Tag Archives: Jimi Hendrix

Hendrix Before Jimi

Hendrix Before Jimi

Or, God Bless Linda Keith

It was likely 1967 when we American listeners first heard the then 24-year-old guitarist called Jimi Hendrix. For some, we’d never heard rock played quite that way. And we would never have believed that we would only have three years before he would leave us.

Like all legends, there was a prequel. This post will try to fill in some of Jimi’s story before he became Jimi.

And many thanks to Philip Norman’s biography of Hendrix: Wild Thing: The Short, Spellbinding Life of Jimi Hendrix. The book provided an invaluable outline for this post.

Buster

James Allen Hendrix, known as Al, met Lucille Jeter. in Seattle. Al and Lucille married on March 31, 1942.  World War II had already begun and three days later Al was shipped off to Fort Sill in Oklahoma for basic training.

Lucille gave birth to a son on November 27, 1942. She named him Johnny Allen Hendrix.  When he returned from the Pacific, Al worried that perhaps Johnny wasn’t his having had received anonymous letters suggesting infidelity on Lucille’s part.

Al  changed Johnny’s name to James Marshall Hendrix, but the youngster later preferred the name Buster. He loved the action movie hero actor Buster Crabbe and wanted that name.

Buster remained Buster until he entered  Washington Middle School (Seattle, WA).  There he became Jimmy.

Hendrix Before Jimi

Early Bands

After years of begging and “playing guitar” on a broom and on a one-stringed ukulele, Dad Al finally bought an actual guitar for his 12-year-old son. Despite the left-handed Buster having to play  the right-handed instrument “upside down,” the guitar (and there were many!) encompassed the rest ofJimmy’s life.

He joined a band called the Velvetones. In 1959 he joined the Rocking Kings; then Thomas and the Tomcats.

In 1948, Ray Charles had moved from Tampa, Florida to Seattle, Washington because he wanted to get as far away from Tampa as possible. It was in Seattle that Charles was “discovered” and he always had a fond spot for the city.

He was performing there in early 1960 and needed some backup players. Jimmy Hendrix was one of those selected.

Hendrix Before Jimi

Army

In October 1960, Jimmy dropped out of high school and shortly afterwards ran into some legal issues and the judge offered him jail-time or the Army. Jimmy chose the Army, specifically the 101st Airborne Division where he found the challenges both exciting and unnecessary. He was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

He eventually had his guitar with him, of course, and also met Billy Cox. Together they formed the Kasuals and performed locally in their free time. Hendrix’s Army time was too limiting for his play time and by July 1962 he was discharged, honorably, basically for being unfit for the Army.

Hendrix Before Jimi

King Kasuals/Marbles

Cox left the Army (on time) a few months later and together they formed the King Kasuals and lived in Clarksville, Tennessee.   They met Larry Lee there.  Of course, the three would later be on stage at Woodstock.

Others saw his dedication to practicing guitar to be more of an obsession and nicknamed him “Marbles” as in, losing his marbles.

Hendrix Before Jimi

First recording session

It was at this time that Hendrix was  first hired as a session musician. Billy Cox was able to arrange a recording job through a friend, DJ and music producer Bill “Hoss” Allen for Clarence “Frogman” Henry.

Cox and Jimmy did the gig, got paid, and went back to being struggling musicians. Nothing was heard about it again until the mid-90s when Allen asked Cox if he knew what had happened to the recordings? Cox said he didn’t, but told Allen who he might contact.

In a 2017 Facebook post, Cox wrote, “Hoss went off to investigate. He later came back and told me, with mournful–regret: “I can’t believe it. I erased all the tracks that Jimi played on and replaced him because I thought Jimi was playing too loud. I erased millions of dollars!….” I could feel his pain….

Hendrix Before Jimi

Vancouver

Nora Rose Moore

Though Jimmy had a limited relationship with his grandmother, Nora Rose Moore, he loved her and loved being with her.

Frustrated with his lack of success, he visited Nora in Vancouver in December 1962. He joined Bobby Taylor and he Vancouvers, though they already had a lead guitarist, a Tommy Chong. Chong would later leave music and become a far better known comedian and nowadays a cannabis entrepreneur. Chong says that Taylor knew Hendrix, but that Hendrix didn’t play in the band. Hendrix Haze.

Hendrix Before Jimi

Chitlin’ Circuit

Hendrix Before Jim

By early 1963, Jimmy was back in the states, Nashville, Tennessee specifically. He rejoined Billy Cox and the King Kasuals, which later included Larry Lee.

