On the Road with Janis Joplin by John Byrne Cooke

On the Road with Janis Joplin

John Byrne Cooke

An intimate and revealing portrait of rock and roll legend Janis Joplin written by her road manager. This is the only book that tells the story of Janis' brief, spectacular career from within her life on the rock and roll road.

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One of Parade's Top Ten Rock n' Roll Reads

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.

Advance Galley Reviews

I received this book randomly from First to Read, and I almost didn’t read it. I didn’t think it would be my kind of book since I have only a little interest in Janis Joplin. I only know a few of her songs and that she died before her time. I decided to give it a try and just stop reading if I didn’t like it. This book surprised me. From the beginning, Mr. Cooke had me interested in the feel of the 60s and what it was like to travel with a star like Janis Joplin. It was a fascinating account from someone who was actually there. It wasn’t long before I found myself invested in Janis and the members of the band. The only unfortunate thing is that I waited too long to start the book, and when I was only 67% done, my First to Read file said it had expired and could no longer be opened. It’s amazing for a book to go from something I didn’t think I’d like to something I was mad I couldn’t finish. I definitely hope to get a hold of the book again so I can finish it. Definitely worth a read whether you’re a Janis fan or not.

John Cooke has written an interesting account of his brief stint as the infamous Joplin's road manager and friend. It's a fascinating trip back into the peace-loving, free spirit, musical times of the mid Sixties and Seventies. Cooke shares his vast knowledge of music history with style and class and does Joplin justice by portraying her as an intelligent but flawed musician. Cooke describes Janis as a powerhouse with a smart mind and quick wit but also extremely insecure and perhaps some of her insecurities led to her addictions that would sadly claim her far too soon. Cooke's book brings up a lot of WHAT IF's. What if Big Brother and the Holding Company had never played at the Monterey Pop Festival? What if Cooke hadn't been there holding a camera, filming Janis' break out moment? Cooke refers early to a ripple effect and a Destiny with a set course. It's not hard to wonder: What IF Janis Joplin had survived? No doubt she would have had much more bluegrass rock to share, in that soulful style that Joplin fans grew to love. And maybe, just maybe, Janis could've shared more than a few pieces of her heart. Special thanks to Penguin's First to Read program for a digital copy in exchange for a review.

I was glad to read this book not so much because I'm a Janis Joplin fan myself but because my husband grew up on the West Coast and was there as a teenager and young adult for the San Francisco music and hippie scene. He always tells me about the bands and the shows he has seen, and he really enjoyed the few times he was able to catch Janis and whichever band she was with. So, I gladly read the book just to get more of a feel for the time. I ended up liking Janis thanks to John Cooke's description of her. I always thought she was a party girl who ended up dying from her excesses, but the book gives a more complicated picture of her. Cooke really made her real, and made me sympathize with her as she fought to realize her musical potential and deal with the challenges of fame. He really made her come alive, and he seemed genuine and honest. I definitely feel it is a book worth reading, both for fans and for people who want to understand the history of that time, the events that shaped it, and the real people who formed the popular culture. Even though I knew how the story ended, and shouldn't have been impacted, I read those last few chapters more and more slowly trying to delay the time until her all too inevitable end.

This book is a great read for Joplin fans, and it's exactly what it claims to be. Written in a high-energy, fast-paced voice by Joplin's road manager, it tells the story of most of Janis Joplin's singing career, her three bands, and her struggles and triumphs. If they ever make a movie of this story, there are going to be a lot of ye olde composite characters, because there are a lot of people moving in and out of this story. Also a lot of places, ad nauseum... a show here, a show there, two shows this other place, the tours and the parties sometimes run together. The best moments of the book are the serious ones, in which the author takes some time to contemplate what's going on. Robert Kennedy's and King's assassinations. Joplin's death, of course. But also the heady time when Janis Joplin got clean and found what she wanted as an artist, how exciting that felt. But the general effect of the book is a fast-paced party, going here and there, suffering failures and riding successes high, names, big and small, dancing by. If you're not a Joplin fan, the level of detail might feel a little excessive, but it's perfect for fans. It's a tribute from a man who knew her well and deeply respected and admired her.

