Sam Houston Andrew III (December 18, 1941 – February 12, 2015) was an Americanmusician, singer, songwriter, composer, artist and founding member and guitarist of Big Brother and the Holding Company. During his career as musician and composer, Andrew had three platinum albums and two hit singles. His songs have been used in numerous major motion picture soundtracks and documentaries.
Andrew was born in Taft, California. As the son of a military father, Andrew moved a great deal as a child. He developed a skill for music at a very early age. By the time he was seventeen living in Okinawa, he already had his own band, called the “Cool Notes”, and his own weekly TV show, an Okinawan version of American Bandstand. His early influences were Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard. He also listened to a great deal of Delta blues. His brother Leland Andrew frequently stated his brother was the “Benny Goodman of Japan“.
Shortly after he graduated from high school, his father was transferred to Hamilton Air Force Base in northern California. It was during this period that he started attending classes at the University of San Francisco, becoming involved with the San Francisco folk music scene of the early 1960s. However it was not until he returned from a two-year stay in Europe, over a year in Paris and almost a year in Germany, that he met Peter Albin at 1090 Page Street.
As Big Brother and the Holding Company began to gel, Andrew brought many songs into the band. He has been a prolific songwriter all of his life, penning his first tune at the age of six. Of his early compositions, “Call on Me” and “Combination of the Two” have been two of Big Brother’s most enduring classic tracks. Until his illness in early 2015, Andrew continued in his original role as the musical director of the band.
Janis Joplin was recruited by band manager Chet Helms to join Big Brother as lead singer on June 4, 1966. They soon landed a record contract, issuing their first album on Mainstream and their second – a top seller – on Columbia Records.
Andrew and original band mate James Gurley were known for their searing, psychedelic guitar work. In February 1997, Guitar Player magazine listed Andrew’s and Gurley’s work on “Summertime” as one of the top ten psychedelic solos in music history. On September 11, 2001, Andrew was to be presented with a High Times magazine Life Time Achievement award. That day his flight to New York City was canceled, and instead he received the award the next year.
In December 1968, Andrew and Joplin left Big Brother and the Holding Company to form the Kozmic Blues Band. After about nine months and one album, I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!, Andrew returned to Big Brother.
After Big Brother stopped performing in 1972, he moved to New York City, where he studied harmony and counterpoint at the New School for Social Research and composition at Mannes School of Music. During this period he also scored several films in the US and Canada as well as writing two string quartets and a symphony. He remained in New York City for eight years before returning to San Francisco, where he began playing clarinet and saxophone
In addition to touring with Big Brother, Andrew was involved with his solo project, the Sam Andrew Band and the spoken word quartet Theatre of Light, that besides Andrew, featured The Vagabond Poet, Tony Seldin, keyboardist Tom Constanten and harpist-pianist Elise Piliwale. He also played with Moby Grape during the ’90’s and most recently with the Former Members featuring Greg Douglass, Roy Blumenfeld, David Bennett – Cohen and Bruce Barthol.
Andrew was the Music Director of the musical Love, Janis, based on the life of Janis Joplin, written and directed by Randal Myler and based on the book by Laura Joplin of the same name. He was nominated for a 2000 Joseph Jefferson Award for Musical Direction for “Love, Janis” at the Reading Entertainment and Off-Broadway Investments Theatres in Chicago, Illinois.
Andrew performed at the 40th Anniversary of Woodstock Concert on August 15, 2009 at Bethel Woods, New York.
Andrew lived in northern California with his wife Elise Piliwale.He has one daughter, Mari Andrew, from his marriage to Suzanne Thorson. He died in San Francisco, California on February 12, 2015 at UCSF Medical Center following complications from open-heart surgery due to a heart attack suffered ten weeks prior.