Six months before becoming an overnight sensation following a blistering set at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, Big Brother was an unknown group from San Francisco playing a month-long Chicago club engagement. The band, made up of bassist Peter Albin, drummer David Getz, and guitarists James Gurley and Sam Andrew, was completed when the quartet was introduced to singer Janis Joplin by mutual friend Chet Helms.
When their gig was cut short, Big Brother avoided returning to California when Bob Shad signed the group to Mainstream Records, his small, struggling jazz label. The three-day recording session in December 1966 resulted in a set of mostly original songs, with the exception of New York City street musician Moondog's "All Is Loneliness" and a more secular arrangement of the gospel standard "Down on Me." Despite Joplin's fiery singing style, Big Brother was still the kind of democracy in which Joplin shared vocals with Sam Andrew on the trippy "Light Is Faster Than Sound" and the more soulful duet "Call on Me." But most of this record featured Joplin reaching back and channeling her hero Big Maybelle on songs like the brassy "Women Is Losers" and the no-nonsense "Intruder."