In a few short years in the late 60’s, Jimi Hendrix’s talent not only gained him a huge following of fans, it would live on to capture fans of generations to come! Often called the greatest guitarist in rock history, Hendrix was one the most influential musicians of the 20th century!
Johnny Allen Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942 at King County Hospital in Seattle. He was raised by his father who later changed his name to James Marshall Hendrix in 1946.
The long hard road to superstardom started when Hendrix was eight years old. With a passion for music the young boy would strum a broom to the imaginary sounds burning deep in his soul!
His first real musical instrument was an old ukulele with one string that his father had found! In the summer of 1958, his father bought him a five dollar guitar. With no money for guitar lessons, Hendrix taught himself to play while listening to the music!
Before long Hendrix had joined his first band, The Velvetones. After playing with the band for three months, he quit to begin pursuing his own dream. By the next summer his father had bought him his first electric guitar and the legend began!
Even though Hendrix didn’t have an amplifier for the electric guitar, he’d still practice relentlessly! He’d sometimes go to a friends house and use a amp, until he made his own by rewiring an old stereo record player!
Hendrix left home in 1961 and joined the army. The enlistment wasn’t exactly voluntary. During one week in May of 61′, he’d been arrested twice for riding in a stolen car. With the prospect of five years in jail before, the army enlistment was offered as a trade off.
While there Hendrix became intrigued with the sounds around him, the machine guns, the rush of wind when the air plane doors were open. He started trying to imitate those sounds with his guitar!
He formed a band called the “King Casuals”, the band consisted of Billy Cox on bass, Charlie Washington on drums and another guitarist, Johnny Jones. The band worked small roadhouses near the military installation.
Several theories have revolved around his discharge from the army, an injury sustained during a parachute jump, or the many infractions he’d received for his inability to conform to army regulations and rules.
After his discharge, he began working as a session guitarist using the name Jimmy James. By the end of 1964, his resume boasted working with artists like Little Richard, B.B. King and Ike and Tina Turner!
During the three years after his discharge he played with at least two dozen bands and more than a hundred cities. For awhile he was part of the band “The Imperials” with Johnny Snead.
Hendrix’s first record deal came in October of 1965. Ed Chaplin, Chaplin’s PPX Enterprises, arranged a deal with Hendrix in which he would only play and sing exclusively on his records. For this record deal Hendrix got a promise of one percent of all record sales and one dollar in cash!
At this time, Hendrix played with Curtis Knight and the Squires in the recordings for Chaplin. He started to experiment with some of the sounds he’d later become famous for.
With his formation of Jimmy James and the Blue Flames in 65′, Hendrix changed from a back line guitarist and stepped into the spot light of lead guitarist! During the last part of 1965 and the first part of 1966, he did many small gigs at Greenwich Village coffee houses.
The band made anywhere from $5 to $25 a man each night, the amount depended on the size of the crowd. And, like he had in the past, Hendrix continued to sell drugs to make ends meet.
In July of 65′ he made a lasting impression on the Animals’ bassist, Chas Chandler. Chandler would return in September to sign Hendrix to a contract! The agreement had Hendrix moving to London and forming a new band.
In his early days, Hendrix wanted to play so badly that he would sign any contract for the chance to record. With the switch from bass player to manager, Chandler’s first task was trying to make sure Hendrix wasn’t under contract already. He ended up buy Hendrix’s way out of around ten contracts!
Chandler’s next task was to change Hendrix’s name back to Jimi Hendrix instead of the Jimmy James alias he’d been using. The newly formed band included, Mitch Mitchell on the drums and Noel Redding on the bass guitar. The Jimi Hendrix Experience, quickly became the talk of the town around London.
Their first single, “Hey Joe”, gained them a ten week spot on the UK charts! And, was soon followed by the bands first album, “Are You Experienced”, an album which still remains on of the most popular rock albums of all time!
The band enjoyed overwhelming success in Britain, but in June of 1967 America got a glimpse of the “experience” when the band performed at the Monterey International Pop Festival! It was at the persistence of Paul McCartney that the band was invited to the festival.
The Hendrix Experience was literally forever burned into the hearts of fans when he set fire to his guitar on stage and quickly established Hendrix as a rock superstar! That one glimpse was all it took and almost overnight, The Jimi Hendrix Experience became one of the most successful and highest earning touring acts in the world!
By 1968, Hendrix took more control over the direction of his music and began spending countless hours working with the console controls. Hendrix eventually built his own recording studio, Electric Lady Studios. A double LP collection named “Electric Lady Land”, became the bands most demanding release!
At the end of 1968, Hendrix found himself surrounded by controversy and tension. Black Power advocates were pressuring him to form a all black band and they wanted him to only play for black audiences!
That along with disagreements between the bands manager and co-manager was causing even more problems for the already stressed members. The band had been playing two shows a night and traveling from gig to gig by car. The rigorous touring schedule and hours spent in the studio began to take it’s toll and in April 1969, The Jimi Hendrix Experience disbanded.
Both Mitchell and Noel later told that the main cause of the stress between them and Hendrix was that he controlled everything. He would make all the important decisions involving the band without consulting them. Mitchell had quit the band on July 1, 1969, after he’d read in a newspaper that Hendrix was expanding the band. The next day Noel quit for the same reasons.
From the U.S debut in 1967, until the band broke up in 69′, the band created legendary music! During that short two year span the world was mesmerized with songs like “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady”!
Their three album releases, “Are You Experienced” in 67′, “Bold as Love” and “Electric Ladyland” in 69′ are as popular with the young generation today as they were in the psychedelic 60’s! “Electric Lady” was a manipulation of electronics that reached an uncharted sonic realm!
After the bands break up, Hendrix appeared at Woodstock. His version of the Star Spangled Banner sent the audience into a frenzy! The New York Post called it “the single greatest moment of the 60’s”!
That freeform rendition of America’s anthem that rang out at Woodstock has also been called the highlight of the decade, the festival and the highlight of Hendrix’s musical career! It is also said that the performance had earned him a few death threats now and then!
Later in 69′, Hendrix’s new band, “Band of Gypsies” debuted on New Year’s Eve, but their last performance was only a few months later when Hendrix walked off the stage. Due to drug issues the band only made two public appearances, but they had recorded lots of material before disbanding. The band released one album, the self titled “Band of Gypsies”. The second album “Band of Gypsies II” was released in 1986.
When he did his next performance it was with Mitchell and Billy Cox. The trio recorded Hendrix’s last self authored album, “The Cry of Love” which wasn’t released until 1971. He was still performing with them at his last concert at the Isle of Wight Festival in Britain in August of 1970.
Just one month later on September 18, 1970, 27 year old Jimi Hendrix was found dead in his girl friends hotel room. Death was due to the inhalation of vomit while under the influence of barbiturates. His death is believed to have been an accident, although suicide was never totally ruled out.
His death still remains a mystery today, conflicting stories from all closely involved with Hendrix and the happenings in the days before his death, have all cast shadows on what could have really happened.
Although, there had only been a few albums released, Hendrix left behind a legacy of over three hundred recordings. Over the years much of this music has finally been released. Hendrix’s music paved the way for many of the bands to come.
Considered both a genius and a madman, Hendrix had a way with a guitar and a persona that is almost untouchable! There was no boundaries in his performances and definitely no limits to the sounds that he could coax out of a guitar!
Jimi Hendrix was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992. The psychedelic voodoo child that played music from another universe, will forever and always be loved by his many fans!
Written by Connie Corder, Copyright 2010 BestOfAllTopics.com