That didn’t last long and with some reluctance, Jimmy joined Cox and Lee on the informal Chitlin’ Circuit.  The extreme segregation that existed, Black musicians had to find venues that would allow them to play.

Jimmy was reluctant because although the Circuit could offer steady work, the accommodations, travel conditions, low pay and living conditions far from comfortable.

Their job was with Bob Fisher and the Bonnevilles who were backing the Marvelettes and the Impressions with Curtis Mayfield.

Jimi would later say, ““The best gig was working with Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. Curtis was a really good guitarist…I learned quite a lot in that short time. He probably influenced me more than anyone I’d ever played with up to that time” 

Hendrix Before Jimi

Many Bands

Eventually Lee and Cox left the circuit. Jimmy stayed and played for a number of bands: Chuck JacksonCarla Thomas, Slim Harpo, Tommy Tucker, Jerry Butler, and Marion James.

From the wings, he observed (and learned) such luminaries as Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, and Otis Redding.

Hendrix eventually joined Solomon Burke‘s band, but his tardiness, scene-stealing style, and general lack of cooperation led to repeated dismissals.

Burke traded him to Otis Redding, but Redding tossed him for the same reasons and Jimmy returned to Nashville.

Hendrix Before Jimi

Isley Brothers & 1964

In January 1964, Jimmy left for New York City. Shortly after his arrival, he entered the amatur night at the Apollo and won first prize: $25. It filled an empty wallet.

Though his work ethic didn’t fit with most band’s rules, his reputation guitar prowess was always his saviour, however temporarily.

The Isley Brothers not only hired him, the first bought him a guitar case (for his earlier guitar carrier, think Chuck Berry and his gunny sack) and then a much better guitar.

Testify

He entered a recording studio for the second time with the Brothers and played on their 2-sided 6-minute “Testify.” And this recording, we have.

C’mon and Swim

And he played on Bobby Freeman‘s “C’mon and Swim.”

Mercy Mercy

And Don Covay and the Goodtimers “Mercy Mercy.”

Hendrix Before Jimi

Little Richard stint

Meanwhile, Jimmy leaves, quits, or is fired from the Isley Brothers. and tours with Gorgeous George. While the band was in Washington, DC, Jimmy missed the bus and was left. Luckily, Little Richard happened to show up with his Upsetters. Jimmy stretched a story about Seattle that appealed to Richard and Jimmy was an Upsetter.

While in LA with the band, Jimmy met Rosa Lee Brooks. Like most women Jimmy met, he told her that she reminded him of his mother and they were an item.

She recorded Love group Arthur Lee‘s “My Diary” with Jimmy on guitar.

Hendrix Before Jimi

Maurice James

It was 1965 and Jimmy Hendrix decided he would be Maurice James. He quit/was fired from the Upsetters and rejoined the Isley Brothers.

But from the “Can’t live with him, can’t live without him” Department, they fired him and Maurice rejoined Little Richard.

In July 1965, Maurice was on TV for the first time playing behind Buddy and Stacey on “Shotgun. on Nashville’s WLAC Channel 5 television show Night Train.

Shotgun

Homeboy

Now switching between Maurice James, Jimmy James, and Jimmy Jim, Hendric recorded for Mr. Wiggles (aka, Dickie Diamond,  aka  August Moon, aka Alexander  Randolph) on his Homeboy single

How Would You Feel

Next came whatever-his-name was playing for Curtis Knight on a Bob Dylan inspired “How Would You Feel. “

As the Clouds Drift By

And he also backed Jayne Mansfield on her “As the Clouds Drift By,” but the production hides his guitar.

Hendrix Before Jimi

Curtis Knight > Joey Dee

from the Joey Dee site

Toward the end of 1965, Jimmy left Curtis and joined Joey Dee  and the Starlighters on their country-wide tour. He would quit before Christmas. The routine was just too formal and so boring.

Enter Linda Keith

Diane Carpenter

It was January 1966 and Jimmy James was back in New York.  The broke musician sent a postcard to his dad writing:   “everything’s so-so in this big, raggedy city of New York. Everything’s happening bad here.”

He’d met the equally downtrodden 16-year-old Diane Carpenter  and they moved in together. She earned what she could as a sex worker, but became pregnant by Jimmy and moved home to Minneapolis. On February 11, 1967 give birth to a daughter, Tamika Laurice James, today, Tamika Laurice James Hendrix.

Linda

In May 1966, Jimmy was back with Curtis Knight again playing some gigs at the Cheetah, a small club on Broadway and West 53rd St.

