James Marshall Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix; November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970) was an American musician, singer and songwriter. Despite a limited mainstream exposure of four years, he is widely considered to have been the most influential electric guitarist in the history of popular music, and one of the most important musicians of the 20th century.
Influenced musically by American rock and roll and electric blues, following initial success in Europe with his band the Jimi Hendrix Experience, he achieved fame in the US after his 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Later, he headlined the Woodstock Festival in 1969, and the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970, before dying from drug-related asphyxia at the age of 27.
Instrumental in developing the previously undesirable technique of guitar amplifier feedback, Hendrix favored overdriven amplifiers with high volume, gain and treble. He helped to popularize use of the wah-wah pedal in mainstream rock, which he often used to deliver tonal exaggerations in his solos. He also pioneered experimentation with stereophonic phasing effects in rock music recordings.
The recipient of several prestigious rock music awards during his lifetime and posthumously, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. English Heritage erected a blue plaque to identify his former residence on Brook Street, London, in September 1997. Rolling Stone ranked his three non-posthumous studio albums, Are You Experienced (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (1967) and Electric Ladyland (1968) among the top 100 Greatest Albums of All Time. They ranked Hendrix number one on their list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all-time, and number six on their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time.
Genealogy and childhood
Jimi Hendrix was of a mixed geneaology that included African American, Irish, and Cherokee ancestors. His paternal great grandmother, Zenora, was a full-blooded Cherokee from Georgia who married an Irishman named Moore. In 1883, they had a daughter whom they named Zenora “Nora” Rose Moore, Hendrix’ paternal grandmother. The illegitimate son of a black slave woman named Fanny and her white overseer, Jimi’s paternal grandfather, Bertran Philander Ross Hendrix (born 1866), was named after his biological father, a grain dealer from Urbana, Ohio, and one of the wealthiest white men in the area at the time.On June 10, 1919, Hendrix and Moore had a son they named James Allen Ross Hendrix (died 2002); people called him Al.
In 1941, Al met Lucille Jeter (1925–1958) at a dance in Seattle; they married on March 31, 1942. Drafted into the United States Army due to World War II, Al went to war three days after their wedding. Born Johnny Allen Hendrix on November 27, 1942 in Seattle, Washington, the first of five children born to Lucille, in 1946, having been unable to consult Johnny’s father Al Hendrix, serving in the US army at the time, about his son’s name, they changed Johnny’s name to James Marshall Hendrix, in honor of Al, and Al’s late brother Leon Marshall.As a young child, friends and family called James “Buster”; his brother Leon claims that Jimi chose the nickname after his hero Buster Crabbe, of Flash Gordon and Buck Rogers fame.
Al completed his basic training at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Stationed in Alabama at the time of Johnny’s birth, and having been denied the standard military furlough afforded servicemen for childbirth, the commanding officer placed him in the stockade as a preventative measure against him going AWOL to Seattle to see his new son. Al spent two months locked-up without trial, and while in the stockade, he received a telegram announcing his son’s birth. Al spent most of his time in the service in the South Pacific Theater, in Fiji.During his three year absence, Lucille struggled to raise her infant son, at times neglecting him in favour of nightlife. Family members and friends mostly cared for Hendrix during this period, notably Lucille’s sister, Delores Hall, and her friend Dorothy Harding.Al received an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army on September 1, 1945. Two months later, unable to find Lucille, he went to the Berkeley home of a family friend who had taken care of, and attempted to adopt Jimi, Mrs. Champ, where he met his son for the first time.
Another key member of the family circle was Jimi’s paternal grandmother, Nora Hendrix. A former vaudeville dancer, she moved to Vancouver, Canada, from Tennessee after meeting her husband, former special police officer Bertram Philander Ross Hendrix, on the Dixieland circuit. Nora shared a love for theatrical clothing and adornment, music, and performance with Jimi. She also imbued him with the stories, rituals and music that had been part of her own Afro-Cherokee heritage and her former life on the stage. Along with his attendance at black Pentecostal church services, writers have suggested these experiences may later have informed Hendrix’s thinking about the connections between emotions, spirituality and music.
Jimi’s relationship with his brother Leon (born 1948) was close but precarious; with Leon in and out of foster care, they lived with an almost continuous threat of fraternal separation. In addition to Leon, Jimi had three other younger siblings, Joseph, born 1949, Kathy in 1950, and Pamela, 1951, all of whom Al and Lucille surrendered into foster care and adoption.
After his 1946 return from service, Al reunited with Lucille, but his difficulty finding steady work left the family impoverished. Both he and Lucille struggled with alcohol and fought frequently. At one point a pimp named John Page who had a history with Lucille even tried to commandeer her out of a movie theater while she was with Al. Al objected and a fight ensued, spilling out into the street. Al had been an amateur boxer and stunned the pimp with a first punch, eventually winning the brawl and they never saw the pimp again. His parents’ fighting sometimes made Hendrix withdraw and hide in a closet in their home. The family moved often, staying in cheap hotels and apartments around Seattle. On occasion Hendrix was taken to Vancouver to stay at his grandmother’s and sometimes his uncle Frank’s family. A shy, sensitive boy, all these experiences deeply and irrevocably affected Hendrix.
In addition to the instability of his home life as a child, in later years Hendrix confided to one girlfriend that he had been the victim of sexual abuse by a man, although he did not go into detail. Once while he was living in Harlem, he broke down crying as his girlfriend related the sexual abuse she had suffered as a child, telling her that the same thing had happened to him.
On December 17, 1951, when Hendrix was nine years old, his parents divorced; the court granted Al custody of Jimi and Leon. At thirty-three, his mother had developed cirrhosis of the liver and died on February 2, 1958 when her spleen ruptured. Instead of letting his boys attend their mother’s funeral, Al Hendrix instructed them on how “men dealt with their grief”, by giving them shots of whiskey. Some of Hendrix’s feelings about his mother’s death were revealed in a survey he took for the British publication, New Musical Express in 1967: “Personal ambition: Have my own style of music. See my mother again.”
At Horace Mann Elementary School in Seattle, Hendrix’s habit of carrying a broom with him everywhere, to imitate a guitar, got the attention of the school’s social worker (he destroyed several brooms in the process of fashioning a guitar). “After a year of this pitiable behaviour” where he clung to each broom “like a blanket,” she insisted in her letter to Hendrix’s father that leaving him without a guitar might result in psychological damage. Her efforts to get either school funding intended for underprivileged children or his father to buy Hendrix a guitar failed.
At age 15, around the time his mother died, Hendrix acquired his first acoustic guitar for $5 from an acquaintance of his father. This guitar replaced the ukulele his father had found in a basement when cleaning it out. Al was reminiscing about Jimi as a young boy when he said he found an old ukelele while cleaning out a basement, took it home to Jimi and got a set of strings for it, but does not mention Leon. Leon claimed that he and Jimi were helping Al on one of his odd jobs, and that Jimi found the ukulele Learning “by ear” as he spent “hours and hours” with the one-string instrument “playing single notes, [Hendrix] still followed along to a couple of Elvis Presley songs on the radio.” Hendrix saw Presley perform in Seattle in 1957. He learned to play by continuing to apply himself, practicing for several hours daily, watching others, getting tips from more experienced guitarists, and listening to Ernestine Benson’s blues records by Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Robert Johnson and other artists.
In mid-1959, his father bought him a white Supro Ozark, his first electric guitar, but there was no available amplifier. According to Hendrix’s Seattle band mates, he learned most of his acrobatic stage moves, including playing with his teeth and behind his back, as well as Chuck Berry‘s trademark “duck walk”, from a fellow young musician, Raleigh “Butch” Snipes. Hendrix played in local bands, occasionally playing outlying gigs in Washington State and at least once over the border in Vancouver, British Columbia. His first gig was with an unnamed band in the basement of a synagogue, Seattle’s Temple De Hirsch. After too much wild playing and showing off, he was fired between sets. The first formally organised band he played in was The Velvetones, which performed regularly at the Yesler Terrace Neighborhood House without pay. He later joined the Rocking Kings, which played professionally at such venues as the Birdland club. When his guitar was stolen (after he left it backstage overnight), Al bought him a white Silvertone Danelectro. He painted it red and had “Betty Jean”, the name of his high school girlfriend, emblazoned on it.
Hendrix completed his studies at Washington Junior High School with little trouble but did not graduate from Garfield High School. The school had a relatively even ethnic mix of African, European, and Asian-Americans. The school later awarded him an honorary diploma and in the 1990s, they placed a bust of him in the school library. After he became famous in the late 1960s, Hendrix told reporters that he had been expelled from Garfield by racist faculty for holding hands with a white girlfriend in study hall. Principal Frank Hanawalt says that it was due to poor grades and attendance problems.
