Happy Birthday Janis Joplin: Hometown Tour

Janis Joplin singing with Big Brother and the Holding Company

Janis Joplin’s Hometown of Port Arthur, Texas

Janis Joplin has passed into the realm of legend: an outwardly brash and inwardly vulnerable personality who possessed one of the most passionate voices in rock history. She is beloved around the world. Just ask the international travelers who come for her Museum of the Gulf Coast exhibit. Musicians and fans keep her legacy alive. Come along on a road trip through her life in Port Arthur, Texas.

Janis Joplin’s First Home: Childhood in Port Arthur

janis joplin's childhood in port arthur texas
Janis Joplin’s childhood in Port Arthur. Photos courtesy of the Museum of the Gulf Coast

Joplin Family Home
4330 32nd Street

Janis Lyn Joplin was born on January 19, 1943 in Port Arthur, Texas. On August 19, 1947, the Joplin’s purchased this property at 3130 Lombardy in Griffing Park. The address was later changed in 1982 when Griffing Park consolidated with the City of Port Arthur. Here, Janis thrived alongside her parents and two younger siblings.

Museum of the Gulf Coast’s Music Hall of Fame

janis joplin exhibit in port arthur texas
Janis Joplin gallery at the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Photo by Dwayne Cox
montage of janis joplin historical items at the museum of the gulf coast in port arthur texas
Joplin Memorabilia fills the Joplin gallery at the MOGC. Photos by Callie Summerlin

Museum of the Gulf Coast
700 Procter Street

The Museum’s Music Hall of Fame features a permanent exhibit on the life and career of Joplin and includes a wide array of artwork, personal effects, memorabilia as well as a replica of Joplin’s psychedelic 1965 Porsche 356 Cabriolet. Audio-visual touch screens allow visitors to see and hear samples of Janis’ historic, soulful performances. Step into the time machine that is her gallery for a look back on her legendary music career and childhood in Port Arthur, Texas.

The Museum of the Gulf Coast’s Groovy Giftshop

janis joplin memorabilia at the museum of the gulf coast in port arthur texas
The Museum’s Gift Shop offers everything Janis Joplin. Photo by Callie Summerlin

The Museum’s gift shop offers a wide variety of souvenirs, books, T-shirts and trinkets commemorating Joplin’s influence and worldwide impact. Choose from a dozen Janis biographies to learn about her colorful life from friends, fans and even her older sister, Laura.

In addition, visitors are welcome to schedule a viewing of “Southern Discomfort,” a documentary made for Biography, and available in the Lloyd Hayes Theater. Call (409) 982-7000 to schedule your personal viewing.

Janis Lyn Joplin’s Historical Marker

Janis Joplin's Historical Marker in Port Arthur, Texas
A Texas landmark sign notes the location as one of the Port Arthur homes where Joplin grew up. Photo by Guiseppe Barranco

Janis Joplin Historical Marker
Joplin Family Home
4330 32nd Street

In case you don’t make it by the Texas landmark sign, here’s what it says:

A native of Port Arthur, famed blues and rock and roll singer Janis Joplin lived here with her family. She graduated from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1960 and attended Port Arthur College and Lamar State College of Technology (Lamar University) in Beaumont. A liberal and outspoken free spirit, Janis rebelled against the conservatism of her hometown, and in 1962 she moved to Austin to study art at the University of Texas. She connected to the burgeoning Austin music scene and began singing in clubs around town, most notably at Threadgill’s, a bar operated by Texas country singer and yodeler, Kenneth Threadgill. With her raw and raspy singing style exhibiting the blues, jazz, country, Cajun, gospel and soul music influences of East Texas and Louisiana, she was a popular local performer.

Searching for wider acceptance, Joplin moved to San Francisco in 1963 and quickly became part of the growing folk music and counter-culture movement of the late 1960s. Her performances at the 1967 international pop and jazz festivals in Monterey brought her widespread recognition. Her first album, Cheap Thrills, with the band Big Brother and the Holding Company, was a wild success even as her personal life became marred with alcohol and drug abuse. Later recording with the Kosmic Blues Band and the Full-Tilt Boogie Band, she was an international sensation by the end of the decade.

In August 1970, at the height of her fame, Joplin returned to Port Arthur for her ten-year high school reunion. Just two months later, she died of an accidental overdose of heroin and alcohol; her ashes were spread along the coast of northern California. Her final album, Pearl, released after her death, earned a Gold Record.

