Texas is another country...

Texas is another country...I have driven into Texas from all four directions and can affirm that after crossing that imaginary state line you just know you are in Texas . The world becomes wide open space, the sky feels higher, you can stretch out and rest a spell.

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Post by Alana Cash

Janis Joplin was born in Port Arthur, Texas, and she was, or believed she was, considered strange, weird, and unattractive to her classmates in high school.  In other words, she felt unwanted.  She came of age in the era of social orthodoxy that declared a woman is a homemaker. Janis may have wanted the acceptance of being Mrs. Somebody, but there was something musical inside that pulled her into a creative world in which matching placemats and napkins didn’t seem very important.  She was bound to have a load of conflict. 

When she left Port Arthur in 1960 for the University of Texas at Austin, she made a name for herself on campus via her singing voice and maybe by trying too hard with the boys.  She was voted by the fraternity houses as the ugliest man on campus

Janis Joplin actually had a fresh, joyous face and a lithe body, but there was something scary about a voice that powerful – full of passion and pathos – and something scary about her persona.  She was the Lady Gaga, times ten, of her era when popular male groups still wore suits and female musicians wore department store dresses or evening gowns at performances.  Janis wore beads, bangles, velvet patched jeans, loud fur coats, big round glasses that you couldn’t get at the local optometrist, and she openly smoked and drank and didn’t curl her hair or even iron it.  Good grief.

Janis frightened me, after all I was living on a military base when she rose to fame, and she was so far out before far out became normal entertainment.  While I found it exciting to watch the evolution from the distance of an album cover, Janis waded into the center of the riotous upheaval that was the counterculture.

I love her music:   

I love also that she started singing professionally at the Wednesday Night Music Session at Threadgill’s in North Austin, a Gulf gas station turned honkytonk.  It's still a music venue, but now it's also a restaurant that serves tremendous chicken fried steak while you listen to music.

I watched a short documentary about her life recently, and the saddest part was that as Janis was gaining more and more acclaim as a singer, she wrote letters to her mother apologizing for being involved in music.  Her mother really disapproved. And, I guess the second saddest part was when she went to her ten-year high school reunion thinking she would show them – the kids she felt had rejected her – that she’d become something.  Instead, she ended up feeling like she’d proven her high school critics right – she was a freak.  And on that visit, her parents left town.  Janis overdosed on heroin within a year. 

I’d like to put a little perspective on how Janis Joplin might have come out of Port Arthur.  The township of Port Arthur, as well as Nederland, Diaz, Rochester, Hamlin, Odell, Sylvester, and Rule, Texas, were founded by Arthur Stillwell a railroad industrialist who relied on brownies (little elves) that appeared to him in dreams to direct his business dealings.  He wasn’t shy about declaring this to investors (who gave him $50,000,000 at the turn of the century), and he also consulted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, author and spiritualist.  http://www.beaumontenterprise.com/business/article/Brownies-scouted-future-for-Port-Arthur-745853.php 

Maybe Janis got in touch with Arthur Stillwell’s brownies.  I’m not being fair to Janis here by being tongue in cheek, because in truth, I believe she tried to adapt to the mold of what was expected from her town and her place in it.  But although she might want to be something else (i.e. "normal"), the stronger undertow of her natural musical ability pulled her toward the depths of creative expression.

We can all wear big round glasses and loud furry coats now.  

Janis Joplin, Texas musician


Anonymous wrote:  This blog is so diverse I love waiting to see what's written about next!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This blog is so diverse. I love waiting to see what will be written about next!