Law enforcement authorities twice caught Hendrix riding in stolen cars. Given a choice between spending two years in prison or joining the Army, Hendrix chose the latter and enlisted on May 31, 1961.After completing basic training at Fort Ord near Monterey in California, the Army assigned him to the 101st Airborne Division and stationed him in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Because Hendrix would often play his guitar late at night keeping other servicemen in his barracks awake, they would often take the guitar away and hide it from him. Hendrix eventually began to sleep with his guitar in order to keep it safe and one one occasion some servicemen bullied and beat him up over the guitar, which he protected more than himself.
One night in November 1962, fellow servicemen Billy Cox walked past the service club and heard Hendrix playing guitar inside. Cox, intrigued by the proficient playing immediately checked-out a bass guitar and the two began to jam. Soon after, Cox and Hendrix began performing at the base clubs on the weekends with other musicians in a loosely organized band called the Casuals. This was a loyal friendship that Hendrix called upon from April 1969 until shortly before his death.
After he had served only one year, Captain Gilbert Batchman granted Private Hendrix an honourable discharge on the basis of unsuitability on June 29, 1962. The National Personnel Records Centre contain 98 pages documenting Hendrix’s army service, including his numerous infractions. Hendrix later spoke about his military service and his first parachuting experience: “once you get out there everything is so quiet, all you hear is the breezes-s-s-s.” In interviews with Melody Maker in 1967 and 1969, he spoke of his dislike of the army. He also claimed to reporters that he had received a medical discharge after breaking his ankle during his 26th parachute jump.
In September 1963, after Cox’s Army discharge, he and Hendrix moved to nearby Clarksville, Tennessee and formed a new band called name the “King Kasuals”. Hendrix had already seen Butch Snipes play with his teeth in Seattle and by now Alphonso ‘Baby Boo’ Young, the other guitarist in the band, also performed this guitar gimmick. Not to be upstaged, it was then that Hendrix learned to play with his teeth properly, according to Hendrix: “the idea of doing that came to me in a town in Tennessee. Down there you have to play with your teeth or else you get shot. There’s a trail of broken teeth all over the stage.”They played mainly in low-paying gigs at obscure venues. The band eventually moved to Nashville‘s Jefferson Street, the traditional heart of Nashville’s black community and home to a thriving rhythm and blues music scene.
While in Nashville, they earned a residency playing at one of the better venues in town, the Club del Morocco. Hendrix’s girlfriend at this time was Joyce Lucas. Bill ‘Hoss’ Allen’s memory of Hendrix’s supposed participation in a session with Billy Cox in November 1962, in which he cut Hendrix’s contribution due to his over-the-top playing, has now been called into question; a suggestion has been made that he may have confused this with a later 1965 session by Frank Howard and the Commanders in which Hendrix participated.
For the next two years, Hendrix made a living performing in and around and on a circuit of venues throughout the South and up to New York catering to black audiences. These were venues affiliated with the Theater Owners’ Booking Association (TOBA), sarcastically known as “Tough on Black Asses” because the audiences were very demanding. The TOBA circuit was also widely known as the Chitlin’ Circuit. In addition to performing in his own band, Hendrix performed with Bob Fisher and the Bonnevilles, and in backing bands for various soul, R&B, and blues musicians, including Chuck Jackson, Slim Harpo, Tommy Tucker, Sam Cooke, and Jackie Wilson. The Chitlin’ Circuit was where Hendrix refined his style.
Feeling he had artistically outgrown the circuit and frustrated at following the rules of bandleaders, Hendrix decided to try his luck in New York City and in January 1964 moved into the Hotel Theresa in Harlem, where he soon befriended Lithofayne Pridgeon. Known as “Faye”, she became his girlfriend. He also met the Allen twins, Arthur and Albert (now known as Taharqa and Tunde-Ra Aleem). The Allen twins became friends and kept Hendrix out of trouble in New York. The twins also performed as backup singers (under the name Ghetto Fighters) on some of Hendrix’s recordings, most notably the song “Freedom“. Pridgeon, a Harlem native with connections throughout the area’s music scene, provided Hendrix with shelter, support, and encouragement. In February 1964, Hendrix won first prize in the Apollo Theater amateur contest. Hoping to land a gig, Hendrix made the club circuit and sat in with various bands. Eventually, Hendrix was offered the guitarist position with the Isley Brothers‘ back-up band and he readily accepted.
Hendrix’ first studio recording occurred in March 1964, when the Isley Brothers, with Hendrix as a member of the band, recorded the two-part single “Testify“. Hendrix then went on tour with the Isley Brothers. “Testify” was released in June 1964, but did not make an impact on the charts. After touring as a member of the Isley Brothers through the summer of 1964, Hendrix left the band after a gig in Nashville. In September, Hendrix (then calling himself Maurice James) began touring and recording with Little Richard.There, he found work with the tour’s MC “Gorgeous” George Odell. During a stop in Los Angeles while touring with Little Richard in 1965, Hendrix played a session for Rosa Lee Brooks on her single “My Diary”. This was his first recorded involvement with Arthur Lee of the band Love. While in L.A., he also played on the session for Little Richard’s final single for Vee-Jay, “I Don’t Know What You’ve Got, But It’s Got Me”. In July 1965, on Nashville’s Channel 5 Night Train, he made his first television appearance. Performing in Little Richhard’s ensemble band, Hendrix backed up vocalists “Buddy and Stacy” on “Shotgun”. The video recording of the show marks the earliest known footage of Hendrix performing live.
Hendrix clashed with Richard, over tardiness, wardrobe, and, above all, Hendrix’s stage antics. On tour they shared billing a couple of times with Ike & Tina Turner. It has been suggested that Hendrix left Richard and played with the Turners briefly before returning to Richard, but there is no firm evidence to support this. Hendrix mentioned playing with them, and Ike Turner shortly before his death claimed that he did, but this is emphatically denied by Tina. Months later, he was either fired or he left after missing the tour bus in Washington, D.C. He then rejoined the Isley Brothers in the summer of 1965 and recorded a second single with them, “Move Over and Let Me Dance” backed with “Have You Ever Been Disappointed” (1965 Atlantic 45-2303).
Later in 1965, Hendrix joined a New York–based R&B band, Curtis Knight and the Squires, after meeting Knight in the lobby of the Hotel America, where both men were staying at the time. Hendrix performed on and off with them for eight months. In October 1965, Hendrix recorded a single with Curtis Knight, “How Would You Feel” backed with “Welcome Home” (1966 RSVP 1120) and on October 15 he signed a three-year recording contract with entrepreneur Ed Chalpin, receiving 1% royalty. While the relationship with Chalpin was short-lived, his contract remained in force, which caused considerable problems for Hendrix later on in his career. Several songs and demos from the 1965–1966 Curtis Knight recording sessions, deemed not worth releasing at the time, were marketed as “Jimi Hendrix” recordings after he became famous. Aside from Curtis Knight and the Squires, Hendrix then toured for two months with Joey Dee and the Starliters.
In between performing with Curtis Knight in 1966, Hendrix toured and recorded with King Curtis. Hendrix recorded the two-part single “Help Me (Get the Feeling)” with Ray Sharpe and the King Curtis Orchestra (1966 Atco 45-6402) (the backing track was subsequently overdubbed by other vocalists with different lyrics and released as new songs). Later in 1966, Hendrix also recorded with Lonnie Youngblood, a saxophone player who occasionally performed with Curtis Knight. The sessions produced two singles for Youngblood: “Go Go Shoes”/”Go Go Place” (Fairmount F-1002) and “Soul Food (That’s What I Like)”/”Goodbye Bessie Mae” (Fairmount F-1022). Additionally, singles for other artists came out of the sessions: The Icemen’s “(My Girl) She’s a Fox”/ “(I Wonder) What It Takes” (1966 SAMAR S-111) and Jimmy Norman‘s “You’re Only Hurting Yourself”/”That Little Old Groove Maker” (1966 SAMAR S-112). As with the King Curtis recordings, backing tracks and alternate takes for the Youngblood sessions would be overdubbed and otherwise manipulated to create many “new” tracks. Many Youngblood tracks without any Hendrix involvement would later be marketed as “Jimi Hendrix” recordings. Also around this time in 1966, Hendrix earned his first composer credits for two instrumentals “Hornets Nest” and “Knock Yourself Out”, released as a Curtis Knight and the Squires single in 1966.
Hendrix, now going by the name Jimmy James, formed his own band, the Blue Flame, composed of Randy Palmer (bass), Danny Casey (drums), and a 15-year-old guitarist who played slide and rhythm named Randy Wolfe in June 1966. The band came to be mistakenly labeled as Jimmy James and the Blue Flames after Hendrix’s rise to fame. The misnomer was repeated enough times to be considered a factoid. The only surviving advert for the band, however, billed them as the Blue Flame. Hendrix himself referred to the band as such in his 1969 interview with Nancy Carter, as did John Hammond. Randy California would later co-found the band Spirit with his stepfather, drummer Ed Cassidy.
