In this weekly series, Herald-News senior reporter Brian Stanley looks back at some of the most notorious crimes in the area’s history. At least, he usually does, but this week, well, hopefully music fans will appreciate a local connection to rock history ...
Typically, when anyone refers to “The Summer of Love” 50 years ago, they’re usually thinking of a soundtrack that represents the shift in popular music from “rock ’n’ roll” to “rock.” The Beatles, in 1967, brought “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” which still is one of the most acclaimed albums ever made.
Rock fans also got some of the first albums by The Doors, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Cream, The Velvet Underground, The Grateful Dead and Big Brother and The Holding Company.
Rock bands also started playing in all-day festivals – such as the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, which featured the aforementioned Who smashing their instruments, the aforementioned Hendrix setting his guitar on fire, and the aforementioned Dead being pretty much overlooked for getting stuck on the bill between those two acts.
Big Brother and The Holding Company also got its first exposure to a wide audience at Monterey Pop with only Otis Redding challenging Big Brother’s Janis Joplin for best vocal performance. Joplin reportedly brought the house down with her performance of “Ball And Chain” – even though she was being sought for arrest by the Braidwood police.
Before achieving fame, Joplin had grown up in Texas and bounced around the country to further her singing career. She’d spend most of her time in San Francisco, but one biography notes she spent the summer of 1964 singing in clubs in New York City. But as summer ended, it appears Janis’ East Coast adventures came to an end and she headed west again.
On Saturday, Sept. 12, 1964, Braidwood officers Barnes and Rodgers were using a radar gun to enforce the 40 miles per hour speed limit on Route 66. At about 11 p.m., the officers clocked a southbound 1960 Morris convertible going 55 miles per hour near Oak Street and made a traffic stop.
Miss Joplin, then-21, surrendered her California driver’s license to the officers in lieu of posting bail. She also signed the back of Complaint #13654 with a crisp “Janis Lyn Joplin.”
Janis did not appear on the morning of Sept. 25, 1964, at the Wilmington branch court as she’d been “directed to report.” It is unknown if any correspondence was sent to her listed address at 1515 Gough St. in San Francisco.
Postings on a fan website claim, after Joplin became famous, she wrote a letter to the police asking to pay a fine to resolve the issue. Despite deepening drug issues, Janis Joplin joined Big Brother and recorded some of the band’s first album in Chicago in 1966.
She made three more albums before her death in October 1970 and her recordings of “Piece of My Heart,” “Mercedes Benz” and “Me And Bobby McGee” remain popular staples of classic rock radio to this day.
Janis Joplin’s driver’s license remained in the police department’s files for years until a secretary reported that Joplin was deceased. The file was trashed and the secretary sold the license to a collector, according to a fan website.
Janis Joplin’s traffic ticket is in the Will County Circuit Clerk’s archives.