How Eddie Money Was Almost the Next Janis Joplin


I like Eddie Money. After all, I’m from the ’80s. So I mean no disrespect when I say, holy crap, can you imagine?

We all know Eddie Money for his slick, FM-friendly, Reagan-era hits. But in an alternate reality, we might know him as the poor bastard who replaced Janis Joplin in Big Brother and the Holding Company.

Objectively speaking, Janis Joplin’s voice was one of the most powerful and devastating instruments in rock history. But you can judge for yourself:

When Janis left Big Brother and the Holding Company for solo stardom in 1968, it left a gaping hole in the heart of the band. As the story goes, Eddie Money was first in line to plug that hole.

From Basic Training to Berkeley

Eddie Money (nee Mahoney) was born in Brooklyn to a family of cops. His father, grandfather and brother all served in the NYPD. In yet a third reality, perhaps Eddie Money was a police officer. But in this reality, he dropped out of basic training, traveled to Berkeley, enrolled in Merritt College, and befriended the kinds of people that police officers generally hate. 

He joined several prominent lefty protest groups, including the Students for a Democratic Society and the Youth International Party with Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman. Influenced by early rock and rollers like the Rascals and the Belmonts, Money soon became a regular performer in the Berkeley club scene.

Janis Leaves the Holding Company

Eddie Money was actually a first-rate, long-haired Bay Area hippie. He had enough credibility that Big Brother called him in for an audition. And for a fleeting moment, they actually considered giving him the job.

As Eddie Money recalled in an interview with Gary James:

“I was the singer in that band and they liked me a whole lot. But, I lost the gig out to a Blues singer from Chicago. His name is Nick Gravenites. I don’t think he was as good as me, but he had a gift of gab. You know what I’m saying? I was a lot younger than the guys. He ended up getting the gig instead of me, which is great because I don’t think I could’ve ever held a candle to Janis Joplin.”

Well yeah, but then, who could? Big Brother made two records with Gravenites at the mic. They are a big pile of pointless.

Either way, Money was right. The rejection was a good thing. Eddie was more determined than ever to succeed.

He remained a fixture in the Bay Area for the next decade, finally gaining the attention of legendary promoter Bill Graham and landing a contract with Columbia Records in 1977. Over the next 15 years, he scored 11 Top 40 hits.

And it helped that listeners were never forced to compare him to Janis Joplin.

Instead, you can think of this guy…