Hendrix and his new band played at several places in New York, but their primary venue was a residency at the Cafe Wha? on MacDougal Street in Greenwich Village. The street runs along “Washington (Square) Park” which appeared in at least two of Hendrix’s songs. Their last concerts were at the Cafe au Go Go, as John Hammond Jr.‘s backing group, billed as “the Blue Flame”. Singer-guitarist Ellen McIlwaine and guitarist Jeff Baxter also claim to have briefly worked with Hendrix in this period.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Early in 1966, at the Cheetah Club on Broadway at 53rd Street, Linda Keith, the girlfriend of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, befriended Hendrix and recommended him to Stones’ manager Andrew Loog Oldham and later, producer Seymour Stein. Neither man appreciated Hendrix’s music, and they both passed. She then referred Hendrix to Chas Chandler, who was ending his tenure as bassist in the Animals and looking for talent to manage and produce. Chandler liked the song “Hey Joe” and was convinced he could create a hit single with the right artist.
Impressed with Hendrix’s version, Chandler brought him to London in September 1966 and signed him to a management and production contract with himself and ex-Animals manager Michael Jeffery. Chandler then helped Hendrix form a new band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, with guitarist-turned-bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, both English musicians. Chandler also convinced Hendrix to change the spelling of his first name from “Jimmy” to the more exotic “Jimi”.
Shortly before the Experience was formed, Chandler introduced Hendrix to Brian Auger, Eric Burdon, Pete Townshend and to Eric Clapton, who had only recently helped put together Cream. At Chandler’s request, Cream let Hendrix join them on stage for a jam. Hendrix performed two songs, one of which was the song “Killing Floor“. Hendrix and Clapton remained friends up until Hendrix’s death. The first night Hendrix arrived in London, he began a relationship with Kathy Etchingham that lasted until February 1969. She later wrote an autobiographical book about their relationship and the sixties London scene in general.
After his enthusiastically received performance at France’s No. 1 venue, the Olympia theatre in Paris on the Johnny Hallyday tour, an on-stage jam with Cream, a showcase gig at the newly opened, pop-celebrity oriented nightclub Bag O’Nails and the all important appearances on the top UK TV pop shows Ready Steady Go! and the BBC’s Top of the Pops, word of Hendrix spread throughout the London music community in late 1966. His showmanship and virtuosity made instant fans of reigning guitar heroes Eric Clapton and Jeff Beck, as well as Brian Jones and members of the Beatles and the Who, whose managers signed Hendrix to their new record label, Track Records.
Hendrix’s first single was a cover of “Hey Joe“, using Tim Rose‘s slower arrangement of the song including his addition of a female backing chorus. Backing this first 1966 “Experience” single was Hendrix’s first songwriting effort, “Stone Free“. Further success came in early 1967 with “Purple Haze” which featured the “Hendrix chord” and “The Wind Cries Mary“. The three singles were all UK Top 10 hits and were also popular internationally including Europe, Australia, New Zealand and Japan (though failed to sell when released later in the US).
Onstage, Hendrix was also making an impression with sped up renderings of the B.B. King hit “Rock Me Baby” and Howlin’ Wolf‘s hit “Killing Floor“.
Are You Experienced
Released in the UK in May 1967, and in the US in August, the first Jimi Hendrix Experience album, Are You Experienced, reached number 2 in the UK and number 5 in the US. The LP contained none of the previously released (outside the United States and Canada) singles or their B sides (“Hey Joe“/”Stone Free“, “Purple Haze“/”51st Anniversary” and “The Wind Cries Mary“/”Highway Chile“). Only the Beatles‘ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band prevented Are You Experienced from reaching No. 1 on the UK charts.
At this time, the Experience extensively toured the United Kingdom and parts of Europe. This allowed Hendrix to develop his stage presence, which reached a high point on March 31, 1967, when, booked to appear as one of the opening acts on the Walker Brothers farewell tour, he set his guitar on fire at the end of his first performance, as a publicity stunt. This guitar has now been identified as the guitar “found” and later restored by Frank Zappa. He used it to record his album, Zoot Allures (1971). When Zappa’s son, Dweezil Zappa, found the guitar some twenty years later, Zappa gave it to him.
On June 4, 1967, Hendrix opened a show at the Saville Theatre in London, with his own rendition of “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band“, released three days earlier. Beatles manager Brian Epstein had owned the Saville at the time, and both George Harrison and Paul McCartney attended the performance. McCartney described the moment: “It’s still a shining memory for me … The curtains flew back and he came walking forward playing ‘Sgt. Pepper’. It’s a pretty major compliment in anyone’s book. I put that down as one of the great honors of my career.”
While on tour in Sweden during 1967, Hendrix jammed with the duo Hansson & Karlsson, and later opened several concerts with their song “Tax Free”, also recording a cover of it during the Electric Ladyland sessions.
Months later, Reprise Records released the US and Canadian version of Are You Experienced with a new cover by Karl Ferris, removing “Red House”, “Remember” and “Can You See Me” to make room for the first three single A-sides. Where the (Rest of the World) album kicked off with “Foxy Lady“, the US and Canadian one started with “Purple Haze”. Both versions offered a startling introduction to the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and the album was a blueprint for what had become possible on an electric guitar, basically recorded on four tracks, mixed into mono and only modified at this point by a “fuzz” pedal, reverb and a small bit of the experimental “Octavia” pedal on “Purple Haze”, produced by Roger Mayer in consultation with Hendrix. A remix using the mostly mono backing tracks with the guitar and vocal overdubs separated and occasionally panned to create a stereo mix was also released, only in the US and Canada.
Although very popular in Europe at this time, the Jimi Hendrix Experience had yet to crack the United States. Their first single there, “Hey Joe” c/w “51st Anniversary” (Reprise 0572, released May 1, 1967), failed to reach the Billboard chart.
Their chance came when Paul McCartney recommended the group to the organizers of the Monterey International Pop Festival. This proved to be a great opportunity for Hendrix, not only because of the large audience present at the event, but also because of the many journalists covering the event who wrote about him. The performances were filmed by D. A. Pennebaker and later shown in some movie theaters around the country in early 1969 as the concert documentary Monterey Pop, which immortalized Hendrix’s iconic burning and smashing of his guitar at the finale of his performance.
Hendrix opened with a fast arrangement of Howlin’ Wolf’s 1965 R&B hit “Killing Floor”. The Monterey performance also included an equally lively rendering of B.B. King’s 1964 R&B hit “Rock Me Baby”, Tim Rose’s arrangement of “Hey Joe” and Bob Dylan‘s 1965 pop hit “Like a Rolling Stone“. The set ended with the Troggs‘ “Wild Thing” and Hendrix repeating the gimmick that had boosted his profile in Europe; burning his guitar on stage, then smashing before tossing pieces out to the audience. The performance earned Hendrix the attention of the US public. A large chunk of this guitar was on display at the Experience Music Project in Seattle, along with the other psychedelically painted Stratocaster that Hendrix smashed (but did not burn) at his farewell concert in England before he left for the US and Monterey.
Hendrix most likley first heard a wah-wah pedal used with an electric guitar in Cream‘s “Tales of Brave Ulysses“, released in May 1967. In July, while playing sets at the Scene club in New York City, Hendrix met Frank Zappa, whose Mothers of Invention were playing the adjacent Garrick Theater. Hendrix immediately became fascinated by Zappa’s use of a wah-wah pedal and Hendrix used one later that evening while recording overdubs in a studio.
Following the Monterey Pop Festival, the Experience played a series of concerts at Bill Graham’s Fillmore replacing the original headliners Jefferson Airplane at the top of the bill. It was at this time that Hendrix became acquainted with future musical collaborator Stephen Stills, and reacquainted himself with Buddy Miles who introduced Hendrix to his future partner, Devon Wilson. She had a turbulent on/off relationship with him, right up to the night of his death, and was the only one of his partners to record with him. She died only six months after Hendrix under mysterious circumstances, apparently falling from an upper window in the Chelsea Hotel.
Following this very successful West Coast introduction, which also included two open air concerts (one of them a free concert in the “panhandle” of Golden Gate Park) and a concert at the Whisky a Go Go, they were booked as one of the opening acts for pop group the Monkees on their first American tour. The Monkees asked for Hendrix because they were fans, but their (mostly early teens) audience sometimes did not warm to their act, and he quit the tour after a few dates. Chas Chandler later admitted that being thrown off the Monkees tour was engineered to gain maximum media impact and publicity for Hendrix,similar to that gained from the manufactured Rank Theatre’s indecency dispute on the earlier UK Walker Brothers tour. At the time, a story circulated claiming that Hendrix was removed from the tour because of complaints made by the Daughters of the American Revolution that his stage conduct was “lewd and indecent”. This report was concocted by a journalist accompanying the tour, the Australian Lillian Roxon.
Meanwhile in Western Europe, where Hendrix was appreciated for his authentic blues as well as his hit singles and recognized for his avant-garde musical ideas, his wild-man image and musical gimmickry (such as playing the guitar with his teeth and behind his back) had faded; but they later plagued him in the US following Monterey. He became frustrated by the US media and audience when they concentrated on his stage tricks and best known songs.