Joplin’s Baptismal Church

janis joplin junior choir photo and signature at first christian church in port arthur texas
Janis Joplin sang in the Junior Choir at First Christian Church in Port Arthur, Texas. Photos by Callie Summerlin

First Christian Church
Now located at 5856 9th Avenue (item not for public viewing)

In the early 1950s, Janis, along with her mother and younger sister Laura, were members of the First Christian Church. Janis was baptized by immersion in 1950 by  John M. Hughes. Her mother taught Sunday School, and Janis sang in the Youth Choir. The framed choir portraits include Janis Joplin in the top right photo, her signature and details about the years she spent singing in the church. The First Christian Church moved to 5856 9th Ave, and has an autographed picture of Janis in the choir on display.

Personal Artwork Discovered Decades Later

janis joplin artwork at the museum of the gulf coast in port arthur texas
“Garden of Gethsemane” by Janis Joplin. Photo courtesy of the Museum of the Gulf Coast

Around 1991, a small painting of Jesus was found in The First Christian Church closet. The small work, “Garden of Gethsemane,” was completed by Joplin at age 13 and is currently on view in the Museum of the Gulf Coast’s Music Hall of Fame, alongside with two other original Joplin paintings.

Indoor Mural of Janis Joplin’s Iconic Look

Janis Joplin mural by Kimberly Brown
Kimberly Brown’s Janis Joplin for the Ben J Rogers Regional Visitor Center. Photo by Callie Summerlin

Ben J Rogers Regional Visitors Center
505 Interstate 10, Access Road, Beaumont

The greater region is proud of our hometown legend, and the Ben J, Rogers Regional Visitor Center on I-10 in Beaumont, Texas is no exception. Commissioned and completed in 2021, this wall-sized mural is a colorful tribute to Joplin’s unique personal style and one of her most popular and replicated photographs. Artists from around the world have interpreted the photo in innumerable ways, and we’re thrilled to have Kimberly Brown’s custom art on our visitor center’s walls. Read more about this mural and the late artist here.

janis joplin and george paintings for the jack brooks regional airport in port arthur texas
George Jones and Janis Joplin at the Jack Books Regional Airport. Painted and photographed by artist, Summer Lydick

Other Notable Janis Stops:

  • Tyrell Elementary School – Janis attended grades 1-6 here. In 1950, she joined the Bluebirds, a junior Camp Fire Girls Club.
  • Woodrow Wilson Junior High – Janis attended grades 7-9 here.
  • Thomas Jefferson High School (1) – Janis attended grades 10-11 at this location. The school building was torn down, and this site is now Edison Square Senior Living.
  • Thomas Jefferson High School (2) – Janis’ Senior year was at this new facility, and her class was the first to graduate here in 1960 – now Thomas Jefferson Middle School.
  • Port Arthur College – After high school, Janis attended Port Arthur College, where she earned a Key Punch certificate and her mother worked as the Registrar. Janis later attended Lamar University and then the University of Texas at Austin as an art major. Port Arthur College is now Lamar State College Port Arthur.
  • KPAC Radio Station on the Lamar State College Campus – Janis often visited this radio station where a classmate worked as a disc jockey. The radio station later became the bookstore for the college; however, the radio tower is still there.
  • St. Mark’s Methodist Church – In 1961, Janis, along with her mother and sister, moved their church memberships to St. Mark’s.
  • Pleasure Island – Janis often joined friends here for bonfires and parties in the fishing shacks along the highway toward Holly Beach, Louisiana. Pleasure Island and Louisiana were popular escapes for many teenagers in Port Arthur during the 1960s. On these trips across the “river,” Janis would visit music clubs like The Big Oak, Buster’s, and The Stateline, where she took in the unique mix of soul, blues, gospel, and rock-and-roll that emanated from this region. Unfortunately, none of these venues are standing today.
  • Jack Brooks Regional Airport Terminal – Summer Lydick painted Janis and George Jones in a series of paintings commemorating area talent.

Happy Birthday, Janis!

Janis sitting atop her famous painted porshe
Janis Joplin sitting atop her iconic, psychedelic Porsche. Photo courtesy of the Museum of the Gulf Coast

To our friends and Joplin fans who live in and around the Port Arthur area, stop by Visit Port Arthur on Janis’ birthday, January 19th, for a special Janis gift!

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