The rough wood set of steps was attached to the temporary stage erected at one end of the Panhandle Park in the Haight; a small army of long-haired kids worked on taping down cables and electrical wires, attaching them to amplifiers, microphones and control boxes that snaked across the amateur stage. In four hours, the Panhandle section of Golden Gate Park would be the crowded scene of a weekly free concert featuring various local bands, a regular and much anticipated event.
It was early spring 1967 and Haight-Ashbury was alive with the sights and sounds of young people, an enclave of tie-dye, wild, streaming hair, sandals and free joints.
Janis listened to a couple members of Quicksilver Messenger Service trying out the amplifier and microphone connections, mostly getting shrill feedback and loud electrical clicks.
“Hey, Janis, try out this mic,” one of the skinny sound techs called over to her.
She smiled her crooked smile, got up and walked to the center of the stage, grabbed the mic stand and launched into an old Big Momma Thornton song acapella. Janis wailed, she cooed, she screamed out the lyrics as she rocked back and forth like someone possessed, clutching the microphone stand like a lifeline, stamping her feet and shaking her long, wavy, thick hair, caught up in the powerful feeling of the blues tune.
Everyone on the stage and groups of hippies already camped out in the park stopped whatever they were doing and listened, transfixed by the intense performance. This local girl really had
it; she was going somewhere for sure.
She finished the song, laughed her cackle of a laugh, said “That’s how it’s done,” and walked off stage probably to find a bottle of her ever-present Jack Daniels somewhere.