Peter Albin grew up in San Francisco and initially arrived on the city's booming folk music scene in the early '60s as a guitarist. In tandem with drummer Chuck Jones and fellow guitarist Sam Andrew, he formed the core of the group that became Big Brother & the Holding Company. Albin had a very melodic guitar style that was pleasing to the ear, but he later switched over to bass and opened the way for his friend Jim Gurley — who had a much more distinctive and experimental approach to the instrument — to take the second guitar spot (occasionally Gurley or Andrew would switch to bass so that Albin could play some guitar). Albin was also the group's original lead singer, a fact often overlooked because of the fame that the band later achieved with Janis Joplin in the lead vocal spot — he continued to contribute vocals after her arrival, however, and moved back into the spot following her departure.
Albin and company were a fine folk band, and could play the blues well for a white band, but Joplin was convinced — unwisely, many would say — by the spring of 1968 that she could do better, and parted company with Big Brother. Suddenly left high and dry, Albin, along with drummer David Getz, joined Country Joe & the Fish for a good chunk of 1969, but were back with Big Brother by the end of the year and trying to establish a post-Joplin career. The group actually released a pair of albums, Be a Brother and How Hard It Is, on Columbia in 1971, but never attracted more than a fraction of the audience or the press that they'd gotten with their classic lineup.