Axis: Bold as Love
The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s second 1967 album, Axis: Bold as Love was his first recording made for stereo release and used panning and other stereo effects. It continued the style established by Are You Experienced. The opening track, “EXP”, featured a stereo effect in which a sound emanating from Hendrix’s guitar appeared to revolve around the listener, fading out into the distance from the right channel, then returning in on the left. This album marked the first time Hendrix recorded the whole album with his guitar tuned down one half-step, to E♭, which he used exclusively thereafter and was his first to feature the wah-wah pedal.
A mishap almost delayed the album’s pre-Christmas release: Hendrix lost the master tape of side one of the LP, leaving it in the back seat of a London taxi. With the release deadline looming, Hendrix, Chas Chandler and engineer Eddie Kramer had to remix most of side one in an overnight session, but they could not match the lost mix of “If 6 Was 9“. They soon learned that bassist Noel Redding had a tape recording of this mix, which had to be smoothed out with an iron as it had gotten wrinkled.
Disappointed that the album had to be finished so quickly, Hendrix felt it could have been better had they been given more time. He also expressed disappointment in the album cover art work, which depicts Hendrix and the Experience as various forms of Vishnu, incorporating a painting of them by Roger Law (from a photo-portrait by Karl Ferris). Hendrix remarked that it would have been more appropriate if the cover had highlighted his American Indian heritage.
They released the album in the UK near the end of their first headlining tour there, after which their performance frequency slowed briefly during the Christmas holidays.
In January 1968, the band travelled to Sweden for a one-week tour of Europe. During the early morning hours of the first day, Hendrix became engaged in a drunken brawl in the Hotel Opalen, smashing a plate-glass window and injuring his right hand, for which he received medical treatment. The incident culminated in his arrest, though the authorities released him pending a court appearence on the 16th. The remainder of the tour was uneventful, though Hendrix had to spend some time in Sweden awaiting his trial, which resulted in a large fine.
Hendrix’s third recording, the double album Electric Ladyland (1968), was a departure from previous efforts. Following his third and penultimate French concert at the Paris Olympia, Hendrix flew to the US to start his first tour there, and after two months returned to his Electric Ladyland project at the newly opened Record Plant Studios with engineers Eddie Kramer and Gary Kellgren and initially Chas Chandler as producer.
As the album’s recording progressed, Chas Chandler became so frustrated with Hendrix’s perfectionism and with various friends and guests milling about the studio that he decided to sever his professional relationship with Hendrix. Chandler’s departure had a clear impact on the artistic direction that the recording took.
For this album Hendrix began experimenting with different combinations of musicians and instruments. During production, Hendrix appeared at an impromptu jam with B.B. King, Al Kooper, and Elvin Bishop. In March 1968, Jim Morrison of the Doors joined Hendrix onstage at the Scene Club in New York.
In November 1968, the album reached number 1 in the US, spending two weeks at the top spot. The LP peaked at number 6 on the UK charts, spending 12 weeks on the chart.
Breakup of the Experience
After a year based in the US, Hendrix temporarily moved back to London and into his girlfriend Kathy Etchingham‘s rented Brook Street flat, next door to the Handel House Museum, in the West End of London. During this time, the Jimi Hendrix Experience toured Scandinavia, Germany, and included a final French concert. They later performed two sold-out concerts at London’s Royal Albert Hall on February 18 and 24, 1969, which were the last European appearances of this line-up of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Gold and Goldstein filmed these shows; however, as of 2012, they have not seen an official release.
Noel Redding formed his own band Fat Mattress, which allowed him to play his preferred instrument, the guitar. Redding spent less time with Hendrix, which resulted in Hendrix playing many of the bass parts on Electric Ladyland. Fruitless recording sessions at Olympic in London; Olmstead and the Record Plant in New York that ended on April 9, which only produced a remake of “Stone Free” for a possible single release, were the last to feature Redding. Hendrix then flew Billy Cox to New York and started recording and rehearsing with him on April 21 as a replacement for Noel.
The last Experience concert took place on June 29, 1969 at Barry Fey’s Denver Pop Festival, a three-day event held at Denver‘s Mile High Stadium that was marked by Denver police using tear gas to control the audience as the band played “Voodoo Chile (Slight Return)“. They narrowly escaped from the venue in the back of a rental truck which was partly crushed by fans trying to escape the tear gas. The next day, Redding quit the Experience, returning to London. He blamed Hendrix’s plans to expand the group without allowing for his input as a primary reason for leaving.
Gypsy Sun and Rainbows
After the departure of Noel Redding from the group, Hendrix rented the eight-bedroom ‘Ashokan House’ in the hamlet of Boiceville near Woodstock in upstate New York, where he spent some time in mid-1969. Manager Michael Jeffery, who owned a house in Woodstock, arranged the stay, with hopes that the respite would produce a new album. To replace Redding as bassist, Hendrix had been rehearsing and recording with Billy Cox, his old and trusted Army buddy, since April 21. Mitchell was unavailable to help fulfill Hendrix’s commitments at this time, which include his first appearance on US TV – on the Dick Cavett show – where he was backed by the studio orchestra, and an appearance on The Tonight Show where he appeared with his new bass player Billy Cox, and session drummer Ed Shaughnessy sitting in for Mitchell.
Hendrix was advertised to play the Woodstock Music Festival, along with many of the other biggest rock groups of the time. It was to take place on rented farmland in Upper State New York from August 15–18, 1969. Although Hendrix’s music had been written for a power trio of guitar, bass, and drums, he wanted to expand his sound so he added rhythm guitarist Larry Lee (another old friend from his R&B days), and Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez to play congas. After drummer Mitch Mitchell arrived, this new lineup rehearsed for less than two weeks before the festival and according to Mitchell never really meshed. In addition, although Woodstock would become famous and mythologized through the documentary film of the same name, by the time of his performance, Hendrix had been up for three days, and his band was short on sleep as well, contributing a rawness to their filmed performance.
Before Hendrix even arrived at the festival he started to hear media reports that the crowds of kids showing up for the festival were swelling to biblical proportions, in addition to the emerging logistical problems being reported at the site. This gave Hendrix cause for concern since he did not like performing in front of very large crowds.Since he was considered an important draw for the festival, and because of his manager’s negotiations, Hendrix was getting paid more than the other performers, (US$18,000, plus US$12,000 for rights to film him). As the scheduled time slot of Sunday night at midnight drew closer, Hendrix indicated that he would rather wait and close the show. A substantial rainstorm that day had delayed the schedule of performers, so when Hendrix insisted on being the closing headliner, it pushed back the time when they finally hit the stage – which ended up being 8:30 am Monday morning. The audience which had peaked at an estimated 400,000 people during the festival, was now reduced to about 30–40,000 by that point; many of whom merely waited to catch a glimpse of Hendrix before leaving during his show. This reflected the reality that by the third day attendees had been sleeping in muddy conditions with limited food.
Hendrix and his band were introduced by the festival MC, Chip Monck, as “the Jimi Hendrix Experience”, but once on stage Hendrix clarified saying, “We decided to change the whole thing around and call it ‘Gypsy Sun and Rainbows’. For short, it’s nothin but a ‘Band of Gypsys'”. He then launched into a two hour set, the longest of his career. Hendrix started off with a new song, “Message to Love”. (His Woodstock set consisting of new material, along with his well-known hits).
Hendrix’s rendition of the U.S. national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner” occurred about 3/4 into their set (after which he morphed into “Purple Haze”). The song had actually been part of his set for over a year and he had already performed it at at least 28 different concerts and recorded a studio version. During the number, Hendrix used feedback and sustain on his guitar to recreate the sound of wails and falling rockets. Although pundits quickly branded the song as a political manifesto against the Vietnam War, Hendrix himself never explained its meaning other than to say at a press conference three weeks later, “We’re all Americans … it was like ‘Go America!’ … We play it the way the air is in America today. The air is slightly static, see”. The song would become “part of the sixties Zeitgeist” as it was captured forever in the Woodstock film; Hendrix’s image performing this number during the day wearing a blue-beaded white leather jacket with fringe and a red head scarf, has since been regarded as a defining moment of the 1960s.
Hendrix performed “Hey Joe” as the encore to finish off their set which concluded the 3½ day Woodstock Music Festival. Upon leaving the stage, Hendrix collapsed from exhaustion. After Woodstock, this particular lineup of the band appeared on only two more occasions. The first was a street benefit in Harlem where, in a scenario similar to the festival, most of the audience had left and only a fraction remained by the time Hendrix took the stage. Within seconds of Hendrix arriving at the site two youths had stolen his guitar from the back seat of his car, although it was later recovered. The band’s only other appearance was at the Salvation club in Greenwich Village, New York. After some studio recordings, Hendrix disbanded the group. Some of this band’s recordings can be heard on the MCA Records box set The Jimi Hendrix Experience and on South Saturn Delta. Their final session together before Lee and Velez left the band took place on September 16.
