Big Brother Guitarist James Gurley Dead at Age 69.

James Gurley. 1939-2009.

In a quiet statement on the band’s message board, it was announced very early this morning that James Gurley, guitar and bass player for Big Brother and the Holding Company, died on December 20th.

A self-taught guitar player, he considered his sound to have developed ’emotionally.’ His earliest gigs upon moving to San Francisco were acoustic-based folk and bluegrass sets, before becoming more engaged in the developing rock scene after meeting Peter Albin and Sam Andrew in 1965. Soon after this meeting, the three guitarists would found the core of Big Brother and the Holding Company.

Originally performing as a front man prior to Janis Joplin joining the band, Gurley was known for his unusual  approach to the guitar and its effects, such as attacking his amplifier, banging it against the stage to distort the sound. From like antics, he would be considered among the fathers, if not THE father, of the psychedelic sound, particularly that which would grow out of the Haight-Ashbury scene.

There is currently plans for a memorial in San Francisco sometime in January, according to fellow Big Brother guitarist, Peter Albin.

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One response to “Big Brother Guitarist James Gurley Dead at Age 69.

  1. James Gurley R.I.P.
    (My Best Friend and band mate)

    Today I am heartbroken, a Father to my music and best friend for almost 30 years passed away from a heart attack Dec 20 a few days before his 70th birthday. His name was James Gurley known as “The Father of Psychedelic Guitar” he was Janis Joplin mate and lead guitarist in Big Brother and The Holding Co. I first meet James in 1981 when I audition for his new band Red Robin and The Worms, a new wave punk mix original band. I wasn’t really into that music but I went to the studio any ways when I heard James Gurley was looking for a lead guitarist , he wanted to play bass in this band, I passed the audition and I became the lead guitarist. James was so underrated, he was really a great musician , he got a lot of bad press from his playing days with BBHC from some critics and at the same time to others folks he was there God. When I meet James he was so far past what he had done, all he wanted to do was to be in the now, never the past , never wanted to play his old songs over and over in like a touring county fair band , he was fresh. James taught me so much about the music biz and music in general. The best thing about James and I ? we were best of friends for almost 30 years, we have lived together , liked the same foods , same stupid TV shows , politics, amp tubes, lol, etc. yes best friends, now we had are fall outs but always came back stronger . I knew he was good friends with Jimi Hendrix so I always tried to work my ass off on my guitar to make him happy , not easy, he was never happy, well not really he just wanted me not to give up and get content, give my all and never get a ugly ego , James wasn’t into that . James would stay all hours in his studio in Palm Desert Ca. so much that most of the music would not get out, always wanted it perfect. James new music ? oh so many different styles, nothing like Big Brother music, it was James Gurley, from Punk to Rasta to even some funny hillbilly cowboy songs etc., pure emotions and some added comedy, he was a very funny man. In the Janis days James had his problem with the drink and drugs but when I met him in 1981 he was sober from drink and hard drugs , he stayed that way until the end. We were Rastafarian Buddhist , lol, that was our religion. James died in a peaceful way with his beautiful wonderful wife Margaret Nelson Gurley by his side, James and Margaret had a wonderful marriage, one of the only marriages I looked up to, they had marriage perfected. Oh I am going to miss James Gurley I love you James , you know that , you took me in when I was 20 yrs old and I thank you . RIP James Gurley ,

    Peace from Thailand ,

    Mitch Master

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