Sydney Recording Studios: At Thomas Jefferson High School, Joplin began to rebel. She eschewed the popular girls’ fashions of the late 1950s, often choosing to wear men’s shirts and tights, or short skirts. Joplin, who liked to stand out from the crowd, became the target of some teasing as well as a popular subject in the school’s rumor mill. She was called a “pig” by some, while others said that she was sexually promiscuous. Joplin eventually developed a group of guy friends who shared her interest in music and the Beat Generation, which rejected the standard norms and emphasized creative expression (Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg were two of the Beat movement’s leading figures).
Sydney Recording Studios: Janis Joplin – Blues and Jazz
Musically, Janis Joplin and her friends gravitated toward blues and jazz, admiring such artists as Lead Belly. Joplin was also inspired by legendary blues vocalists Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Odetta, an early leading figure in the folk music movement. The group frequented local working-class bars in the nearby town of Vinton, Louisiana. By her senior year of high school, Joplin had developed a reputation as a ballsy, tough-talking girl who like to drink and be outrageous.
Sydney Recording Studios: Janis Joplin – Graduating High School
After graduating from high school, Joplin enrolled at Lamar State College of Technology in the neighboring town of Beaumont, Texas. There, she devoted more time to hanging out and drinking with friends than to her studies. At the end of her first semester at Lamar, Joplin left the school. She went on to attend Port Arthur College, where she took some secretarial courses, before moving to Los Angeles in the summer of 1961. This first effort to break away from wasn’t a success, however, and Joplin thus returned to Port Arthur for a time.
In the summer of 1962, Joplin fled to the University of Texas at Austin, where she studied art. In Austin, Joplin began performing at folksings—casual musical gatherings where anyone can perform—on campus and at Threadgill’s, a gas station turned bar, with the Waller Creek Boys, a musical trio with whom she was friends. With her forceful, gutsy singing style, Joplin amazed many audience members. She was unlike any other white female vocalist at the time (folk icons like Joan Baez and Judy Collins were known for their gentle sound.