WATERVILLE — In the midst of a blizzard, Janis Joplin was among those who piled into Mike Flanagin’s red 1969 Subaru en route to The Chez Paree on Feb. 21, 1969.

Flanagin, a 20-year-old Thomas College student at the time, had helped book Joplin’s appearance that night at the Waterville Armory.

Rock singer Janis Joplin performs Feb. 21, 1969, at the Waterville Armory during the winter of 1969. Photo courtesy of the Colby College library collection

“This was one of the first few gigs of this new band, The Full Tilt Boogie Band,” Flanagin said. “That’s how we got her in Maine … We jumped in the Subaru and went to The Chez. What a hoot.”

Bob Dennis, after attending that Friday night concert when Joplin performed at the Armory, also headed over to The Chez Paree in Waterville’s South End.

Dennis, who was 23 at the time and teaching third grade in Winslow, saw Joplin at the bar.

“At the concert she was thanking Colby for the sponsorship, I believe, and she said she was going to make the rounds,” Dennis, now 75, said. “The rounds at that time meant The Chez.”

Joplin died the next year at age 27 after an overdose.

While at Thomas, Flanagin got involved with a Colby-sponsored committee for concerts. He called Joplin’s agent and set it up. Now 72, Flanagin owns New England Country Music out of Derry, New Hampshire, and books all concerts for Gillette Stadium. He also books for The Elm in Waterville.

Joplin was the first show Flanagin ever did, and the last was Taylor Swift.

At The Chez, Joplin got a bottle of her favorite Southern Comfort and sang a bit with the band playing there that night.

“That was the thrill of their lifetime,” Flanagin said. “There were only 50 people there at most. It was legendary.”

The refurbished poster from Janis Joplin’s 1969 Waterville concert. Photo courtesy of Mike Flanagin

Dee Jepson, formerly Dee Thompson, remembers Joplin’s concert at Colby’s homecoming. Jepson, Colby class of 1969, bought tickets for her then-boyfriend and now-husband, Donald Jepson, who was on leave from the military. They now reside in Wareham, Massachusetts.

“Joplin was one heck of a performer, I’ll tell you that,” Donald Jepson said.

Rumor has it, Dee Jepson said, that Colby originally booked Joplin’s band and not Joplin herself. A lifelong Joplin fan, she was thrilled to see her favorite performer in the flesh.

“They came up with money and we got the full concert,” Dee Jepson said. “She was like everything you’d ever seen on stage. She was just Janis, everything I ever wanted her to be.”

Rock singer Janis Joplin performs in this undated photo. Associated Press

Waterville resident John Goodine, who met his wife, Celine, at The Chez in the summer of 1972, didn’t go to the concert. But he tried to get in the bar after starting his Friday night at Big John’s.

“All I remember was looking inside and there were so many people in there,” said Goodine, who owns Elm City Photo. “I was like, ‘Who is that?’ They said, ‘Janis Joplin.’ There were so many people there.”

Fred Carter, who owned The Chez from 1973-2017, remembered two specific patrons that said Joplin was there.

Bob Dennis, 75, mingled with legendary singer Janis Joplin after she showed up at The Chez following her Feb. 21, 1969, concert in Waterville. Dennis, seen in front of The Chez on Friday, also attended the concert. Rich Abrahamson/Morning Sentinel Buy this Photo

“I know it happened, absolutely, without a doubt,” Carter said.

Dennis arrived at The Chez where a crowd of about two dozen had gathered. After about an hour or so, Joplin and her entourage of about 10 arrived at The Chez.

“The grapevine wasn’t too far from the front when she walked in through the back, because the waitress said something to me,” Dennis said. “I just saw a commotion. I didn’t get up and go stare because I saw her at the Armory and I knew what she looked like.”

Dennis remembers Joplin lighting a cigarette and chatting with the locals.

“She was kind of hyper,” Dennis said. “She was loud. She was in charge.”

Dennis left before Joplin did as the crowd swelled. There were people waiting and milling around outside with the inside at full capacity.

“Nobody got into any fights or anything like that; just everyone was trying to get a glimpse,” Dennis said.


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