Tag Archives: Jimi Hendrix

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


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


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


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

James Marshall Jimi Hendrix

James Marshall Jimi Hendrix

We all know his National Anthem
Imagine if he’d played Happy Birthday?
November 27, 1942 — September 18, 1970

Jimi Hendrix

James Marshall Jimi Hendrix

Most influential?

Too often media ask us questions like “Who is the greatest guitar player of all time?” The answer, of course, depends on many things: Who is asking? Who is answering? What does greatest mean?

Perhaps the better questions is “Who is the most influential guitarist of all time?” or simply, “What guitarist influenced you the most?”

Graffiti said Eric Clapton was “God.” Woodstock devotees likely answer Hendrix.

I think it’s better to avoid the whole question and admit what all must: Hendrix was an amazing, groundbreaking, and immensely influential guitarist.

And Buddy Guy was one of Hendrix’s influences.

James Marshall Jimi Hendrix

Woodstock Music and Art Fair

There were many performers scheduled for the Woodstock Music and Art Fair that easily convinced me that I had to attend. The Who. Jefferson Airplane. Crosby, Stills, and Nash. The Band.

At the top of that list was Jimi Hendrix.

Joe Cocker opened day three. Then the skies darkened and the torrents fell.

Tired, wet, hungry, worried whether our car was still parked on the side of the road eight miles away, having to be at work in 14 hours, friend Tony and I reluctantly left Max’s field that muddy Sunday afternoon and headed back to Jersey. No Hendrix.

So did 370,000 other fans in similar straits.

James Marshall Jimi Hendrix

1967 New York Rock Festival
James Marshall Jimi Hendrix

I have been very fortunate in many ways and missing Hendrix simply meant I did not see him a second time.

On August 23, 1968 I saw the Experience with the Soft Machine, the Chambers Brothers, and Big Brother and the Holding Company. Big Brother featured, of course, Janis Poplin. That’s how the program listed Joplin. Twice.

James Marshall Jimi Hendrix

Though no Woodstock, the New York Rock Festival was drier and we didn’t have to walk eight miles to get to our seats. A great night.


I was on my dorm’s elevator on September 18, 1970 when I heard Jimi had died. I was on the same elevator 16 days later when I heard Janis died. Two of the greatest to many Boomers. Two of the greatest to anyone with ears to listen.

Rolling Stone magazine obit for Jimi Hendrix

James Marshall Jimi Hendrix

Photos of his grave in Renton, Washington, Greenwood Memorial Cemetery taken by Molly O’Reilly McCoy:

James Marshall Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix Swan Song

Jimi Hendrix Swan Song

September 6, 1970
Hendrix’s last live concert song

Jimi Hendrix Swan Song

Open Air Love and Peace

Isle of Fehmarn, Germany

4, 5, & 6 September 1970

Jimi Hendrix Swan Song

Isle of Wight

Just as Woodstock had inspired other young entrepreneurs to try their hand at organizing their own festivals, the Isle of Wight’s festivals, particularly 1970’s, inspired Helmut Ferdinand, Christian Berthold, and Tim Sievers to do the same.

And just as the Isle of Wight was an island concert (duh), these three young men chose the Isle of Fehmarn, between West Germany and Denmark. The idea was a sensible one: book the artists appearing at the Isle of Wight after that event on August 28, 29, and 30.  Such Woodstock names as Melanie, The Who, Sly and the Family Stone, John Sebastian, Joan Baez, Richie Havens, and most importantly of all, Jimi Hendrix.

Interesting financing

Like any young men with an idea, they needed money to back it. Beate Uhse put up 200,000 German Marks in advance and offered the use of her 20 German sex shops as additional ticket sale offices. She was a stunt pilot and opened the first sex shop in the world. [Beate died in 2001. Her company,  Beate Uhse AG is listed on the Frankfort Stock Exchange.]

Jimi Hendrix Swan Song

German Max Yasgur

Ferdinand, Berthold, and Sievers selected an area called  Flueggerstrand and rented a field belonging to a farmed named Störtenbecker. They converted a nearby school into a temporary hospital.

With unpleasant echos of Woodstock in the air, they…

  • had to ask local breweries and dairies to provide beverages as the company they hoped to contract refused. 
  • asked the German Red Cross to provide a mobile kitchen for the warm meals.
  • built two fences around the festival area
  • installed a few telephone boxes.
  • rented a gigantic sound system from England
  • Joan Baez and John Mayall cancelled because they feared non-payment after learning of poor ticket sales.

Jimi Hendrix Swan Song

Bad Weather Bonus

As if the pre-festival similarities to Woodstock weren’t enough, the day the festival started, so did the rain.  Unlike Woodstock, a German biker group called the “Bloody Devils” arrived and supplanted the planned security.

Jimi Hendrix Swan Song

The Jimi Hendrix Experience (Hendrix, Billy Cox on bass, and Mitch Mitchell on drums) were on Saturday’s schedule. Rain cancelled that appearance, but Hendrix, already paid, played the next day.  Bootleg copies of that performance existed for year, but on December 13, 2005 Dagger Records released the best-sounding recording.

Jimi Hendrix Swan Song

It was his last concert. Hendrix died in London on September 18. The monument pictured below now commemorates that performance on the Isle of Fehmarn.

Jimi Hendrix Swan Song

see Club 27 for more

It was a difficult month for rock fans, particularly those who had attended Woodstock. On September 3 Canned Heat’s Alan Wilson died. Hendrix on the 18th. And Janis Joplin on October 4.

All were 27 years old.

Classic rock story link

Jimi Hendrix Swan Song