Linda Keith was a model. Her career had begun in 1964 when she was 18 and delivering mail at Vogue House. Her first assignment was to model for hats for a spread in the ‘Observer’.

Her best friend, Sheila Klein, was dating (and later married) Andrew Oldham, the Rolling Stones’ manager. Through him, she met  Keith Richards. They had a shared interest in music and became romantically involved. She began accompanying the band to their US tours despite Oldham’s rules of no wives or girlfriends on these tours.

The  Stones was about to start their US tour in Lynn, Massachusetts on June 24.  Linda Keith had come on her own and stayed with a well-to-do friend Roberta Goldstein who was living with Mark Hoffman.

They Spent the Night Together

One night Linda and Roberta decided to take a walk and ended up at the Cheetah.  Linda was astounded by Jimmy’s skill and invited him back to Mark’s apartment.  Even after Roberta and Mark retired for the night, Jimmy and Linda talked and played records through the night. She asked him why he didn’t sing? He felt his voice would never measure up to the great singers he’d played with such as Otis Redding.

She asked him if he’d listened to Bob Dylan’s voice and played his “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.”  She also asked him if he’d like some acid? Though he’d heard of LSD and didn’t think he’d ever use it. At first, he didn’t even know what she meant by acid.

He did try it and had a so-so experience.

Jimmy James and the Blue Flames

Being a part of the music scene meant Jimmy ran into a lot of fellow musicians. One of them was Richie Havens who recommended Jimmy try getting work at the Cafe Wha?

Manny Roth, its manager hired Jimmy. After the first night, his guitar was stolen. Linda Keith came to the rescue and loaned Jimmy Keith Richards’ white Fender Stratocaster.

To make a band, Jimmy found two other players: 15-year-old Randy Wolf and 18-year-old Jeff Baxter.  Randy would later become Randy California and help found the band Spirit. Baxter played with many bands including Steely Dan, the Doobie Brothers, as well as Spirit.

The band did many covers such as the Troggs’ Wild Thing, Wilson Pickett’s In the Midnight Hour, the McCoys’ Hang On Sloopy, and Bob Dylan’s Like a Rolling Stone.

Jimmy also met others such as John Hammond, Jr, Robbie Robertson, became friendly with Bob Dylan, and Pete Kearney of the Fugs who made a fuzz box for Jimmy.

Red House

The always out-of-money Jimmy sometimes stayed at Mark Hoffman’s apartment which Jimmy nicknamed Red House because of its bright red wallpaper.

Hendrix Before Jimi

Jim

Roberta Goldstein’s father owned a hotel in the Catskills and during the summer of 1966, she invited Jim (another name adjustment) to visit. He did.

On July 28, the Stones tour ended and the band was in New York to visit. Linda pitched Hendrix to their manager Oldham.  He watched and was impressed. So impressed he was worried. Would having such a talent be toxic to his star band? Brian Jones, the band’s leader and guitarist, didn’t need such a threat. Linda, still Keith’s girlfriend, and Jimmy seemed too close.

Oldham declined.

Seymour Stein of Sire Records listened and watched. He didn’t go for all Jim’s fuzz and distortion.

Hendrix Before Jimi

Enter the Animals

The Animals rode the coattails of the Beatles British invasion with their interpretation of the American blues classic, House of the Rising Sun.

In 1966 they were opening for another British band, Herman’s Hermits. Money disagreements put the band on the verge of breaking up and the tour would be the last of the original group.

Chas Chandler

Hendrix Before Jimi

Chas Chandler was the band’s bassist and he’d decided to pursue production.

On August 2, after the Animals played on Cape Cod , they flew back to New York City. Chandler met Linda Keith  at a club called Ondine‘s. She told him about Hendrix.  The next day, Chandler went to the Cafe Wah? to listen.

Linda took him for a afternoon for two reasons: 1) that Jimmy wouldn’t be distracted, and 2) fewer customers would be there to recognize and distract the well-known Animal bassist.

One of the songs Jimmy played was “Hey Joe,” his “Hey Joe” as the song had been worked and reworked a couple of times by others.

Chandler immediately offered to manage Jimmy and Jimmy, despite some reservations, immediately accepted.

Reservations

Chandler explained that Jimmy would be coming to the UK alone, not with his Flames. It would be all new territory for Jimmy.

In the meantime, others in New York began to jump on and jump off the Hendrix bandwagon.

Amazing guitarist Mike Bloomfield was thoroughly impressed, but famed producer John Hammond  (already discoverer of Bob Dylan, Aretha Franklin, Mike Bloomfield, Pete Seeger, and later Bruce Springsteen) listened and was not impressed.

