The Jim Irsay Collection, based in Indianapolis, has acquired a Gibson J-45 acoustic guitar owned and played by Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Janis Joplin.
Until recently on loan to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, this was one of two acoustic guitars Joplin owned when she died and is likely the only guitar she played on stage during her years of fame. She also learned to play her iconic hit song Me and Bobby McGee on the J-45.
Joplin practiced Bobby McGee on the guitar and first played the song live in Nashville in December 1969. During a show at New York City’s Madison Square Garden several nights later, she performed the song again and began including it in her set.
Joplin eventually would record the song in Los Angeles a few days before her October 1970 death. Released as a single a few months later, it went on to become her signature song and only number one hit. After her death, her J-45 was given to close friend and collaborator Bob Neuwirth, who taught her Bobby McGee and co-wrote with her Mercedes Benz.
“Even though rock-and-roll music has been largely male-dominated over the years, we must never forget the work and legacies of the great women of rock-and-roll,” said Jim Irsay, owner & CEO of the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts. “Female artists were just as important to the early days of rock music as their male counterparts, and through Janis, I’m happy we’ll be able to celebrate their contributions to this art form as well.”
About the Collection. Irsay’s passion for rock music led him to assemble instruments and items owned and used by some of the greatest artists in music history, including Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Prince, Eric Clapton, Sir Elton John, Johnny Cash, Jerry Garcia, Les Paul, David Gilmour, Jim Morrison, Pete Townshend, Jimi Hendrix, John Coltrane, The Edge and other music icons.
Irsay also has a love for American history and pop culture, leading him to grow his collection with items such as:
An 1823 William J. Stone printing of the Declaration of Independence, one of the first exact “facsimiles” of the final signed document;
The original 1777 Continental Congress proclamation designating Thanksgiving as a national holiday;
Renowned American author Jack Kerouac’s On the Road scroll;
Handwritten documents and artifacts from women’s suffrage pioneer Susan B. Anthony;
The original manuscript for Alcoholics Anonymous’ Big Book, the organization’s founding document;
A Jackie Robinson bat from 1953 (the founding year of the Colts);
Muhammad Ali’s shoes from the 1975 “Thrilla’ in Manilla” vs. Joe Frazier.
Artifacts and signed documents from numerous U.S. Presidents, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy and more.
An active philanthropist, Irsay regularly loans items to museums, nonprofits and other organizations for display and research. Items have been displayed at the U.S.’s Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, The Lincoln Memorial, the world-famous Beverly Hills Hotel, and the Indiana State Museum; as well as at The Centre Pompidou (Paris), the British Library (London), Auditorium Parco della Musica (Rome) and other locations around the world.