“When she really pulls out all the stops, she sings chords!” If you love Janis Joplin, you will love this wonderful biography of her time on tour by her road manager and friend John Byrne Cooke. Mr. Cooke has lots of stories to tell and he tells them truthfully with love. We know Janis wasn't a perfect person, she had issues with alcohol and drugs and sex. She had a need to please that drove her to go beyond herself and reach heights in music which have never been seen again. We learn about her quitting Big Brother and her trip to visit her family in Texas along with her mentor Kenneth Threadgill at the time of her 10th high school reunion. It was a difficult trip because she had a hard time at school and all these people that bullied and ignored her now wanted to be her friend. We see the problems with trying to re-live your youth when she walks into a bar to listen to the locals sing and is bullied into coming on stage, instead she leaves. It's hard to be famous and always on. It's a heartbreaking story in that just as Janis had gotten off heroin Jimi Hendrix died. She again lapsed into the escape of heroin as she had done previously whenever a friend had overdosed. Two weeks later she was dead. This is a real insider's story and a must read for anyone who loved Janis's music.

On the Road With Janis Joplin by John Byrne Cook, is a captivating memoir, journey, and an account of the sensational and talented pop musician, with an inside view from manager and companion, sharing his memories of Joplin until her death. As all of the baby boomers recall the sixties with rock and roll and Woodstock. With legendary musicians such as Hendrix and Joplin, fans did not always know the woman behind the music, as Cooke was a constant presence behind the scenes. As Cook mentions when he saw these two at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, little did know these legendary musicians would be dead within a few years. Nor did he realize that in just six months, he would become Joplin's road manager and be her near-constant companion, and friend for the rest of her short life. When rock and roll displaced folk music, John was in the right place at the right time. He was a member of D.A. Pennebaker's film crew at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, where Janis and Jimi Hendrix became overnight sensations. When Albert Grossman signed on a few months later to manage Janis and her band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, he hired John to road manage them. John is the only person who traveled with all three of Janis's bands, from 1967 until her untimely death in 1970. From the down to earth Texas girl who enjoyed singing the blues, The Big Brother Band and the Holding Company, and sharing the spotlight with many. She was called Pearl by her friends, escaping the small town narrow minded to become a sixties icon and the first female rock star to break in a predominately male business. (fun visiting the high school Texas reunion). Even though Janis Joplin died at a young age of 27, she played in three different bands and recorded nearly 200 songs, performing from Woodstock to all over the world. From Texas to New York, she rose fast as a young star and lived hard. Cooke delivers an intimate and up-close account of her journey, her strengths, and her passion. Through she had her share of addictions as many celebrities with pressures, and stress, and poor choices, there was much to the woman behind the music. Only Cook, former manager could deliver such up close and an impressive memoir, writing with passion, sincerity and compassion, from a talented and gifted writer. Janis created a world of possibility for women in music. Rock music fans will enjoy re-living the past and this era, as the legend lives on through the words on each page. Well done!

A great book for anyone who wants to know what it was like during the music career of Janis Joplin. It gives insight into her career, the choices she made, and why. A must read for any fan.

This book was a well-written, fascinating look into the life and untimely death of the fabulously talented Janis Joplin. Highly recommended.

An intimate raw look at Janis Joplins rock and roll life.a wild tour behind the scenes look by Byrne Cook who lived it with her .for all Janis fans a true raw look at her i

I knew very little about Janis Joplin, but I can say after reading this memoir based on Mr. Cooke's experience being her road manager I can say I have learned a great deal about her life. I could not relate to the time era or the music as I am a child of the 80's, but I did find it fascinating none the less, and her life was anything but boring. I felt this memoir was well written and gave an excellent view of her life in her industry and just as a human in that time era. She struggled and she thrived which is a contradiction in her life I feel led to her demise. I loved this book even if at first going in I did not feel drawn to reading this since I was not familiar with this time era or Janis, but I am glad I read this book and have learned a great deal and now can appreciate Janis Joplin more than I could before. I do enjoy her music and now can grasp a little more of the emotion and power behind her voice.

This book not only gets you immersed into her life but also the music scene of that time. I recommend this book to anyone that wants to know more about legendary singer Janis Joplin.

This book is about Janis Joplin written by her road manager. I was too young to hear Janis in person or to remember her death so I found the who's who of rock and roll, blues and country and how everyone fits into the quilt of American music fascinating. Cooke also throws in the political upheaval and movers and shakers of this time frame into the mix. I found that Cooke did not condone or condemn Janis and others for their use and misuse of drugs and alcohol, and instead gave explanations as to why the drugs and alcohol were popular escape routes. The book is well written and though one may become ever so slightly annoyed that there appears to be a revolving door set of characters, that is mostly because birds of a feather due in fact flock together. The book is more than just Janis and her rise to stardom and her sad death that even to this day is far to often repeated by celebrities of the current time, it is a social - cultural history set in a microcosm of one road manager and his ordinarily flawed star of music.

