DATE: February 16, 2021
Our February guest will be El Cerrito resident Peter Albin, bass player of Big Brother and the Holding Company, and part of a large family of artists — sculptors, musicians, painters, and puppeteers — whose work has left an indelible mark on our community.
Here’s a little bit more about Peter:
Had it not been for the melodic and accomplished guitar work of Peter Albin flowing out of an upper story window at 1090 Page Street in the early summer of 1965, there might never have been a Big Brother and the Holding Company. It was on that day that Sam Andrew happened down Page Street in San Francisco and was so impressed by what he heard, that he went in and introduced himself.
Peter was born on June 6, 1944, in San Francisco. He began playing guitar at an early age and became involved in the folk scene of the early 60s. While attending The College of San Mateo, Peter and his brother Rodney played in a bluegrass band called the Liberty Hill Aristocrats.
By the time Peter met Sam in 1965, he had aspirations of forming a band that would write and perform children’s songs. One of the first songs he wrote while working with children at The Marin Jewish Community Day Camp, north of San Francisco, was “Caterpillar.” This song went on to appear on the first Big Brother and the Holding Company album.
But the guitarist who inspired the first meeting with Sam Andrew ended up making the transition to bass and has spent the majority of his career with that instrument. Although his fine guitar work can be heard on cuts such as “Coo-Coo”, “Oh, Sweet Mary”, and “Turtle Blues” and also on Big Brother LPs “Be A Brother” and “How Hard It Is”.
Witty and personable, Peter provided much of the on-stage commentary and also served as the liaison for the group with managers and promoters. Also, in the early days of Big Brother, before Janis, Peter did most of the lead vocals for the band. Among the many songs he sang were “Blow My Mind” and “Down On Me”. Even after Janis, the first album finds Peter’s lead on “Blindman”, “Light Is Faster Than Sound”, and “Caterpillar”.
Peter’s musical pursuits have also extended beyond Big Brother and the Holding Company. He has played with Country Joe and the Fish and can be heard on their 1969 Vanguard album “Here We Are Again”. He later toured in an all-star band with Joe McDonald that cut an album outside Paris (Paris Sessions, Vanguard – 1973) in September of 1972.
In 1982, Peter was one of the founding members of the Bay Area super group, The Dinosaurs. Along with Peter, the group consisted of, John Cipollina, Barry Melton, Merl Saunders, Robert Hunter, and Spencer Dryden.
Peter has loaned many items to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Museum in Cleveland. The most notable piece is his legendary psychedelic Fender Jazz Bass from 1968 which is now a popular museum attraction.
Today, along with keeping a regular tour schedule with Big Brother and the Holding Company, Peter serves as an advertising coordinator with City Hall Record Distributors.