Band of Gypsys
In 1968, a contractual dispute arose in relation to a previous agreement Hendrix had entered into with producer Ed Chalpin. The resolution for the dispute included Hendrix having to record an LP of new material for Chalpin’s company. For the agreed upon album, Hendrix chose to record the live LP, Band of Gypsys.
Against the backdrop of widespread social upheaval in the United States that included the African-American Civil Rights Movement, the escalation of the Vietnam War, the growing Black Power movement, and several notable assassinations, Hendrix created a new all-black band with Billy Cox and drummer Buddy Miles (formerly with Wilson Pickett, the Electric Flag and the Buddy Miles Express). He had been recording with Cox since April and jamming with Miles since September. He wrote and rehearsed material which they then performed at a series of four concerts over two nights, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day at Fillmore East. Recordings of these concerts became the material for the Band Of Gypsys LP, produced by Hendrix. The album contains the track, “Machine Gun“, described by musicologist Andy Aledort as the pinnacle of Hendrix’s career, and “the premiere example of Hendrix’s unparalleled genius as a rock guitarist … In this performance, Jimi transcended the medium of rock music, and set an entirely new standard for the potential of electric guitar.”
Some have thought that the creation of the band was Hendrix’s efforts to appease overtures from the Black Power movement and others in the black communities asking him to become more militant in using his fame to speak up for civil rights. In 1967, Hendrix told Open City, a Los Angeles-based underground newspaper: “Quite naturally I don’t like to see houses being burnt”, referring to the Watts Riots that had occurred in 1965. He clarified: “I don’t have much feeling for either side right now… Maybe I’ll have more to say later, when I get more political.”
The Band of Gypsys album was the only official live, complete LP of Hendrix’s music released during his lifetime. A couple of tracks from Woodstock and one side of an LP of tracks from his Monterey show were also released, later, in his lifetime. The album reached the top ten in both the US and the UK in April 1970. The band also released a single “Stepping Stone“, which was given no publicity and failed to sell, and recorded three other studio songs slated for Hendrix’s future LP. In 1999, the tapes from the four Fillmore concerts were remastered and additional tracks and edits were released as Live at the Fillmore East. Litigation with Chalpin ended in 2007 after the “singularly uncredible witness” was fined nearly US$900,000 for failure to abide by contractual limitations and failure to pay Experience Hendrix L.L.C. its court ordered royalties.
On January 26 and 27, 1970, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding flew into New York and signed contracts with Jeffery for the upcoming Jimi Hendrix Experience tour. The next day, a second and final Band of Gypsys appearance occurred at a twelve-act show in Madison Square Garden which was a benefit for the anti-Vietnam War Moratorium Committee, titled the “Winter Festival for Peace”. Similar to Woodstock, set delays forced Hendrix to take the stage at an inopportune 3 am, only this time he was obviously in no shape to play. He played “Who Knows” before snapping a vulgar response at a woman who shouted a request for “Foxy Lady“. He played a second song, “Earth Blues”, he then told the audience: “That’s what happens when earth fucks with space—never forget that”. He then sat down on the drum riser for a minute and then walked off stage. Various unverifiable assertions have been proffered to explain this bizarre scene. Buddy Miles claimed that manager Michael Jeffery dosed Hendrix with LSD in an effort to sabotage the current band and bring about the return of the Experience lineup, but none of Hendrix’s other close associates verifies his statement.
Cry of Love tour
A week after the botched Band of Gypsys show, Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding gave an interview to Rolling Stone for the upcoming tour dates as a reunited Jimi Hendrix Experience. However, Redding never made the time to rehearse, as Hendrix continued to work with Billy Cox. Noel was not told he was not going to be playing until the pretour rehearsals. Fans refer to this final “Jimi Hendrix Experience” lineup as the “Cry of Love” band, named after The Cry of Love Tour to distinguish it from the original. Billy Cox has countered on several occasions that this lineup considered themselves “the Jimi Hendrix Experience” before they even went on tour and that any other title is bogus. All billing, adverts, tickets etc. on the tour used “Jimi Hendrix Experience” or occasionally, as previously, just “Jimi Hendrix”.
Two of Hendrix’s later recordings were the lead guitar parts on “Old Times Good Times” from Stephen Stills hit eponymous album (1970), and on “The Everlasting First” from Arthur Lee‘s new incarnation of Love, not so successful and aptly named LP False Start both tracks were recorded with these old friends on a fleeting and unexplained visit to London in March 1970, following Kathy Etchingham‘s marriage.
He spent the next four months of 1970 working on his next LP tentatively titled First Rays of the New Rising Sun, recording during the week and playing live on the weekends. The Cry of Love tour, launched that April at the L.A. Forum, was partly undertaken to earn money to repay the Warner Bros. loan for completing his Electric Lady Studios. Performances on this tour featured Hendrix, Cox, and Mitchell playing new material alongside older audience favorites. The American leg of the tour included 30 performances and ended at Honolulu, Hawaii on August 1, 1970. A number of these shows were recorded and produced some of Hendrix’s most memorable live performances. At one of them, the Second Atlanta International Pop Festival (1970), on July 4, Hendrix played to the largest American audience of his career.
Electric Lady Studios
In 1968, Hendrix and Jeffery had invested jointly in the purchase of the Generation Club in Greenwich Village. Their initial plans to reopen the club were scrapped when the pair decided that the investment would serve them much better as a recording studio. The studio fees for the lengthy Electric Ladyland sessions were astronomical, and Hendrix was constantly in search of a recording environment that suited him. In August 1970, Electric Lady Studios was opened in New York.
Designed by architect and acoustician John Storyk, the studio was made specifically for Hendrix, with round windows and a machine capable of generating ambient lighting in a myriad of colors. It was designed to have a relaxing feel to encourage Hendrix’s creativity, but at the same time provide a professional recording atmosphere. Engineer Eddie Kramer upheld this by refusing to allow any drug use during session work.
Hendrix spent only two and a half months recording in Electric Lady, most of which took place while the final phases of construction were still ongoing. Following a mastering session at Sterling Sound on August 26, they held an opening party later that day for Electric Lady Studios. Hendrix left for London after the party and never returned to the newly finished studio. He then boarded an Air India flight for London with Billy Cox, joining Mitch Mitchell to perform at the Isle of Wight Festival.
The group then commenced the European leg of the tour. Longing for his new studio and creative outlets, the tour was a commitment that Hendrix was not eager to perform. In Aarhus, Hendrix abandoned the performance after only three songs, remarking: “I’ve been dead a long time”. On September 6, 1970, his final concert performance, Hendrix was greeted with some booing and jeering by fans at the Isle of Fehmarn Festival in Germany, due to his non-appearance at the end of the previous night’s bill (due to the torrential rain and risk of electrocution). Several acts played after he left the stage; later, part of the stage was burnt during the first stage appearance of Ton Steine Scherben. Billy Cox quit the tour and headed home to Memphis, Tennessee, reportedly suffering paranoia after taking LSD or being given it unknowingly, earlier in the tour. A live recording of the concert was later released as Live at the Isle of Fehmarn.
Hendrix returned to London, where he reportedly spoke to Chas Chandler, Eric Burdon, and others about leaving his manager, Michael Jeffery. Hendrix’s last public performance was an informal jam at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club in Soho with Burdon and his latest band, War. Much of this was recorded on a Sony cassette recorder by Bill Baker, of Shepherds Bush, London, then aged 20, who was present throughout the entire performance. Two Hendrix tracks from this recording, “Mother Earth” and “Tobacco Road”, were later included, without permission from Baker, on a bootleg LP, Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?, produced in the mid-to-late 1970s, and on an audio tape of poor quality that went into circulation some years later. It was not until 2009, however, that the entire recording entered general circulation within the collecting community. This was remastered in California in December 2010 and includes tracks from the same night’s performance by Eric Burdon‘s War. Hendrix’s last known recording, he died approximately 24 hours later.
Drug use and violence
Widely associated with the use of psychedelic drugs, particularly lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), Hendrix had never taken psychedelic drugs until the night he met Linda Keith, but had smoked cannabis. Amphetamines were also recorded as being used by Hendrix during tours. Friends and bandmates reported that Hendrix would sometimes become angry and violent when he drank too much alcohol. Though illicit drugs alone did not have seem to produce a significant negative effect on him, when he mixed them with alcohol, he would often become incendiary. Hendrix friend, Herbie Worthington, explains: “You wouldn’t expect somebody with that kind of love to be that violent … He just couldn’t drink … he simply turned into a bastard.”
A girlfriend of Hendrix’s, Carmen Borrero, required stitches after he hit her above her eye with a vodka bottle during a drunken, jealous rage. Drugs and alcohol played a role in Hendrix’s 1968 rampage that badly damaged a Stockholm hotel room, which led to him injuring his right hand and to his arrest and eventual fine. After the burglary of his Benedict Canyon, Califonia house, Hendrix, while under the influence of drugs and alcohol, punched friend Paul Caruso and accused him of the theft. Hendrix then chased Caruso away from the residence while throwing stones at him.
