James Gurley, the brilliant guitarist of landmark bands like Big Brother and Holding Company – psychedelic band that played with icon Janice Joplin- left this world in California, two days before his 70th birthday.
The sad news was broke for some of the members of Big Brother that announced that Gurley had passed away last Sunday on a Palm Spring’s hospital after suffering a heart attack.
Peter Albin, one of the founders of the band and the group’s bass player said about him “He was very influential to the whole band early on, and even later, just by being a guy who had strange tastes and played guitar in a very bizarre manner.” He also added that “Some of the innovations were the result of the fact he came from kind of a progressive bluegrass school of music where weirdness was encouraged.”
Gurley was one of the key players of the psychedelic music scene emerging on San Franciso during the sixties, along with Grateful Dead’s Jerry Garcia, Jefferson Airplane’s Jorma Kaukonen and Barry Melton of Country Joe and the Fish.
Gurley introduced innovations on the guitar sound such as using an electric vibrator as a slide on his guitar or picking up amplifiers and shaking them during performances. As a result, he created a loud, esoteric sound that was a major complement to Joplin’s voice on classic songs as “Ball and Chain,” “Piece of My Heart” or “Summertime.”