Music History

Music History Biographies

Music History Of The Week

Music History Calendar

Jimi Hendrix

On 27/11/1942: Jimi Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington. His full birth name was Johnny Allen Hendrix. His father had been drafted to serve in World War II and it was towards the end of 1945 when he first had the opportunity to see his son. In 1946, his parents changed his name to James Marshall Hendrix in honour of his father (James Allen Ross Hendrix) and his late brother Leon Marshall.
In 1957, Hendrix was helping his father with a job clearing an older woman's home. James found a one-string ukulele amongst the garbage and the woman said he could keep it. He started to learn to play by ear. The next year, Hendrix bought his first acoustic guitar for $5. He learnt how to play by listening to blue artists like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, and Robert Johnson. He soon formed his own band, the Velvetones. The acoustic guitar could barely be heard over the rest of the group and in mid-1959 his father bought him a white Supro Ozark electric guitar. Hendrix's first gig was at Temple De Hirsch in Seattle. The band fired him between sets for showing off too much. He later joined the Rocking Kings band that became professional. When someone stole his guitar after he left it backstage overnight, his father bought him a red Silvertone Danelectro.
In 1961, Hendrix enlisted in the Army. He had been given the choice between enlisting or spending time in prison after being caught riding in stolen cars. He asked his father to send him his guitar. In November 1961 fellow serviceman Bill Cox heard Hendrix playing the guitar. Cox borrowed a bass guitar and the two of them jammed. They were soon playing at base clubs on the weekends with other musicians in a group called the Casuals. On 29/06/1962, Hendrix was honourably discharged from the Army. He had been considered unsuitable for the Army, as he was often caught napping on duty and failing to report for bed checks.
In September 1963, Cox had been discharged from the Army and he and Hendrix moved to Clarksville, Tennessee. There they formed a band called the King Kasuals. The band played at various obscure venues before moving to Jefferson Street in Nashville. Hendrix made a living performing on a circuit of venues affiliated with the Theater Owner's Booking Association, known as the Chitlin' Circuit. As well as performing for the King Kasuals he was a backing musician for musicians such as Wilson Pickett, Slim Harpo, Sam Cooke, and Jackie Wilson.
In January 1964, Hendrix decided to go out on his own. He moved to Hotel Theresa in Harlem and played on the Harlem club circuit. Hendrix auditioned and was accepted as the new guitarist for the Isley Brother's backup band the I.B. Specials.
In March 1964, the Isley Brothers recorded the two-part single "Testify" that featured Hendrix. In May, Hendrix provided backing on Don Covay's song "Mercy Mercy". Hendrix left the Isley Brother's in October 1964, as he was tired of playing the same set. He soon joined Little Richard's touring band the Upsetters.
In February 1965, he recorded on Little Richard's "I Don't Know What You Got (But It's Got Me)". Hendrix would also record with Rosa Lee Brooks on songs that included "My Diary". It didn't chart, but Hendrix and Lee kept their friendship for several years.
In July 1965, Little Richard appeared on the tv show "Night Train", with Hendrix in the ensemble band. It was the same month that Richard's brother Robert fired him. Hendrix and Richard had frequently clashed over lateness, wardrobe and Hendrix stage antics. Hendrix briefly rejoined the Isley Brothers. He then went on to join the New York, R&B Band, Curtis Knight and the Squires.
In October 1965, they recorded the single "How Would You Feel". Also in the same month, Hendrix signed a three-year recording contract with entrepreneur Ed Chalpin. The contract would later cause legal and career problems for Hendrix. Whilst with Curtis Knight, Hendrix also toured with Joey Dee and the Starliters and worked with King Curtis on several recordings. Hendrix had his first composer credits for the song "Hornets Nest" and "Knock Yourself Out" which were released as a Curtis Knight and the Squires single in 1966.
In 1966, Hendrix moved to Greenwich Village in New York. There he was offered a residency at Cafe Wha? and formed his own band Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. The band also included the guitarist Randy California. In May, Hendrix briefly rejoined Curtis Knight for a gig at the Cheetah Club. There he would be noticed by Linda Keith, the girlfriend of Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones. Keith recommended Hendrix to Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham and producer Seymour Stein. They decided to reject him. Keith then mentioned him to Chas Chandler who was leaving the Animals and planning to manage artists. Chandler was impressed by Hendrix and brought him to London on 24/09/1966. On the same night, he arrived Hendrix played a solo performance at The Scotch of St James and started a two and half year relationship with Kathy Etchingham.
Hendrix met guitarist Noel Redding at an audition for the New Animals. Hendrix liked his knowledge of blues progressions and his hairstyle. Chandler asked if Redding wanted to play bass in Hendrix's band and he agreed. Chandler then contacted drummer Mitch Mitchell through a mutual friend. Mitchell, Redding and Hendrix had a rehearsal and found a common ground in their shared interest in rhythm and blues. Chandler phoned Mitchell later in the day to ask him to join the band and he accepted. Chandler also convinced Hendrix to change the spelling of his first name to Jimi. The band was named The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
On 30/09/1966, Chandler took Hendrix to see Cream play at London Polytechnic. Hendrix asked to jam with them and came on to play the song "Killing Floor". Cream and in particular Eric Clapton were highly impressed by his performance.
Chandler arranged for the Jimi Hendrix Experience to support Johnny Hallyday on their tour of France.
Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp, signed the Experience to Track Records and they released their first single "Hey Joe" on October 23. It would reach number 6 on the UK Chart.
In November, the Experience played at the Bag O'Nails club in London. The audience included the likes of Clapton, John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Brian Jones, Mick Jagger, and Kevin Ayers. The reaction was described as stunned disbelief at the impressive performance.
In 1967, the singles "Purple Haze" and "The Wind Cried Mary" were released. In March, they performed at the London Astoria and Hendrix set light to his guitar at the end of the set. In May, they released their debut album "Are You Experienced". It would peak at number 2 in the UK Chart. It would over time be considered to be one of the best debut albums of all time. In June, they opened a show at the Saville Theatre with a rendition of the Beatles song "Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" which had only been released three days earlier. George Harrison and Paul McCartney were in the audience and McCartney would describe it as one of the greatest honours of his career. The Jimi Hendrix Experience played at that year's Monterey Pop Festival. The performance would help the band's popularity in the US and would be immediately booked for five concerts at the Filmore with Big Brother and the Holding Company and Jefferson Airplane. The Experience outperformed Jefferson Airplane and replaced them at the top of the bill by the fifth night. The Experience was booked as the opening act for the Monkees first American tour. The band left the tour after six shows though as the Monkees young audience didn't take to them. In December, The Jimi Hendrix Experience released their second album "Axis: Bold as Love". It peaked at number 5 in the UK Chart.
In October 1968, the album "Electric Ladyland" was released. Chandler became frustrated with Hendrix's perfectionism during the recording process and would sever his professional relationship with him. Redding had formed his own band Fat Mattress and so Hendrix played many of the bass lines himself. The album reached number 1 the US and number 5 in the UK. It has been cited by many critics as Hendrix's best album.
In early 1969, the Experience toured Europe. By February, Redding and Hendrix had started to argue and Hendrix flew bassist Billy Cox out to replace him in April. The last performance of the original Experience lineup was on 29/06/1969 at Denver Pop Festival. A journalist asked Redding why he was there when Billy Cox had been brought in and Redding quit the next day. Hendrix moved into a house in Boiceville near Woodstock in New York shortly afterwards. Mitchell was unavailable for commitments made by manager Michael Jeffrey. Hendrix was backed instead by a studio orchestra for an appearance on "The Dick Cavett Show" and by Cox and drummer Ed Shaughnessy for "The Tonight Show". Hendrix played at Woodstock that year. He recruited rhythm guitarist Larry Lee and conga players Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez to join Hendrix, Mitchell and Cox on stage. The performance and concert are considered an iconic moment of the late 1960s. With Hendrix performing "The Star-Spangled Banner".
The contract Hendrix had signed years ago with Ed Chalpin was raised when a legal dispute was launched. After two years of litigation, Chalpin was awarded distribution rights to an album of original Hendrix material. In April 1970, the album "Band of Gypsys" was released. It was a live album featuring Cox, drummer Buddy Miles and Hendrix. It was recorded at the Filmore East over two nights. In January 1970, the trio made a final appearance as the "Band of Gypsys" when they played at Madison Square Garden for the Winter Festival for Peace. Manager Michael Jeffrey fired Miles after the show and Cox quit. Miles believed that Jeffrey had given Hendrix LSD before the show to sabotage the band.
Jeffrey tried to reform the original Jimi Hendrix Experience. When Redding arrived in New York for rehearsals he was told he had been replaced by Billy Cox. The lineup of Hendrix, Mitchell and Cox became known as the Cry of Love Band. Up until April 1970, Hendrix was working on material for what would be his next LP. He took a break from recording and the Cry of Love Band went on tour in the US and Europe until September 6, 1970.
Hendrix and Jeffrey had invested in the Generation Club in Greenwich Village, New York in 1968. Originally they planned to reopen it as a new club. After discovering that Hendrix was spending too much on recording sessions though they decide to turn it into a recording studio. On 15/06/1970, Hendrix used the studio for the first time to jam with Steve Winwood and Chris Wood of Traffic. The next day he recorded the song "Night Bird Flying" there. It was opened for business on 25th August 1970. Immediately afterwards, Hendrix left for England and was never to return to the US.
On 02/09/1970, Hendrix stopped a performance in Aarhus after three songs, saying "I've been dead a long time". He wanted to record at his new studio rather than continue the tour. Four days later, he made his final concert appearance at the Isle of Fehmarn Festival in Germany. Then he returned to London. Cox quit the tour three days after the performance, after suffering paranoia from taking LSD.
On 16/09/1970, Hendrix joined an informal jam at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, London with Eric Burdon and his band War. His performance was noted to be subdued, rather than using his usual flamboyant stage stunts. He would be pronounced dead, two days later. The cause of death was determined to be aspirated from his own vomit and died of asphyxia while intoxicated with barbiturates. It was declared an open verdict.
In 1971, the album "The Cry of Love" was released featuring unfinished Hendrix material. Several other posthumous Hendrix releases have been made since.
Hendrix is considered to be one of, if not the most influential electric guitar player of all time.

The Music History Calendar is written by the Blues Rock artist Marshland Pete
If you would like more, come join our Music News and History Facebook Group Community