On May 3, 1969, while checking through Canadian customs at Toronto Pearson International Airport, authorities arrested Hendrix for drug possession after finding a small amount of heroin and hashish in his luggage. After being released on a CAN$10,000 cash bail the same day, only four hours before his show was to begin, the Experience performed at Maple Leaf Gardens that night. The courts required Hendrix to appear before a judge at a later date. Acquitted of the charges, in his trial defense Hendrix claimed that a fan slipped the drugs into his bag without his knowledge.
Early on September 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix died in London. He had spent the latter part of the previous evening at a party and was picked up at close to 3:00 by girlfriend Monika Dannemann and driven to her flat at the Samarkand Hotel, 22 Lansdowne Crescent, Notting Hill. From autopsy data and statements by friends about the evening of September 17, it has been estimated that he died sometime after 3:00, possibly before 4:00, but also possibly as late as 11:30, though no estimate was made at the autopsy, or inquest.
Dannemann claimed in her original testimony that after they returned to her lodgings the evening before, Hendrix, unknown to her, had taken nine of her prescribed Vesparax sleeping pills. The normal medical dose was a half to one tablet as stated in the literature, but Hendrix was unfamiliar with this very strong Belgian brand. According to surgeon John Bannister, the doctor who initially attended to him, Hendrix had asphyxiated in his own vomit, mainly red wine which had filled his airways. Bannister’s statement was made in January 1992 to Harry Shapiro, co-author of Electric Gypsy, a book which also featured accusations of malpractice by Monika Dannemann in regards to Bannister’s not performing a tracheotomy on Hendrix. He appears to have been using the amount of wine in his system as a reason for not performing a tracheotomy. He was reprimanded for two counts of medical malpractice, and struck off the medical register on April 28, 1992 for fraud. No one else at the time, the other two doctors, the ambulance men, or the police mentioned wine. The only mention of wine was by Monika much earlier, in Electric Gypsy (which Bannister had read), and that Hendrix had drunk some wine with food earlier that evening and also by Harvey at his, again, much earlier party, which were both several hours prior to death. The autopsy found very little alcohol in his system. The autopsy never mentioned wine, only vomited matter.
Until her death, Dannemann publicly claimed that she had only discovered that her lover had been sick at 11:00 am, but he was breathing, though unconscious and unresponsive (The ambulance was called at 11:18 and arrived 11:27). She also stated that Hendrix was alive when placed in the back of the ambulance at approximately 11:30, and that she rode with him on the way to the hospital.
The ambulance crew later denied she was even there; additionally, Dannemann’s comments about the timing of some events that morning often differed in places, varying from interview to interview. Police and ambulance statements reveal that there was no one but Hendrix in the flat when they arrived at 11:27 am, and not only was he dead when they arrived on the scene, but was fully clothed and had been dead for some time.
Later, Dannemann claimed that former road managers Gerry Stickels and Eric Barrett had been present before the ambulance was called and had removed some of Hendrix’s possessions, including some of his most recent messages. Lyrics written by Hendrix, which were found in the apartment, led Eric Burdon to make a premature announcement on the BBC-TV program 24 Hours that he believed Hendrix had committed suicide. Burdon often claimed he had been telephoned by Dannemann after she discovered that Hendrix failed to wake up. In 1996, Dannemann committed suicide shortly after being found guilty of contempt of court for repeating a libel against Kathy Etchingham, who had been a girlfriend of Hendrix in the 1960s.
Hendrix’s body was returned to Seattle and he was interred in Greenwood Memorial Park, Renton, Washington. As the popularity of Hendrix and his music grew over the decades following his death, concerns began to mount over fans damaging the adjoining graves at Greenwood, and the growing, extended Hendrix family further prompted his father to create an expanded memorial site separate from other burial sites in the park. The memorial was announced in late 1999, but Al Hendrix’s deteriorating health led to delays and he died two months before its scheduled completion in 2002. Later that year, the remains of Jimi Hendrix, his father Al Hendrix, and grandmother Nora Rose Moore Hendrix were moved to the new site. The headstone contains a depiction of a Fender Stratocaster guitar, the instrument he was most famous for using —– although the guitar is shown right-side up, rather than the way Hendrix played it, upside down (left-handed).
The memorial is a granite dome supported by three pillars under which Jimi Hendrix and other family members are interred. Hendrix’s autograph is inscribed at the base of each pillar, while two stepped entrances and one ramped entrance provide access to the dome’s center where the original Stratocaster adorned headstone has been incorporated into a statue pedestal. A granite sundial complete with brass gnomon adjoins the dome, along with over 50 family plots that surround the central structure, half of which are currently adorned with raised granite headstones.
To date, the memorial remains incomplete: brass accents for the dome and a large brass statue of Hendrix were announced as being under construction in Italy, but since 2002 no information as to the status of the project has been revealed to the public. A memorial statue of Jimi playing a Stratocaster stands near the corner of Broadway and Pine Streets in Seattle.
In May 2006, the city of Seattle honored Hendrix with the renaming of a park near Seattle’s Colman School in the Central District.
Hendrix’s recordings were originally released in North America on Reprise Records (a division of Warner Communications) from 1967 until 1993 and were released internationally (outside of US and Canada) on Polydor Records. (Because it was recorded to settle a legal dispute, the Band of Gypsys album was released on Capitol Records in US and Canada.) British releases of all his albums up to and including The Cry Of Love were first issued on the independent label Track Records, which was originally created by the managers of the Who. The label was later absorbed by Polydor.
In 1994, the Hendrix family prevailed in its long standing legal attempt to gain control of Jimi’s music, and subsequently licensed the recordings to MCA Records (later Universal Music) through the family-run company Experience Hendrix. In August 2009, Experience Hendrix announced that it had entered a new licensing agreement with Sony Music Entertainment‘s Legacy Recordings division which would take effect in 2010.
Unfinished work and posthumous releases
Reports that Hendrix’s tapes for a concept album Black Gold had been stolen and lost from the London flat, are incorrect. Hendrix gave those tapes to Mitch Mitchell at the Isle of Wight Festival three weeks prior to his death. They are now in the possession of Experience Hendrix LLC.
Hendrix’s unfinished album was partly released as the 1971 title The Cry of Love. The album was well received and charted in several countries. However, the album’s producers, Mitchell and Kramer, would later complain that they were unable to make use of all the tracks they wanted. This was due to some tracks being used for 1971’s Rainbow Bridge and 1972’s War Heroes for contractual reasons.
Material from The Cry of Love was rereleased in 1997 as First Rays of the New Rising Sun, along with the rest of the tracks that Mitchell and Kramer wanted to include.
Many of Hendrix’s personal items, tapes, and many pages of lyrics and poems are now in the hands of private collectors and have attracted considerable sums at the occasional auctions. These materials surfaced after two employees, under the instructions of Mike Jeffery, removed items from Hendrix’s Greenwich Village apartment following his death.
In 2010, Legacy Recordings and Experience Hendrix LLC launched the 2010 Jimi Hendrix Catalog Project, starting with the release of Valleys of Neptune in March. Legacy has also released deluxe CD/DVD editions of the Hendrix albums Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold As Love, Electric Ladyland and First Rays of the New Rising Sun, as well as the 1968 compilation album Smash Hits.
As an adolescent during the 1950s, rock and roll artists such as Elvis Presley, Little Richard and Chuck Berry earned Hendrix’s interest. In 1968, he told Guitar Player magazine that electric blues artists including Muddy Waters, Elmore James and B.B. King influenced him during the beginning of his career, he also cited Eddie Cochran as an early influence. Of Muddy Waters, the first guitarist Hendrix became aware of, he said: “I heard one of his records when I was a little boy and it scared me to death because I heard all of these sounds.”
Band of Gypsys bassist, Billy Cox, stated that during their time serving in the US military, he and Hendrix listened to mostly southern blues artists such as Jimmy Reed, B.B. King and Albert King. According to Cox, “Albert King was a very, very powerful influence” on Hendrix. Howlin’ Wolf also influenced Hendrix, who performed Wolf’s “Killing Floor” as the opening number to the set of his US debut at the Monterey Pop Festival. Soul guitarist Curtis Mayfield also significantly influenced Hendrix.
In early 1967, when asked what he thought about the music of the Beatles, Hendrix replied: “Oh, yes. I think its good. They’re one group you can’t really put down because they’re just too much.” During the same interview, when asked if he had seen Pink Floyd Hendrix replied: “I’ve heard they have beautiful lights but they don’t sound like nothing.”