Hendrix Before Jimi

September 24, 1966

Chas Chandler knew his skills in management limited and asked Mike Jeffrey, the Animals’ manager and a man with many ties, skills, strengths, and legal shenanigans, to help out.

Jeffrey said yes.

On September 24, 1966 Jimi Hendrix arrived in London  without a work permit, little money, but more skill on the guitar and showmanship with it (as Eric Clapton for example, would soon see) than any of the British rock guitar icons Jimi admired.

Hendrix Before Jimi

Still I’m Gonna’ Miss You

Suspecting fire where there wasn’t even any smoke and still in love, Keith Richards broke up with Linda Keith whose father had already dragged her back to London because of the “black junkie” he’d heard Hendrix was.

Keith, with help from Brian Jones, would wrote an ode to Linda. They recorded it in November. It became the band’s fourth number-one hit in the United States on March 4, 1967.

Ruby Tuesday
She would never say where she came from
Yesterday don’t matter if it’s gone
While the sun is bright
Or in the darkest night
No one knows, she comes and goes
Goodbye Ruby Tuesday
Who could hang a name on you?
When you change with every new day
Still I’m gonna miss you

Thank you Linda

The 2013 film  All is by My Side, starring OutKast’s André Benjamin as Hendrix and the British actress Imogen Poots as Linda shows Linda’s role in Hendrix’s life, while he was still performing as Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. Director John Ridley told the New York Times he had been inspired by an obscure, late-career Hendrix recording called “Send My Love to Linda” and “the emotional velocity” of this pivotal but little-known chapter in Hendrix’s emergence as a rock star. [Guardian article] [NYT article]

screenshot from the trailer for “Jimi Hendrix — Hear My Train a Comin'” film
Hendrix Before Jimi

Hendrix UK Haze

Hendrix UK Haze

A newly minted Jimi Hendrix’s path to the legendary Jimi Hendrix when he arrived in London on September 24, 1966–a Saturday  At least that seems to be the date. He arrived with an overnight bag and $40 he’d borrowed from drummer friend Charles Otis.

Jimi had already paid his musical road dues with several bands after a shortened stint in the US Army.  Without the insistence of Linda Keith, Chas Chandler, the Animals’ ex-bassist and now Hendrix’s co-manager, would never have discovered Jimi. At least, he would not have been in a position to sign Jimi.

Hendrix UK Haze

Zoot Money

Jimi arrived in the UK with only a 7-day tourist visa, so without a work permit and until he got one he could sit in with other musicians but not get paid.

But the first thing was to get a guitar! Jimi had a speckled history with guitars, often losing them, pawning them, or borrowing for a bit.

Zoot from his site

Chandler asked friend musician Zoot Money (who would later play with the Eric Burden‘s re-formed Animals, if he could borrow one? Money was heading his Big Roll Band. The band’s guitarist was Andy Summers, who’d later become one-third of Police.

Summer’s lived in Zoot’s basement. Zoot lived with his wife Ronnie. Angie King (who married Burdon in 1967) and Kathy Etchingham renting the top floor.

Zoot offered a guitar, but Chander hoped to find another.

Hendrix UK Haze

The Scotch of St James

According to its site, “On 14th July 1965, The Scotch Of St James officially opened for business. Amongst those who attended the launch were three members of the Beatles, all but Charlie from the Rolling Stones, as well as members of The Who, The Kinks, The Animals and The Hollies. In fact just about every known face from the 1960’s music scene could have been spotted that night, making their way through Mason’s Yard, as yet unaware of the Rock ‘n’ Roll royalty they were to become, or the role that The Scotch Of St James would play in their lives.”

Incidentally, close to the Scotch was the Indica art gallery and bookshop. Paul McCartney was involved in its business and more importantly John Lennon would meet an artist there named Yoko Ono.

Chandler knew Rod Harrod, the venue’s manager, but Harrod could only offer the quiet Monday night, so on Monday 26 September 1966, the now Jimi Hendrix played for the first time outside the United States.

The house band that week was The VIPs. Though a “quiet” Monday night, the co-managers of the Who, Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, were there. At first they’d hoped to manage Jimi, but finding out they were beaten to that punch, they offered something better: signing Jimi to their nascent record label Track.

Hendrix UK Haze

Linda Tossed/Kathy Held

Showing up that night not surprisingly was Linda Keith, but also Ronnie Money and Kathy Etchingham. Linda, hoping to kindle more than just a friendship with Jimi now that Keith Richards had broken up with her and would write Ruby Tuesday as a result, got into a fight with the two women and was thrown out of the club.

