Misc Jimi Hendrix recording Janis Joplin alongside her Big Brother band members backstage at Winterland Ballroom, San Francisco, 1968.

Published on September 9th, 2023 | by AlexandreG.


Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin: The Famous Winterland Backstage Encounter

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The late 1960s heralded a rock ‘n’ roll renaissance, where electrifying talents converged to reshape the musical horizon. At the heart of this evolution was the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, more than just a concert venue, it became an epicenter for iconic moments. One such event was the serendipitous union of two titanic musical forces: Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

Pioneers in their respective domains, they epitomized the raw fervor and depth of their genres. However, beneath their brilliance lay vulnerabilities that, tragically, would see both their lives extinguished at the tender age of 27. The year 1968 marked their memorable interaction at Winterland, a moment immortalized by the celebrated photographer, Jim Marshall.

In this narrative, we voyage into that poignant night, exploring the stories of two legends, the profound connection they shared, and the indelible legacy they forged in their all-too-short lives. Join us in reliving this historical encounter, set against the backdrop of an era pulsating with freedom, innovation, and deep-seated camaraderie.

The Story of Janis Joplin meeting Jimi Hendrix at Winterland Ballroom Arena, SF

By 1968, both Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin had solidified their statuses as pioneering figures in their respective genres. Jimi Hendrix, with his groundbreaking guitar techniques and unparalleled stage presence, had redefined what it meant to be a rock guitarist. In contrast, Janis, with her raw, powerful vocals, personified the spirit of blues and rock, capturing the emotions of her listeners with each note.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, were concluding their four-night performance run at the Winterland venue. It was amidst this electric atmosphere that an unexpected backstage interaction took place, forever sealed in the annals of rock history.

On the final night of The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s engagement, another sensational act, Big Brother and the Holding Company, with the unmistakable Janis Joplin at the helm, dropped by. This was not a mere courtesy visit; it was a spontaneous mingling of two groundbreaking forces in the rock world, an embodiment of the camaraderie that characterized the era.

As recounted by Joel Selvin in his book “The Haight: Love, Rock and Revolution”, “The Jimi Hendrix Experience came to San Francisco in February of 1968 to play four nights at the Winterland Ballroom. On the final night of the engagement, Big Brother and the Holding Company also appeared, and Joplin and Hendrix joked around together backstage with Jim Marshall before the show.

Well-known photographer Jim Marshall was present that night, capturing candid moments that have since become legendary. Among his iconic shots were those of Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin, laughing, deep in conversation, and simply enjoying each other’s company. The chemistry was undeniable, their mutual respect palpable.

Jimi Hendrix Filming Janis Joplin at Winterland Ballroom

Janis Joplin smiling at Jimi Hendrix backstage at Winterland, 1968.
A candid moment in 1968: Janis Joplin’s radiant smile directed at Jimi Hendrix, backstage at Winterland.
Credit: Jim Marshall

The Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco was a hub for these emerging talents, a place where unforgettable musical moments were forged. One such instance was when Jimi Hendrix took it upon himself to film Janis Joplin during a break backstage..

While today, with the prevalence of smartphones, such an act might seem ordinary, in 1968 it was anything but. For an artist of Jimi Hendrix’s stature to take the time to film indicated a deep level of respect and admiration. This wasn’t a casual video but a testament to the talent that Janis Joplin embodied on Jimi Hendrix.

Yet, beyond the still images, there was another significant capture that evening. Jimi Hendrix had a knack for filming events and people around him. That night, he turned his lens to those backstage, offering a raw, unscripted peek into the interactions and antics of rock’s finest. Most notably, he filmed Janis Joplin, capturing her essence in a way few had seen before.

As the years passed, these backstage recordings, much like many of Hendrix’s personal artifacts, became subjects of intrigue and curiosity. While several photographs from that evening found their way into public view, the fate of Jimi Hendrix’s personal footage remained a mystery. To this day, no one knows where these tapes are, making them one of rock history’s most sought-after lost treasures.

Winterland Ballroom itself was a venue that had seen countless legendary performances. The fact that this interaction between Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin happened here is no surprise. Winterland was more than just a venue; it was a melting pot of talents, ideas, and musical revolutions.

Did Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix ever date or perform together?

"Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix smiling and holding hands backstage at Winterland, 1968.
An iconic moment in 1968: Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, smiles beaming, clasping hands backstage at Winterland.
Credit: Jim Marshall

Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin are often the subjects of fan speculation and rumor. Given their overlapping timelines and shared spaces, a frequent question emerges: Did they ever date or perform together?

Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin shared a friendship and often graced the same stages, delighting in the close-knit atmosphere of the backstage. Their mutual admiration was evident; Hendrix, with his exceptional guitar skills, and Joplin, with her electrifying voice that crowned her the “Queen of the Blues.”

Jimi Hendrix wowed the world with feats like playing the guitar behind his head and famously setting it on fire at the Monterey Pop Festival. His renditions of hits like “Purple Haze” and “The Wind Cries Mary” are matchless. Conversely, Janis Joplin’s heartfelt performance alongside her then-under-the-radar band, Big Brother and the Holding Company, at the same festival, launched her into international acclaim. Her performance of “Ball and Chain” mesmerized everyone, including the legendary Mama Cass Elliot.

Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin first crossed paths in 1967 at the Monterey Pop Festival and developed a strong friendship. Though they never shared the stage for a performance, they often found themselves performing at identical venues simultaneously. Rumors hint at a romantic relationship, but no solid evidence supports this claim. However, it’s well-known they enjoyed partying together.

YouTube player
Janis Joplin – Ball & Chain – Monterey Pop, 1967

Curiously, blues icon Albert King once alluded to a potential collaboration during a session with Stevie Ray Vaughn. He reminisced about an evening at the Fillmore West where he, Jim Hendrix, and Janis Joplin possibly had a shared musical experience.

Here are Albert King’s words during the session: ‘…at the Fillmore West, I looked around one night, is saw a guy looked just like you, I said, “I know that aint Stevie done eased in there.” About that time Jimi said, “Let’s play some blues”. I said, “OK, not without the Queen though.” That’s Janis. We sent down for Janis. She came down with her little glass. She always had her little glass God rest her soul. She said, “What’s Happening”. I said, “We’re gonna do some blues, we want you to start if off, Honey.” She said, “Cool.” Jimi hit two or three more licks, on the thing there.

What happened to Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix?

Jimi Hendrix capturing Janis Joplin with his camera backstage at San Francisco's Winterland Ballroom, 1968, photographed by Jim Marshall.
Jimi Hendrix capturing Janis Joplin with his camera backstage at San Francisco’s Winterland Ballroom.
Credit: Jim Marshall

Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, both suffered tragic, untimely ends within just weeks of each other. Their profound impact on music is undeniable, but their personal stories were marked by struggles leading to their premature departures. The trappings of fame brought with them intense pressures and substance abuse. In 1970, the music world was devastated by the news of Hendrix’s passing in London. Officially, he died of asphyxiation from barbiturate intoxication. He was only 27.

Beneath Janis Joplin dynamic stage presence lay a vulnerable soul. Joplin grappled with the challenges of stardom and her personal battles with substance addiction. Also In 1970, Joplin was found lifeless in her hotel room, a victim of a heroin overdose. She was also 27.

Who died first Jimi Hendrix or Janis Joplin?

Jimi Hendrix found himself surrounded by a whirlwind of adulation, pressure, and, unfortunately, substance abuse. On September 18, 1970, the world was shaken by the news of his death in London.

Janis Joplin faced her own set of struggles, from the challenges of fame to her personal battles with addiction. On October 4, 1970, just a few weeks after Jimi Hendrix, she was found dead in her hotel room from a heroin overdose.

The Janis Joplin song inspired by Jimi Hendrix

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Janis Joplin – Half Moon.

Their careers, though tragically brief, occasionally intertwined, sparking discussions about their mutual influences. One such manifestation of this connection is the track “Half Moon” from Joplin’s posthumous “Pearl” album.

Interestingly, while “Half Moon” didn’t debut as a primary single from “Pearl,” its charisma has rendered it a cherished treasure among fans. The song’s vitality, combined with Joplin’s raw and powerful voice, evokes the fiery essence that Hendrix exuded. Their shared moments, particularly their memories at Winterland, suggest a likely inspiration drawn from Hendrix’s guitar wizardry.

However, Joplin’s primary forte was not songwriting. “Half Moon” came to fruition thanks to John Hall and his then-wife Johanna Schier. Reflecting on the creative process, Hall mentioned, “So my main responsibility with that song was writing the guitar lick, which I’d say was very Hendrix inspired, and then fitting the lyric to the music. Then Janis did her own job on that, fitting it to her singing style and to her band.

This synergy between Hall’s songwriting, inspired by Jimi Hendrix, and Joplin’s distinctive interpretation underscores the beautiful interplay of the era. In the tapestry of the 60s’ music scene, legends like Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix not only crafted their masterpieces but also imbibed and celebrated each other’s genius.

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About the Author

AlexandreG. Is just a guy who got tired of bothering his friends talking about music, and decided to create a blog to write about what he loves the most.

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