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Extended Audio Sample On the Road with Janis Joplin, by John Byrne Cooke Click for printable size audiobook cover
5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 5.00 (1 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: John Byrne Cooke Narrator: John Byrne Cooke Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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As a road manager and filmmaker, John Byrne Cooke 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 seventieth 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.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Janis Joplin was absolutely a barnstormer and a complete groundbreaker. She wasn’t just a great woman in rock—at the time she was the woman in rock. Janis really created this whole world of possibility for women in music: without Janis Joplin, there would be no Melissa Etheridge. Without Janis, there would be no Chrissie Hynde, no Gwen Stefani.”

    Rosanne Cash, multiple Grammy Award–winning singer-songwriter

  • “When John Bryne Cooke…witnessed it all: her breakup with her Big Brother and the Holding Company band; her European tour; her appearance at Woodstock; and even her tenth high school reunion in Port Arthur, Texas. In this memoir, he writes about his close association with a woman performer who wanted to live as much as she could.”

    Barnes&Noble.com, editorial review

  • As someone who worked for and also befriended Joplin, Cooke has a unique perspective, writing both about his own experiences on the road and painting a picture that covers the full spectrum of Joplin’s personality as an artist and a person, as well as the world she lived in. An accomplished musician himself, Cooke is able to write about Joplin’s music with not only the critical precision of an expert but also the unmitigated joy of a peer who knows exactly how amazing her talent as a singer and performer really was…Though it only covers the last three of her twenty-seven years, all these factors combine with Cooke’s insider perspective to make this the most thorough exploration written about Joplin’s life.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Cooke provides an intimate, affectionate look back at his time with Janis in his newest book. Joplin is a legend and it is all too easy to forget that legends are also people of their times and environments. Cooke’s book is a valuable insight into the performer as a living, breathing person, with her own all-too-human strengths and vulnerabilities. The author may be one of the few people left in the world with that kind of perspective on her, so it’s a good thing that he is a gifted writer, letting Joplin’s vivaciousness and intensity shine throughout the work. Verdict: Rock music fans will love reading this up-close view of Joplin. The end of the book feels like losing her all over again.”

    Library Journal

  • “A memoir of the author’s time working for the spellbinding Janis Joplin. Most of the action in former road manager Cooke’s narrative takes place in venues like Monterey, the Chelsea Hotel and the Haight, but it’s when Joplin is at home in the Lone Star State, among straights and squares and beehive-haired classmates, that Cooke’s account takes off…Joplin emerges as someone we all might like to have known.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “[Janis Joplin] perfectly expressed the feelings and yearnings of the girls of the electric generation—to be all woman, yet equal with men; to be free, yet a slave to real love; to [reject] every outdated convention, and yet get back to the basics of life.”

    Lillian Roxon, noted Australian journalist, music critic, author, and “mother of rock”

  • “Cooke’s pleasing voice, while not compelling, is well suited for these ruminative chronicles. They make clear that artists like Joplin were thoroughly devoted to their art and love of music.”


  • One of Parade Magazine’s Top Books of Rock 'n Roll

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Jonah Olivo | 5/26/2016

    " Out of sight! I have to thank John for his well-written heartfelt story of a side of Janis, that a true hardcore fan would normally never get to hear or experience otherwise. It was a sincere and enjoyable ride in the past that he takes you on. As an audio voyeur, I become one of the group of friends with John and Janis as the story unfolded - at least that's the way I felt in my minds eye strangely and I now feel closer to Janis for it. The book is deeply moving, beautiful, heart wrenching, tragic and a necessary read for anyone who needs to get a first-hand perspective of the beautiful hippie era of late 60s and what a close friendship with the first woman rock is like. Thank You Mr. Cooke "

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