"On the Road with Janis Joplin" is John Byrne Cooke's first hand account of the rise and gone before her time of female rock legend, Janis Joplin. In telling about the rock and roll lifestyle of Janis Joplin, Cooke also makes sure to share with the reader information about what was happening in the world around them from the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert Kennedy, to the various events of the Vietnam War, and of course Janis's performance at Woodstock. As Janis's road manager, Cooke was there to witness both the good and the bad of Janis's life. He tells not only of her well known drug use, but also of the life and vibrancy she exuded and her complete and unfailing love for those who were closest to her. I really enjoyed reading this book for I truly did learn a lot more about Janis Joplin than I knew previously. It was amazing to read about all of the various famous people of the time she knew, such as: Shel Silverstein who was working for "Playboy" as a cartoonist and writer at the time, Jerry Lee Lewis who she got into a physical altercation with after he told her he didn't think her sister was all that attractive, and her utter and mutual dislike of Jim Morrison. While reading this wonderful insight into what some would deem a tragic life, I couldn't help but find myself listening to many of the songs which were produced by the bands that are mentioned throughout the book for not only being popular at the time, but also for their interactions with Janis. I became not only fully immersed in the reading of this book and Janis's life, but in the music of the time. Janis Joplin said the following about her life: "All my life, I just wanted to be a beatnik. Meet all the heavies, get stoned, get laid, have a good time. That's all I ever wanted. Except I knew I had a good voice and I could always get a couple of beers off of it. All of a sudden someone threw me in this rock-n-roll band. They threw these musicians at me, man, and the sound was coming from behind. The bass was charging me. And I decided then and there that was it. I never wanted to do anything else." Well, after reading this book, I would have to say that Janis did exactly as she set out to do. For those who: lived during this time and remember the events of the 60s and 70s, who were fans of the music of Janis Joplin, and those who want to know more about this legendary singer and what was going on around her, I would recommend this book to.

On the Road with Janis Joplin is an in-depth look at exactly that. Her road manager, John Byrne Cooke takes you on a ride from the start of her career to its tragic end. While I enjoyed reading the book, I felt it didn’t hold the promise it exhibited at the beginning. The book went from being articulate and what I thought an excellent introduction to an often tiresome and seemingly endless repetition of names and let’s face it, names of people I didn’t think really added to the book’s subject. It made it too long. Cooke’s penchant for naming everyone who had the slightest thing to do with any road trip Janis traveled or concert she played took away from the subject, Janis, and yes, also, the telling of John Byrne Cooke’s close contact with this complex woman and musician. With a good editor, On the Road with Janis Joplin could have been a better book.

In June of 1967 I was a month away from my sixth birthday, I've never really known much about Janis except that she was an amazing singer who was gone to soon. The author dos his job perfectly, drawing us into not only Janis's world but the entire music scene of the time. The story is compelling, interesting, and heart breaking. It's rare to read a book that immerses you so completely into the world it is creating and this book is a wonderful example. I can't recommend this book highly enough to anyone who wants to learn more about the music scene of the time or Janis specifically.

I was only twelve when Janis Joplin was found dead from an overdose of heroin. I liked her music then but I grew to love it as I got older. She was the type of strong woman that you either loved or hated, she was way ahead of her time. Her life style was very bohemian and she was considered a hippie. My parents, like most at the time, were not fans because of what she stood for which made me love her all the more. The author of this book, John Byrne Cooke was her road manager for most of her short career. He has written a moving tribute to this great singer who was often times misunderstood. He was a personal friend and confidante. He heard her when she first performed at the Monterey Pop Festival. A musician himself, he recognized her for the tremendous vocalist that she was. Through mutual acquaintances and twists of fate, he became her manager. Their lives were intertwined until her premature death at 27. I love this book and recommend it. You get a glimpse into the real life of Janis Joplin. Although it doesn’t make excuses for either, it explains the reasons for her drinking and drug use. It humanizes her and makes you realize that she was as insecure and fallible as anyone. After I turned the last page, I was struck again by the senselessness of her passing and couldn’t help wondering how rock and roll would have evolved if this great songster had lived.


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