Hendrix UK Haze

How To Promote? 

And once he got a work permit, the question Chandler faced was how to promote such a stellar guitarist?

Chandler tried the American Folk and Blues Festival, but Jimi did not fit into a genre with so many older blues musicians.

Next Chandler offered Jimi’s services to keyboard player Brian Auger whose band Trinity combined R & B and jazz, but Trinity had a female singer, Julie Driscoll and a guitarist, Vic Briggs (who would later play with Eric Burden)  Brian did allow Jimi to sit in for a show at the Blaises. That show was apparently September 29.

An accommodating Briggs allowed Jimi  (James Marshall Hendrix) to use his amp, a Marshall amp and Marshall being appropriately developed by one Jim Marshall.  Reports are that Jimi turned it up to an unheard (an admittedly ironic adjective) 10.

That same day, Chandler had arranged for Jimi to open for Johnny Hallyday–the Elvis Presley of France–for a French tour.

Hendrix UK Haze

Clapton Quits

By 1966, any rock guitarist knew who Eric Clapton and his current band Cream were. The CLAPTON IS GOD graffiti had certified his position on Mt Olympus. And Jimi Hendrix wanted to meet him.

It was October 1 and Chas Chandler requested and Cream acquiesced to Chandler’s asking if Jimi could sit in for a song with them at the Polytechnic of Central London. Apparently the song, “Killing   Floor,” was one Clapton had just learned with difficulty.

Jimi put on the full Jimi: effortlessly, smoothly, orally, backwardly, and sexually. Chandler recalled that halfway through the song, Clapton stopped playing and left the stage.

Hendrix UK Haze

The Experience Forms

It was still early October and next came the formation of a band to back Jimi. Chandler wanted proficient players, but not star players. No need for a rhythm guitarist since Jimi’s style was both that of lead and rhythm. A bass player.

Noel Redding had just failed his attempt to be the new guitarist for Eric Burden’s new Animals. Chandler offered Redding the bass spot in Jimi’s band. He accepted despite never playing the instrument.

Drums.  Mitch Mitchell had been playing with Georgie Fame’s Blue FlamesAynsley Dunbar was the other possibility. Apparently the Mitchell won the coin toss. Dunbar would go on to play with, among others, Frank Zappa, David Bowie, and Lou Reed.

A Mitchell bonus was that he’d worked with Jim Marshall and was able to acquire a couple of his powerful amps.

Before he left for France, Jimi contacted Al Hendrix, his dad. To this point Jimi hadn’t told Al about the London venture. Accounts vary. Al was delighted. Al warned Jimi he’d have to pay for the collect phone call and hung up.

Hendrix UK Haze

Tours and De Lane

On October 12 the band flew to France to support Johnny Hallyday. They did four shows (October 13, 14, 15, and 18) before returning to London.  The Experience’s experience was not stellar. The band still needed time to coalesce.  Jimi also found out what it was like to open for an extremely popular performer and that that is who the audience wanted. Not whatever they saw.

Jimi would learn that lesson again in nine months when he briefly opened for The Monkees.

On October 23 the band recorded Hey Joe at De Lane Lea Studios in London. On November 2, the band recorded Stone Free and Can You See Me there.

November 8, 9, 10, and 11 the band did two shows a night in Munich, Germany at the Big Apple Club. The band’s reception was stronger than in France and Jimi learned something. He sometimes went into the crowd to play (attached to an extra long cord) and on one occasion had to throw the guitar onto the stage to be able to return.

It broke slightly and Jimi decided to break it a bit more. Pete Townshend guitar smashing had already started to display Gustav Metzger’s “auto destructive art.” Chandler eye on the bottom line made sure Jimi’s antics didn’t completely destroy a guitar beyond repair.

 

Back in the UK, Jimi continued to live at the Hyde Park Towers and Kathy Etchingham continued with him as well. The relationship continued for another 2 1/2 years, the longest of any for Jimi. Though as new to London as Jimi was, she became his tour guide to the tourist Jimi. On one of those forays, Jimi bought a used blue Victorian military tunic.

As were the times, not everyone thought the outfit was appropriate for a long-haired musician, but his own demure attitude (or a friend’s quiet intervention) saved Jimi from anything more nasty than baiting comments.

Hendrix UK Haze

The Bag O’Nails

Selling some of his guitars to finance the event, Chas Chandler arranged for a press conference and performance at the Bag O’Nails Club in London on November 25, 1966. “Everyone” was there: some Beatles, some Stones, Jeff Beck, Terry Reid, and others. The beginning had definitely begun.

