and Janis Joplin. When asked about his time with Janis he described how they were all learning about music together. Everyone was caught in the folk craze, looking back at classic blues and country music. Jorma described how ...
Rock Hall’s Education Manager Discusses Tuesday’s Teachers Rock Event
It’s hard to watch Girls Rock!, the acclaimed documentary about the Rock ‘n’ Roll Camp for Girls, and not be moved. As a woman, I saw myself – every part of myself – in the girls featured in the movie. As a female musician, I wished that I could have attended a camp like this when I was younger (or now, for that matter). As an educator and former elementary school teacher, I recognized a lot of my students (male and female) in the stories told on-screen. And as a member of the Education staff here at the Rock Hall, I couldn’t help but connect the dots between the world of Girls Rock! and the legacy of this year’s American Music Masters honoree – Janis Joplin. I realized very quickly that Girls Rock! would be a great way to get teachers to think about and discuss a lot of the complicated issues surrounding teaching in the 21st century – all through the power of rock and roll and the lens of Janis Joplin’s life and music.
Yesterday afternoon, as part of our monthly Teachers Rock series, I was joined ...
Rock Hall’s Director of Education Discusses the Sound of Janis’ Voice
Last night we hosted the first event of American Music Masters week: Rock and Roll Night School at the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University. The evening featured multi-media presentations by Dr. Lauren Onkey, Dr. Mary Davis (Chair of the Music Department at CWRU), and myself, examining Janis Joplin’s contributions to rock and roll history.
My presentation focused on what I most love about Joplin: her voice! Her vocal performances are so moving. She makes you feel something. She makes you want to jump and shout, dance and sing. People often talk about the wild abandon of her voice, as if she experienced a kind of rapture in her performances that pushed her and her audience to the edge. But after diving deep into her music over the last year I realized that her performances of rapture were just that, performances. It’s not that she didn’t feel them, but as a performer she worked at refining the way she created these moments for her audience. A great example of this is her performances of the classic Big Mama Thornton tune “Ball ...
American Music Masters week has arrived! We kick things off tonight with a special edition of Rock and Roll Night School on Janis Joplin’s career at the Baker-Nord Center for the Humanities at Case Western Reserve University. Everybody’s cranking Janis tunes around here today—in the last 10 minutes, I’ve heard “Ball and Chain,” (twice!) “Maybe,” “Bye Bye Baby” and “Cry Baby.”
I’m pleased to announce that we’ve added three artists to the bill for Saturday evening’s concert at PlayhouseSquare: Rock Hall Inductee Michael Carabello will be joining his old Santana bandmate Gregg Rolie during the show. Mike is a fantastic percussionist—he’s recorded with Miles Davis, Stevie Wonder, Bonnie Raitt, and the Rolling Stones, among others. Blues singer and songwriter Nick Gravenites will also be joining us. Nick crossed paths with Janis Joplin in the early 1960s during her first trip to San Francisco. Nick wrote “Buried Alive in the Blues,” which Janis was due to record for Pearl when she died (an instrumental version appeared on the final album). He has written songs for Paul Butterfield, The Electric Flag, James Cotton, and Quicksilver Messenger Service, among many others. And our last ...