February 12, 2015 – Sam Andrew III was born in Taft, California on December 18, 1941, but having a military father he moved a great deal as a child. His early musical influences were Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard and by the time he was seventeen living in Okinawa, he already had his own band, called the “Cool Notes”, and his own weekly TV show, an Okinawan version of American Bandstand. He also listened to a great deal of Delta blues. His brother Leland Andrew frequently stated his brother was the “Benny Goodman of Japan”.
He attended the University of San Francisco, and became involved with the San Francisco folk music scene of the early 1960s. However it was not until he returned from over a year in Paris and almost a year in Germany, that he met Peter Albin at 1090 Page Street. After playing together at Albin’s home, Sam suggested they form a band. They found guitarist James Gurley and drummer Chuck Jones, and Big Brother and the Holding Company was formed ready for their first gig, at the Trips Festival in January 1966. Soon after painter and jazz drummer David Getz, replaced Jones. As Big Brother and the Holding Company began to gel, Andrew brought many songs into the band.
Big Brother became the house band at the Avalon Ballroom, when they contacted Janis Joplin in Austin, Texas, who traveled to San Francisco and debuted with Big Brother at the Avalon on June 10th 1966. It took a while for some of the band’s followers to accept the new singer. Her music was completely different from that which Big Brother was playing at that time. Big Brother had a very experimental and non-conventional sound, but with Janis, their songs adopted a more conventional structure, and the band started to increase its popularity in the underground San Francisco psychedelic scene.
The band’s historic performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967 attracted national and international attention and they also released their self titled debut album in 1967, followed by Cheap Thrills in 1968 which went gold. At the end of 1968 Janis and Sam left Big Brother and Sam joined Janis’s new band, Kozmic Blues Band. After about nine months and one album, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, Sam returned to Big Brother.
After Big Brother stopped performing in 1972, he moved to New York City, where he studied harmony and counterpoint at the New School for Social Research and composition at Mannes School of Music. During this period he also scored several major motion films in the US and Canada as well as writing two string quartets and a symphony.
He remained in New York City for eight years before returning to San Francisco, where he began playing clarinet and saxophone, before Big Brother and the Holding Company reunited in 1987. During the 1990s, in addition to touring with Big Brother, he was involved with his solo project, The Sam Andrew Band and toured across North America.
He performed at the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock Concert on August 15, 2009 at Bethel Woods, New York and was also the Music Director of the musical Love, Janis, based on the life of Janis Joplin, written and directed by Randal Myler and based on the book by Laura Joplin.
He was a prolific songwriter all of his life, penning his first tune at the age of six. Of his early compositions, “Call on Me” and “Combination of the Two” have been two of Big Brother’s most enduring classic tracks. Until up until his final illness in early 2015 Andrew continued in his original role as the musical director of the band.
Sam Andrews passed on February 12, 2015 from complications of open heart surgery in San Francisco.