Jimi turned 24 on the 30th and saw The Young Rascals at Blaises.

Hendrix UK Haze

New Digs/Hey Joe

Though it may seem impossible, Chas Chandler was still financially supporting Jimi and Chandler decided that Jimi’s stay at the Hyde Park Towers, though not expensive, was more than he could afford.

Ringo owned a duplex that he rented for a pittance and Chandler moved Jimi and Kathy into it on December 6. In fact, Chandler himself and his girlfriend Lotte Null moved in as well.

On December 11, Jimi heard that Little Richard was in town. Having played on and off with Little Richard several times, Jimi went to visit. Jimi also thought Little Richard owed him $50. Little Richard welcomed Jimi, but no money was forthcoming.

Hendrix UK Haze

On December 16, Polydor Records released “Hey Joe” (b-side, “Stone Free”). Track records wasn’t up and running yet, thus Polydor’s release.

Hendrix UK Haze

To promote Hendrix and the release, he appeared on the popular (at least with a younger audience) Ready Steady Go! and then on the 29th he appeared on an even more popular show, Top of the Pops.

1966 ended with Jimi having seen Europe, experienced many of its tourist spots, having formed a band, met his guitar heros, impressed those same heros, and was about to release his own album.

Hendrix UK Haze

1967

1967 would be the year that Americans would discover their native son and Jimi’s snowball would expand and gather plenty of momentum. But that would happen in June at the Monterey International Pop Festival. And that was still six months away.

Hendrix UK Haze

Promotion II

Payola

DJ payola had already made headlines in the United States. President Eisenhower had even addressed it. Though not eradicated, it still nearly ruined the rising career of one Dick Clark and did ruin the careers of Alan Freed.

The UK was less observant of an equally pervasive habit. Managers bulk-bought singles to get them onto the charts and knew which DJ could be bribed to play a song.

With Jimi’s TV appearances and co-manager Mike Jeffery‘s business acumen, Jimi’s “Hey Joe” reached #6.

 Gered Mankowitz

Chandler selected photographer Gered Mankowitz for Jimi and the Experience’s first photo shoot. The Jimi we see in some of the photos  the Jimi we now think of: bouffant hair, army jacket, cigarette, and that endearing smile. Some of the pictures were not to Jimi’s liking as the image (“wild man”) Mankowitz was told to go for was not the image Jimi wanted to portray.

One-night stands

Though Jimi’s reputation continued strong (on January 29 the Experience opened for the Who at Brian Epstein‘s Saville Theatre. In the audience were John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, Jack Bruce [who went home with a bass line that developed into Sunshine of Your Love]), manager Mike Jeffrey “knew” that Jimi could not last–no band did–and had booked the band for continuous shows.

They traveled in a single van with one roadie–Gerry Stickells, a friend of Noel Redding and car mechanic. Stickells was indispensable. He fixed the always blowing out Marshall amps, broken strings, and broken guitars as the band played on.

Purple Haze

Hendrix UK Haze

Jimi loved science fiction since childhood [he nicknamed himself Buster after action actor Buster Crabbe] and one of his favorite writers was  Philip José Farmer.  Farmer’s Night of Light  A Wikipedia plot summary states that “Once every seven years, a world in orbit around a binary star is bathed in a bizarre radiance that rearranges physical reality.”  The “radiance” is a purplish haze.

Chas Chandler heard Jimi doodling an early version of the song and told him that that would be the next single. Remember, even in 1967, despite the increasing success of albums, singles still drove sales.

Financial challenges continued to beset Chandler’s need to record. Reluctant at first, Polydor reluctantly provided a line of credit and the Experience entered Olympic Studio.  The studio manager happily handed off the job to a young engineer named Eddie Kramer.

From Kramer’s site: Working with Jimi Hendrix in the studio was a roller coaster ride of intensity that never stopped. Jimi had laser like concentration on the job at hand, from the first run-throughs of the song through to the last notes of the overdubs. I had to be permanently on my toes to be able to handle any situation as it developed as he could switch musical direction at the drop of a hat. His ideas came fast and furious with a devilish glint in his eye as he would rack up a particular sound from his amp that would give me a challenge to interpret what was going on from the floor of the studio to bringing that enormous sound into the control room through that marvelous Helios Console and onto a Tube Ampex tape machine. Then to watch his expression as he heard the playback was a joy to behold.

And so on February 3, 1967 Jimi began recording songs for his first (of only three studio) albums.

