As a road manager and filmmaker, he helped run the Janis Joplin show—and record it for posterity. Now he reveals the never-before-told story of his years with the young woman from Port Arthur who would become the first female rock and roll superstar—and depart the stage too soon.
In 1967, as the new sound of rock and roll was taking over popular music, John Byrne Cooke was at the center of it all. As a member of D.A. Pennebaker’s film crew, he witnessed the astonishing breakout performances of Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival that June. Less than six months later, he was on a plane to San Francisco, taking a job as road manager for Janis and her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company. From then on, Cooke was Joplin’s road manager amid a rotating cast of musicians and personnel, a constant presence behind the scenes as the woman called Pearl took the world by storm.
Cooke was there when Janis made the difficult decision to leave Big Brother and form a new band. He was with her when the Kozmic Blues Band toured Europe in the spring of 1969, when they performed at Woodstock in August, and when Janis and Full Tilt Boogie took their famous Festival Express train trip across Canada. He accompanied Janis to her friend and mentor Ken Threadgill’s 70th birthday party, and was at her side when she attended her tenth high school reunion in Port Arthur, Texas.
This intimate memoir spans the years he spent with Janis, from her legendary rise to her tragic last days. Cooke tells the whole incredible story as only someone who lived it could.
INCLUDES PERSONAL PHOTOGRAPHS
About the Author
John Byrne Cooke was Janis Joplin’s road manager from 1967 until her death. He is an award-winning author of four previous books, a performing musician with decades of experience, a photographer, and a filmmaker. He has written book reviews for the New York Times, Washington PostBook World, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
“The story of the woman who skyrocketed to fame as the first female rock superstar and left it at a tragically young age—from someone who had a front-row seat.”—New York Post
“The best book about Janis [Joplin]."—Sam Andrews, Big Brother and the Holding Company
“[Cooke] is a gifted writer, letting Joplin’s vivaciousness and intensity shine throughout the work.”—Library Journal
"Janis Joplin was absolutely a barnstormer and a complete groundbreaker. She wasn't just a great woman in rock—at the time she was the woman in rock. Janis really created this whole world of possibility for women in music: Without Janis Joplin, there would be no Melissa Etheridge. Without Janis, there would be no Chrissie Hynde, no Gwen Stefani. There would be no one." —Rosanne Cash
“[Janis Joplin] perfectly expressed the feelings and yearnings of the girls of the electric generation—to be all woman, yet equal with men; to be free, yet a slave to real love; to [reject] every outdated convention, and yet get back to the basics of life.” —Lillian Roxon, rock critic
“Joplin belonged to that select group of pop figures who mattered as much for themselves as for their music. Among American rock performers, she was second only to Bob Dylan in importance as a creator-recorder-embodiment of her generation’s mythology.” —Ellen Wills, rock journalist