Hendrix was well known for his unique sense of fashion and wardrobe and his Dylan-esque (c. 1966) hairstyle. A set of hair curlers was one of the few possessions that Hendrix took with him to England in 1966. When his first advance check arrived, Hendrix immediately took to the streets of London in search of clothing at famous boutiques like I Was Lord Kitchener’s Valet and Granny Takes a Trip. Both specialized in vintage fashion. He bought at least two army dress uniform jackets including “his famous Crimean War-era Royal Hussars regimental coat” or pelisse, adorned with tasseled ropes. A group of policemen once ordered him to remove the other, a Royal Veterinary Corps dress jacket, saying it was an offense to the men who had worn it.
With their mutton-chop sideburns, droopy moustaches and flowing hair, English rock stars were effectively spoofing the Victorian officer class whose finery they donned. But a grinning, crazy-haired Hendrix in hussar’s jacket suggested something else entirely—a redskin brave showing off the spoils of a paleface scalp, perhaps, or a negro “buffalo soldier” fighting on the side of the anti-slavery Yankee forces in the US Civil War. ~ Neil Spencer, Editor, NME (1978-1985)
Many photographs of Hendrix show him wearing various scarves, rings, medallions, and brooches, and in the early days occasionally badges (pins or buttons) that professed his support for the hippie movement or his fascination with Bob Dylan. He initially wore a dark suit and plain silk shirts that progressively became “louder” and more psychedelically patterned. He later favored a bright blue velvet suit, then a bright red one, antique military dress jackets, a very broadly striped suit, psychedelically patterned silk jackets, various exotic waistcoats and brightly colored flared trousers. At Monterey, he wore a hand-painted silk jacket by Chris Jagger (Mick Jagger‘s brother) and a bright pink feather boa. In late 1967 he started to wear a wide-brimmed Western style hat (brand name “The Westerner”) It was adorned with a narrow purple band and various brooches, as shown in the original Jimi Plays Monterey film. This hat was stolen in 1968, and replaced later with another, crowned variously with a longer purple scarf, a star-like brooch in front and a set of silver bangles, sometimes with an angled feather, though he went hatless for protracted periods after this.
From late 1968 he began tying scarves to one leg and one arm, and in mid-1969 he gave up the hat for bandanas. He started wearing increasingly fantastic custom-made stage costume with long trailing sleeves, culminating in his African-styled “Fire Angel” outfit that he wore throughout most of his final “Cry Of Love” tour, until it began to come apart during the Isle of Wight concert. He appeared in this outfit only once more (in just the jacket) at the disastrous concert in Aarhus, Denmark. His only non-work-related vacation was a two-week trip to Morocco in July 1969 with friends Colette Mimram, Stella Benabou (the then-wife of producer Alan Douglas), and Deering Howe. Upon his return Hendrix decorated his Greenwich Village apartment with Moroccan objets d’art and fabrics. Mimram and Benabou created some of Hendrix’s most memorable later attire, the shortened blue kimono-style jacket that he wore in three TV appearances and the white fringed jacket, ornamented with blue glass beads, he wore at the Woodstock Festival.
Hendrix owned and used a variety of guitars during his career. However, his guitar of choice (and the instrument that became most associated with him), was the Fender Stratocaster. He started playing the model in 1966 and thereafter used it prevalently in his stage performances and recordings.
Hendrix bought many Stratocasters and gave some away as gifts. The original Fender Stratocaster Sunburst that Hendrix burnt at the Astoria in 1967, and that he kept as a souvenir, was given to Frank Zappa by a Hendrix roadie at the 1968 Miami Pop Festival. After Astoria, the guitar was restored, and Hendrix had burned it again onstage in Miami. Once in Frank Zappa’s hands, Zappa had it restored again and used it himself. As well as playing it, it was this guitar that Zappa chose to be photographed with for the cover of the January 1977 edition of Guitar Player.
“I had it hanging on the wall in my basement for years until last year when I gave it to Rex [Brogue] and said, ‘Put this sucker back together,’ because it was all tore up,” Zappa told journalist Steve Rosen in a feature interview inside the magazine. “The neck was cracked off, the body was all fired, and the pickups were blistered and bubbled. That’s the one that’s got the Barcus-Berry in the neck. A lot of people thought I had Hendrix’s guitar from Monterey, but it was from Miami; the one at Monterey was white and this one is sunburst.”
As the years passed, Zappa only remembered having it after his son, Dweezil Zappa, found it dismantled near his father’s studio in the early 1990s.
“It’s a very inspiring guitar,” Dweezil Zappa told BBC News, “because it has such a unique history, one that can never be recreated.” Subsequent to having it carefully restored by the late master guitar maker, Rex Brogue, Dweezil Zappa put the guitar up for auction in 2002.
The highest bid for the restored guitar was 300,000 pounds sterling, but Zappa changed his mind and kept the guitar.
Hendrix used right-handed guitars, turned upside down and restrung for left-hand playing. This had an important effect on his guitar sound: because of the slant of the Strat’s bridge pickup, his lowest string had a bright sound while his highest string had a mellow sound, the opposite of the Stratocaster’s intended design. Heavy use of the tremolo bar necessitated frequent tuning; Hendrix often asked the audience for a “minute to tune up”, as heard on many live bootlegs of his performances.
In addition to Stratocasters, Hendrix was also photographed playing Fender Jazzmasters, Duosonics, two different Gibson Flying Vs, a Gibson Les Paul, three Gibson SGs, a Gretsch Corvette he used at the 1967 Curtis Knight sessions and miming with a right-strung Fender Jaguar on the Top of the Pops TV show, as well as several other brands. Hendrix borrowed a Fender Telecaster from Noel Redding to record “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze“, used a white Gibson SG Custom for his performances on The Dick Cavett Show in the summer of 1969, and the Isle of Wight film shows him playing his second Gibson Flying V. While Jimi had previously owned a Flying V that he had painted with a psychedelic design, the Flying V used at the Isle of Wight was a unique custom left-handed guitar with gold plated hardware, a bound fingerboard and “split-diamond” fret markers that were not found on other 1960s-era Flying Vs.
On December 4, 2006, one of Hendrix’s 1968 Fender Stratocaster guitars with a sunburst design was sold at a Christie’s auction for US$168,000.
Described as the first guitar Hendrix set fire to, another of his Stratocasters was sold at an auction for a record price in London two years later in 2008. Daniel Boucher, an American collector from Boston, paid 280,000 pounds sterling or $497,500 US Dollars for the guitar. This guitar was set aflame at the end of the Astoria concert in March 1967. Hendrix’s action “sent roadies rushing to put out the flames and left Hendrix needing treatment for minor burns.” Rescued by Hendrix’s press officer, Tony Garland, it was his nephew who came forward in 2007 and put the guitar up for auction. The guitar had been forgotten in Tony Garland’s parents’ garage for some forty years. In 2009, some experts in Hendrix’s guitars questioned whether the guitar Boucher bought was in fact an elaborate forgery.
Amplifiers and effects
Hendrix was a catalyst in the development of modern guitar effects pedals. His high volume and use of feedback required robust and powerful amplifiers. For the first few rehearsals he used Vox and Fender amplifiers. Sitting in with Cream, Hendrix played through a new range of high-powered guitar amps being made by London drummer turned audio engineer Jim Marshall, and they proved perfect for his needs. Along with the Stratocaster, the Marshall stack and amplifiers were crucial in shaping his heavily overdriven sound, enabling him to master the use of feedback as a musical effect, and he created a “definitive vocabulary for rock guitar”.
While his mainstays were the Arbiter Fuzz Face and a Vox wah-wah pedal, Hendrix experimented with guitar effects as well. He had a fruitful association with engineer Roger Mayer who later went on to make the Axis fuzz unit, the Octavia octave doubler and several other devices based on units Mayer had created or tweaked for Hendrix. The Japanese-made Uni-Vibe, designed to simulate the modulation effects of the rotating Leslie speaker, provided a rich phasing sound with a speed control pedal, and is heard on the Band of Gypsys track “Machine Gun”, which highlights use of the Uni-Vibe, Octavia and Fuzz Face.
The Hendrix sound combined high volume and high power, feedback manipulation, and a range of cutting-edge guitar effects. He was also known for his trick playing, which included playing with only his right (fretting) hand and using his teeth or playing behind his back and between his legs. Hendrix had large hands and characteristically used his thumb to fret bass notes, leaving his fingers free to play melodic lines on top. A clear demonstration of this thumb technique can be witnessed in the Woodstock video; during the song “Red House” there are closeups of Hendrix’s fretting hand.
Guitar rig and signal flow
A detailed gear diagram of Jimi Hendrix 1969 “Woodstock” Guitar Rig is well-documented Rig information was compiled from a 2012 interview with Jimi’s effect guru, Roger Mayer.
His Rock Hall biography states “Jimi Hendrix was arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music. Hendrix expanded the range and vocabulary of the electric guitar into areas no musician had ever ventured before. His boundless drive, technical ability and creative application of such effects as wah-wah and distortion forever transformed the sound of rock and roll.”
