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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Port Arthur, Texas

Port Arthur, Texas, was a "must see" location for me on this trip. I've read the story of Janis Joplin's brief life as recorded by Ellis Amburn in Pearl, twice. The book doesn't treat Port Arthur very well. On the other hand, Port Arthur didn't treat Janis well.

I wanted to get a feel for the town and see how Joplin was presented in the Museum of the Gulf Coast. Joplin is now a "headliner" on the brochures and website for the museum.

The Museum of the Gulf Coast is located downtown and we had arrived on the day of one of Port Arthur's Mardi Gras parades. This got us half-price admission to the museum plus some beads!

The first floor exhibits primarily treat the natural history of the Gulf Coast and present some of the Gulf Coast area's famous personalities from science and industry as well as politics. I was surprised to find a bronze casting of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper there with minimal labeling.
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I had blogged about "The Day the Music Died" back in 2009 when we passed through Clear Lake, Iowa. When we reached the second floor with sports and music exhibits, I realized the connection. The Big Bopper was a local native. The collection of memorabilia surrounding the Big Bopper's career and death is extensive. There are originals of the local newspaper, copies of telegrams of condolence and originals of some of the Bopper's compositions.
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The Janet Joplin exhibit is the most extensive in the museum. Also tucked away where you wouldn't just stumble on it unless you knew it was here, in the very back of the second floor. But it is very well done, in my opinion. It includes a copy of her yearbook from Thomas Jefferson High. She is in the bottom row, third from the right.
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You won't find any reference to the "Slide Rule Club" in Pearl. That's the sort of thing that makes it fun coming to a museum like this.

There is even a replica of her famous hand-painted psychedlic 1965 Porsche Cabriolet. (The original is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.)
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I was very surprised at how many musicians came from the Gulf Coast area. Country, Blues, Rock, the names go on and on. And the museum has collected a bit of memorabilia and biography for a huge number of them. Here are a couple more of my favorites.

Tex Ritter. Big Rock Candy Mountain.
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Clarance "Frogman" Henry. Ain't Got No Home.
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