Guitarist James Gurley of Big Brother and the Holding Company died Dec. 20 of a heart attack at age 69 in Palm Springs, Calif., band manager Tim Murphy tells the Music Mix. Big Brother, a central act in the legendary San Francisco music scene of the 1960s, will always be remembered primarily as the band that launched Janis Joplin’s career with two classic albums. As the band’s guitarist, Gurley, too, was an undeniably key part of that legacy.
Head over to Big Brother and the Holding Company’s official site to read moving tributes to Gurley by surviving bandmates Sam Andrew, Dave Getz, and Peter Albin. Writes Getz: “James was the star of Big Brother and then Janis came along…His guitar playing was original and there is no question that his approach to life and music had a profound effect on me, on Janis, on Sam and on Peter, as well as on everyone in the San Francisco music scene of the 60s.”
You can see Gurley’s handiwork in a 1968 Big Brother recording session (below), where he and the rest of the band backed Joplin on a raw cover of “Summertime.” Then let us know in the comments section how you’ll remember him.
(Follow the Music Mix on Twitter: @EWMusicMix.)
More from EW.com’s Music Mix: