Jimi Hendrix

  • Rock and R&B guitar legend born Johnny Hendrix in Seattle Washington in 1942. Died in 1970 of asphyxiation in his own vomit.
  • In 1957, Hendrix found a ukulele in the trash that only had one string. He taught himself to play Elvis Presley songs. The following year, he purchased his first acoustic guitar for $5. He played by ear, listening to blues artists and practicing for hours every day.
  • Soon, he formed his first band, the Velvetones. His acoustic guitar could barely be heard, so he realized he needed an electric guitar, and his father relented and bought him one. His first gig was with another band in the basement of a synagogue. The band fired him between sets because he was showing off too much.
  • While in the army in 1961, he met a bass guitarist, Billy Cox, and they jammed together. Soon, they were playing at base clubs with other soldiers in a loosely organized band called The Casuals.  Hendrix was discharged after a year, and a year after that, Cox was discharged. They both moved to Clarksville Tennessee and formed a band called The King Kasuals. The band moved to Nashville, and for two years, they played at various clubs in the area.
  • By 1964, he felt he was ready for a change, and he moved to Harlem. He played guitar at clubs around town and soon became the guitarist for the Isley Brothers’ backup band, the I.B. Specials. He recorded with the Isley Brothers, and well as Don Covay, and by the end of the year, he joined Little Richard’s touring band. He was fired in July 1965 because of his stage antics. He played briefly for several more bands. In the summer of 1966, he moved to Greenwich Village and formed another band – Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.
  • While performing in New York, he met Linda Keith, the girlfriend of guitarist Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones. Linda recommended Hendrix to the manager of the Rolling Stones – he rejected Hendrix. Linda then referred Hendrix to the manager of The Animals, Chas Chandler. Chandler liked what he heard, and brought Hendrix to London, signing him to a management deal. Chandler then recruited 2 musicians – a bass guitarist and drummer – to become members of Hendrix’s band, called The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
  • In October 1966, the band was signed to a record label, and their first single, Hey Joe, was released in the UK. The UK music scene was stunned that only 3 musicians could make such a powerful sound. Hendrix characterized it as “a mixture of rock, freak-out, rave and blues.”
  • In March 1967, Purple Haze was released and 2 months later, The Wind Cries Mary was released. These 2 songs were writted by Hendrix. All 3 songs charted in the top 10 in the UK. With the success of the singles, the first studio album, Are You Experienced, was released in May in the UK and in August in the U.S. It peaked at #2 in the UK and at #5 in the U.S., and sold over 5 million copies in the U.S. The album changed the face of Rock & Roll. Rolling Stone ranked it #15 on their Greatest Albums of All Time list. Guitar World described it as “the album that shook the world…leaving it forever changed.”
  • Paul McCartney recommended Hendrix to the organizers of the Monterrey Pop Festival. The performance of the Jimi Hendrix Experience in mid-June 1967 at the festival is considered one of the greatest moments in concert history, and it made Hendrix a legend in the U.S. He famously lit his guitar on fire at the end of the show.
  • Their second album, Axis: Bold As Love, was released in 1968 in the U.S. Only 1 single was released – Up From The Skies, which barely charted as a single. However, the album sold well, peaking at #3 on the Billboard 200 Album chart. Rolling Stone ranked the album at #82 on the Greatest Albums of All Time list. While not released as a single, Little Wing from the album makes many Greatest Songs lists.
  • The band’s third album was released in October 1968 – Electric Ladyland. It hit #1 in the U.S., with singles All Along the Watchtower and Crosstown Traffic. It was a double album, and it includes the 15 minute epic blues jam, Voodoo Chile. Again, Rolling Stone loved it – it ranks #54 on the all time list.
  • By mid-1969, just prior to the Woodstock performance, The Experience broke up. Noel Redding, the bass guitarist, had had enough of Hendrix’s poor work ethic.
  • In August 1969, Hendrix was the headliner at Woodstock. He took the stage at 8 am on Monday morning with a rhythm guitarist and 2 conga players. He was the last artist to perform. His famous performance of The Star Spangled Banner was part of the show. Guitar World has ranked this as the greatest guitar performance of all time.
  • With The Experience no longer together, Hendrix collaborated with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles to form Band of Gypsys. They released one live album in 1970, Band of Gypsys. Some consider the track Machine Gun to be his finest performance. In it, he creates sounds with his guitar that represent warfare, rockets, bombs and planes. The band did not last long – a month after the recording, the band split up.
  • As 1970 progressed, an American and European concert tour occurred. Some shows were great – others, not so good, due to Hendrix’s drug usage. On September 18, he died in London when his girlfriend found him unresponsive. He is buried in Renton Washington near his mother’s grave.
  • The Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. In 2005, the album Are You Experienced was added to U.S. National Recording Registry in the Library of Congress. He won 7 Grammy Hall of Fame awards, all after his death.
  • What more can be said about Jimi Hendrix? Only 3 studio albums and 14 singles, and yet his legacy in music is unsurpassed. Here’s a live performance from 1968 of my favorite Hendrix song, Foxey Lady. 

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