Hendrix UK Haze

Enhanced Sounds

Electronic recording enhancements combined with a willingness to use those enhancements in playing led many young guitarists to experiment with the new technology.

Roger Mayer was 21 and had already worked for the British Admiralty on underwater sound projects for submarines. He was into sound, to say the least.

He had developed a new fuzz box he called Octavia because a guitarist could raise or lower their guitar’s pitch by a whole octave. He offered it to Jimi. Jimi loved it. Jimi called it Octavio. He overdubbed solos with it on Purple Haze and Fire.

The effects of Mayer on Jimi’s sounds can be heard on each of his three (and only) studio albums.

Hendrix UK Haze

Rather than save “Purple Haze” for the upcoming album, Chandler decided to release it as the Experience’s second single on March 17 and on Track Records.

It reached #3 in Britain and the top 20 in Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, and Australia.

It would not be released in the US until June 19, the day after his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival.

Hendrix UK Haze

Fire

Still in need of promotion and not the headliner. on  March 31, the Experience joined a tour with the Walker Brothers, Cat Stevens, and Engelbert Humperdinck. Yes, another example of mismatching.

With the mismatch in mind, Chandler wondered what Jimi could add to his set? Someone, seeing the song “Fire” on Jimi’s 5-song set, jokingly suggested that Jimi set his guitar on fire, a la Pete Townshend‘s guitar smashing that  Gustav Metzger had inspired with his concept of Auto-destructive art.

Someone ran out for some lighter fluid. Jimi needed a few tries to get it going. He swung the flaming guitar around, burning his fingers a bit in the process, and then threw it into the audience.

The stunt garnered the hoped-for media attention, but Jimi would not repeat it until June at his American premiere.

The Wind Cries Mary

Though Jimi and Kathy Etchingham continued to live in the same house as Chandler and his girlfriend Lotte, Jimi and Kathy had many rows.

One in particular involved food that Kathy had made. She smashed some plates and left.

Jimi swept up and wrote some more lyrics with Kathy, whose middle name was Mary and a name he sometimes used to talk with her, in mind.

A broom is drearily sweeping
Up the broken pieces of yesterday’s life
Somewhere, a queen is weeping
Somewhere, a king has no wife

Though not completely the result of their argument, the song still holds onto that story.

The song became the third Experience single and Track released it on May 4.  It was another success.

Hendrix UK Haze

Are You Experienced

Though not wanting to oversaturate Jimi’s footprint, the release of the Experience’s first album arrived in the UK on May 12.

Hendrix wrote each of the eleven songs:

Side one:

  1. Foxy Lady
  2. Manic Depression
  3. Red House
  4. Can You See Me
  5. Love or Confusion
  6. I Don’t Live Today

Side two:

  1. May This Be Love
  2. Fire
  3. 3rd Stone from the Sun
  4. Remember
  5. Are You Experienced

The album was a huge success spending thirty-three weeks on the UK album charts, peaking at #2.

Hendrix UK Haze

101st Airborne Jimi Hendrix Discharged

101st Airborne Jimi Hendrix Discharged

The military is not for everyone and thinking about the incredible places Jimi Hendrix took guitar playing, it is easy realize that Jimi was one of those ill-suited people.

Jimi’s music was never as political as other musicians of his time, though many call his iconic rendition of the  Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock a counter-cultural anthem.

True. And his 1970 “Machine Gun” is an equally powerful alternate perspective of the times.

Becoming Jimi Hendrix

In 2010, DaCapo Press published Becoming Jimi Hendrix: From Southern Crossroads to Psychedelic London, the Untold Story of a Musical Genius by Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber. [NYT review]

The musical part of Jimi Hendrix’s sadly short life is well known, but less known is his path to fame, particularly his time in the military.

This post uses information gathered from Roby and Schreiber’s book.

101st Airborne Jimi Hendrix Discharged

Guitar fascination

Growing up in a disruptive, disheveled,  and often overwhelming life, the child Jimi had found solace with a broom stick that was his make-believe guitar.

Later he made a guitar out of a cigar box.

Jimi’s first actual instrument was a broken worn down one-stringed ukulele his recalcitrant  father had found.

Then a friend of his father cajoled a still stubborn Al Hendrix to buy a used acoustic guitar for $5.

Eventually Jim was able to purchase an electric guitar and played in various bands. He, like many musicians before him, faced the dilemma of playing popular covers or playing his own compositions.

101st Airborne Jimi Hendrix Discharged

The law steps in

May 2, 1961:  police stopped a car with four black kids in it. Among them was  18-year-old high school dropout Jimi. The car was stolen. Jimi said he didn’t know that. Police released him to his father.

May 5, 1961:  similar arrest. Jimi locked up for 7 days.

On May 16, 1961, at his hearing, Jimi accepted the judge’s plea bargain: a suspended 2-year sentence in exchange for enlisting in the military.

May 29, 1961: looking forward to a change, Jimi departed Seattle on a southbound train toward Fort Ord, near Monterey, California for eight weeks of basic training. He decided he wanted to earn the 101st Division Screaming Eagle patch.

101st Airborne Jimi Hendrix Discharged

Fort Campbell

November 8, 1961: having gotten through Basic, Jimi arrived at Fort Campbell in Kentucky.

101st Airborne Jimi Hendrix Discharged

Billy Cox

Jimi wrote to Betty Morgan, his girlfriend and apparent fiance, requesting she send his Danelectro guitar: his true love and what kept him from developing any camaraderie with his fellow soldiers .

Except one.

Billy Cox who heard Jimi playing and was instantly enthralled. Billy knew how to play bass. Together they began to play local gigs–still in the Army Airborne.

Billy and Jimi’s constant search for time to play and practice obviously interfered with their military obligations. Despite cleverly designed maneuvers they used to evade military duties,  late night gigs often meant sleeping on the job.

In January 1962, Jimi and Billy formed the King Kasuals. Gary Ferguson (drums) and occasionally Major Charles Washington on Sax. The played at service clubs and occasionally in Clarksville, Tennessee.

101st Airborne Jimi Hendrix Discharged

GED & some military successes

101st Airborne Jimi Hendrix Discharged

January 11, 1962: a proud, but increasingly homesick Jimi received his 101st Division Screaming Eagle patch.

Because he’d dropped out of high school, Jimi had to take the General Equivalency Diploma exams. He began on the 11th.

January 12: Jimi took the second round of GED.

January 15: the third round.

January 16: the fourth round.

January 22: the fifth and final round of the GED.

January 30: Hendrix is promoted to private first class.

February 7: Jimi has a successful parachute jump.

101st Airborne Jimi Hendrix Discharged

Military reversals

February 16, 1962: Captain Gilbert Batchman requested an evaluation of Hendrix. Part of that report read that, “Individual is unable to conform to military rules and regulations.”

The warning that the Army might discharge him did not worry Hendrix.

March 22:  another successful parachute jump.

March 31: Jimi missed bed check after a late night gig. Rank reduced to general private status. His excuse was: “delay due to payday activities and weekend.

April 14: another late gig, another missed bed check. Restricted for 14 days from April 16 to 29.

May 22: a mental hygiene consultation done. Report included that Hendrix “There are no disqualifying mental defects sufficient to warrant disposition through medical channels…”

May 23: Hendrix missed bed-check. Again restricted. May 24 – June 6. That same day, Pvt. James Mattox, a fellow soldier, filed a report on Hendrix alleging dereliction of duties.

May 24: Jimi’s platoon Sgt James C Speers filed a report which included: He has no interest whatsoever in the Army.

May 28: Sgt Louis Hoekstra filed a statement against Hendrix for missing bed check and being obsessed with his guitar.

May 31: Capt. John Halbert wrote in a report that, “The individual’s behavior problems are not amendable to hospitalization and or counseling. Unit punishment has no effect…”

101st Airborne Jimi Hendrix Discharged

Discharged

June 1: supply officer Lyndon Williams filed a report against Hendrix for lack of interest and inability to concentrate.

June 2: Sgt William Bowman filed a report against Hendrix for sleeping on duty, masturbating in the latrine, and owning money for a laundry bill.

June 27: Jimi received his general discharge certificate. The reason given was “unsuitability–under honorable conditions.”

June 29: the honorable discharge approved.

101st Airborne Jimi Hendrix Discharged

Gone

July 2: Jimi left Fort Campbell with $400 in his pocket. He decided to go to Clarksville, TN and visit the Pink Poodle, a place he and Billy Cox had played.

He bought drinks for himself and others and enjoyed himself.  He rented a room nearby and started to work odd jobs.

October 18: Billy Cox was discharged and joined Hendrix in Clarksville.

November 13: Hendrix meets guitarist Larry Lee.

101st Airborne Jimi Hendrix Discharged

2,470

101st Airborne Jimi Hendrix Discharged

2,470 days later Hendrix, Cox, and Lee played together at the Woodstock Music and Art Fair.

101st Airborne Jimi Hendrix Discharged