Instrumental in developing the previously undesirable technique of guitar amplifier feedback, Hendrix favored overdriven amplifiers with high volume, gain and treble. He helped to popularize use of the wah-wah pedal in mainstream rock, which he often used to deliver tonal exaggerations in his solos, particularly with high bends, complex guitar playing, and use of legato. He also pioneered experimentation with stereophonic phasing effects in rock music recordings.Rolling Stone comments: “Hendrix pioneered the use of the instrument as an electronic sound source. Players before him had experimented with feedback and distortion, but Hendrix turned those effects and others into a controlled, fluid vocabulary every bit as personal as the blues with which he began.”
Hendrix synthesized many styles in creating his musical voice and his guitar style was unique, later to be abundantly imitated by others. Despite his hectic touring schedule and notorious perfectionism, he was a prolific recording artist and left behind more than 300 unreleased recordings. Musically, Hendrix did much to further the development of the electric guitar’s repertoire, establishing it as a unique sonic source, rather than merely an amplified version of the acoustic guitar. Likewise, his feedback, wah-wah and fuzz-laden soloing moved guitar distortion well beyond mere novelty, incorporating other effects pedals and units specifically designed for him by his sound technician Roger Mayer (such as the Octavia and Uni-Vibe) with dramatic results.
He affected popular music with similar profundity; along with earlier bands such as the Who and Cream, he established a sonically heavy yet technically proficient bent to rock music as a whole, significantly furthering the development of hard rock and paving the way for heavy metal. He took blues to another level. His music has also had a great influence on funk and the development of funk rock especially through the guitarists Ernie Isley of the Isley Brothers and Eddie Hazel of Funkadelic, Prince, John Frusciante former member of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Jesse Johnson of the Time. His influence even extends to many hip hop artists, including Questlove, Chuck D of Public Enemy, Ice-T (who covered “Hey Joe” with his heavy metal band Body Count), El-P and Wyclef Jean. Miles Davis was also deeply impressed by Hendrix and compared his improvisational skills with those of saxophonist John Coltrane, and Davis would later want guitarists in his bands to emulate Hendrix. Hendrix’s guitar style also had significant influence upon ZZ Top guitarist Billy Gibbons, fellow Texas guitar legend Stevie Ray Vaughan, and later on Metallica guitarist Kirk Hammett and Pearl Jam‘s Mike McCready, among others. Hendrix’s influence is also evident in the musical styles of many prominent bassists such as Stanley Clarke, Jaco Pastorius, Billy Sheehan,and Les Claypool.
His career and death grouped him with Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Brian Jones as one of the 27 Club, a group including iconic 1960s rock stars who suffered drug-related deaths at the age of 27 within a two year period, leaving legacies in death that have eclipsed the popularity and influence they experienced during their lifetimes.
- Electric church
Popularized by Hendrix, “Electric Church” was a quasi-spiritual belief that electric music brings out emotions and creative ideas in people, and encourages spirituality. On the Dick Cavett Show in 1969, Hendrix said that he designed his music so that it would be able to go “inside the soul of the person, and awaken some kind of thing inside, because there are so many sleeping people”. Promoting his third album Electric Ladyland, Jimi Hendrix said “the influence the psychedelics have on one is truly amazing, and I only wish more people appreciated this belief and genre”. When asked why he didn’t name the album “Electric Church” instead of “Electric Ladyland”, Hendrix said some ladies were “electric too”.Hendrix made numerous allusions to the concept in his music, most famously in the song “Red House“, in which he introduces his band by saying that he is about to present them all to the “Electric Church”.
Financial and legal
When Al Hendrix died of congestive heart failure in 2002, his will stipulated that Experience Hendrix, LLC was to exist as a trust designed to distribute profits to a list of Hendrix family beneficiaries. Upon his death, it was revealed that Al had signed a revision to his will which removed Hendrix’s brother Leon Hendrix as a beneficiary. A 2004 probate lawsuit merged Leon’s challenge to the will with charges from other Hendrix family beneficiaries that Janie Hendrix, Al’s adopted daughter, was improperly handling the company finances. The suit argued that Janie and a cousin of Jimi Hendrix (Robert Hendrix) paid themselves exorbitant salaries and covered their own mortgages and personal expenses from the company’s coffers while the beneficiaries went without payment and the Hendrix gravesite in Renton went uncompleted.
Janie and Robert’s defense was that the company was not yet profitable, and that their salary and benefits were justified given the work that they put into running the company. Leon charged that Janie bilked Al Hendrix, then old and frail, into signing the revised will, and sought to have the previous will reinstated. The defense argued that Al willingly removed Leon from his will because of Leon’s problems with alcohol and gambling. In early 2005, presiding judge Jeffrey Ramsdell handed down a ruling that left the final will intact, but replaced Janie and Robert’s role at the financial helm of Experience Hendrix with an independent trustee.
On October 5, 2011 the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case Golan v. Holder concerning the 1994 U.S. federal law that protected foreign copyrights. At stake in the outcome of this case is whether previously unprotected foreign works could be suddenly copyrighted and withdrawn from public domain. In a hypothetical argument Justice John Roberts asked “what about Jimi Hendrix?” and if Hendrix’s rendition of the “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock violated copyright protection or was protected under public domain. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, who defended the 1994 law, stated “maybe Jimi Hendrix could claim fair use“.
The Jimi Hendrix Foundation
In 1987, Leon Hendrix commissioned the James (Jimi) Marshall Hendrix Foundation. This foundation is based in Renton, Washington. Though run for some time by Jimi’s brother Leon Hendrix, in August 2006 Leon asked a childhood friend of Jimi Hendrix – James (Jimmy) Williams, to take control of the Foundation.
Hendrix performed in Sweden frequently throughout his career, and his only son James Daniel Sundquist was born there in 1969 to a Swede, Eva Sundquist, recognized as such by the Swedish courts and paid a settlement by Experience Hendrix LLC. Sundquist had sent Hendrix roses on each of his opening nights in Stockholm, and began – according to the Swedish courts – a sexual relationship from then until conceiving Daniel with him, after his third visit in January 1969. Hendrix also dedicated songs to the Swedish-based Vietnam deserters organization in 1969.
Recognition and awards
“We were off somewhere on the road, and I was brushing my teeth, thinking about it,” Hendrix said of the Melody Maker Pop Musician of the Year Award (1967). “I started to cry because it meant so much, and I ended up washing my face three times to get off this mess of tears and toothpaste.” The award was the first of many Hendrix won during his lifetime, but many more were given posthumously. Despite his influence on other major musicians, he did not receive a single Grammy Award in his lifetime — not even a nomination. Posthumously, he and the Jimi Hendrix Experience received a collective total of seven Grammy awards (see table below) including one Hendrix received for Lifetime Achievement.
Rolling Stone ranked his three non-posthumous studio albums, Are You Experienced (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (1967) and Electric Ladyland (1968) among the top 100 Greatest Albums of All Time. They ranked Hendrix number one on its list of the 100 greatest guitarists of all-time, and number six on their list of the 100 greatest artists of all time. Guitar World’s readers voted six of Hendrix’s solos among the top 100 Greatest Guitar Solos of All Time: “Purple Haze” (70), “The Star-Spangled Banner” (52), “Machine Gun” (32), “Little Wing” (18), “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” (11) and “All Along the Watchtower” (5). Rolling Stone placed seven of his recordings in their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: “Purple Haze” (17), “All Along the Watchtower” (47) “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” (102), “Foxy Lady” (153), “Hey Joe” (201), “Little Wing” (366), and “The Wind Cries Mary” (379).
The recipient of several prestigious rock music awards during his lifetime and posthumously, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992, and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. A star for Hendrix on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was dedicated on November 14, 1991, at 6627 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1999, readers of Rolling Stone and Guitar World ranked Hendrix among the most important musicians of the 20th century. In 2005, his debut album, Are You Experienced, was one of 50 recordings added that year to the United States National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress, “[to] be preserved for all time … [as] part of the nation’s audio legacy.” The English Heritage blue plaque that identifies his former residence at 23 Brook Street, London, was the first the organization ever granted to a pop star.
It was a direct result of Kathy Etchingham’s efforts, Hendrix’s former girlfriend who lived with him at the flat. She wrote to English Heritage first in 1992 and her request, along with all those received from other writers, was declined. She persisted and asked others to write. Finally the Committee gave its approval. There “had been talk of carrying it out in purple,” Sue Ashworth, one of the plaque makers remembers, but it was eventually done in the traditional blue.”We needed a guitar player to do this,” Pete Townshend said, at the plaque’s unveiling in September 1997. Noel Redding, and Kathy Etchingham, looked on with several other rock luminaries and hundreds of other people in the street. “And I’m so proud to be able to pull this bit of string [to unveil the plaque]. I have to tell you, I am so proud,” Townshend added.
- The Jimi Hendrix Experience
- Jimi Hendrix/Band of Gypsys
1970 Band of Gypsys [recorded live]
- Posthumous studio albums