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James Marshall Hendrix (born Johnny Allen Hendrix) (November 27, 1942 – September 18, 1970) was an influential American guitarist, singer and songwriter whose guitar playing was a considerable influence on rock music. After initial success in Europe, he achieved fame in the United States following his 1967 performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. Later, Hendrix headlined the 1969 Woodstock Festival.
Hendrix helped develop the technique of guitar feedback with overdriven amplifiers. He was influenced by blues artists such as B. B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Albert King, and Elmore James, rhythm and blues and soul guitarists Curtis Mayfield, Steve Cropper, as well as by some modern jazz.
Carlos Santana has suggested that Hendrix's music may have been influenced by his Native American heritage. As a record producer, Hendrix also broke new ground in using the recording studio as an extension of his musical ideas. He was one of the first to experiment with stereophonic and phasing effects for rock recording.
Hendrix won many of the most prestigious rock music Awards in his
lifetime, and has been posthumously Awarded many more, including being
inducted into the US Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the UK Music
Hall of Fame in 2005. An English Heritage "Blue plaque" was erected in
his name on his former residence at Brook Street, London, in September
1997. A star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (at 6627 Hollywood Blvd.) was
dedicated in 1994. In 2006, his debut US album, Are You Experienced, was
inducted into the United States National Recording Registry, and Rolling
Stone named Hendrix the top guitarist on its list of the 100 Greatest
Guitarists of All Time in 2003.
Hendrix was particularly fond of Elvis Presley, whom he saw perform in Seattle, in 1957. Leon Hendrix claimed, in an early interview, that Little Richard appeared in his Central District neighborhood and shook hands with his brother, Jimi. This is unattested elsewhere and vehemently denied by his father. Hendrix's early exposure to Blues music came from listening to records by Muddy Waters and B.B. King his father owned. Another early impression came from the 1954 western Johnny Guitar, in which the hero carries no gun but instead wears a guitar slung behind his back.
His first gig was with an unnamed band in the basement of a synagogue. After too much wild playing and showing off, he was fired between sets. The first formal band he played in was The Velvetones who performed regularly at the Yesler Terrace Neighborhood House without pay. His flashy style and left-handed playing of a right-handed guitar already made him a standout. He later joined the Rocking Kings who played professionally at such venues as the Birdland. When his guitar was stolen (after he left it backstage overnight), Al bought him a white Silvertone Danelectro which he painted red and emblazoned with the words "Betty Jean" (Morgan), the name of his high school girlfriend.
Hendrix had completed middle school with little trouble but didn't
graduate from Garfield High School, although he would later be Awarded
an honorary diploma, and in the 1990s, a bust of Hendrix was placed 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. However,
Principal Frank Hanawalt says that it was simply due to poor grades and
At the post recreation center, he met fellow soldier and bass player Billy Cox, and forged a loyal friendship that would serve Hendrix well during the last year of his life. The two would often play with other musicians at venues both on and off the post as a loosely organized band named "The King Kasuals".
As a celebrity in the UK, Hendrix only mentioned his military service
in three published interviews, one in 1967 for the film See My Music
Talking, (much later released under the title Experience) which was
intended for TV to promote his recently released Axis: Bold As Love LP,
in which he spoke very briefly of his first parachuting experience:
"...once you get out there everything is so quiet, all you hear is the
breezes-s-s-s..." This comment has later been used to claim that he was
saying that this was one of the sources of his "spacy" guitar sound. The
second and third mentions of his military experience were in interviews
for a magazine, "Melody Maker", in 1967 and 1969, where he spoke of his
dislike of the army. In interviews in the US, Hendrix almost never
mentioned it, and when Dick Cavett brought it up in his TV interview,
Hendrix' only response was to verify that he had been based at Fort
Frustrated by his experiences in the South, 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", who became his girlfriend) and 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 his 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. Hendrix was then hired as guitarist for the Isley Brothers' band and joined their national tour, which included the southern Chitlin' circuit. Hendrix played his first successful studio session on the two-part Isley Brothers single "Testify". In Nashville, he left the band to work with Gorgeous George Odell on an R&B package tour that had Sam Cooke as the headliner. In October 1964 he arrived in Atlanta, Hendrix (then calling himself Maurice James) was hired by Little Richard to record and perform on the road with his touring revue, "The Royal Company". 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 LA, 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". He later made his first recorded TV appearance on Nashville's Channel 5 "Night Train" with "The Royal Company" backing up "Buddy and Stacy" on "Shotgun". Hendrix clashed with Richard, over tardiness, wardrobe, and, above all, Hendrix's stage antics. On tour with Richard they shared billing a couple of times with Ike and Tina Turner. It has been suggested that he left Richard and played with Ike & Tina briefly before returning to Richard, but there is no firm evidence to support this, and 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 re-joined the Isley's for a while.
Later in 1965, Hendrix joined a New York-based band, Curtis Knight and the Squires, after meeting Knight in the lobby of the Hotel America, off Times Square, where both men were living at the time.
Hendrix then toured for two months with Joey Dee and the Starliters before rejoining the Squires in New York. On October 15, 1965, Hendrix signed a three-year recording contract with entrepreneur Ed Chalpin, receiving $1 and 1% royalty on records with Curtis Knight. While the relationship with Chalpin was short-lived, his contract remained in force, which caused considerable problems for Hendrix later on in his career. The legal dispute has continued to the present day. During a brief excursion to Vancouver in 1965, it was reported that Hendrix played in the (much later in 1968 Motown) band Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers with Taylor and Tommy Chong (of Cheech and Chong fame). Chong, however, disputes this ever happened and that any such appearance is a product of Taylor's "imagination".
In 1966, Hendrix seemed to be quite in demand, playing on sessions with King Curtis and Ray Sharpe; Lonnie Youngblood; The Icemen; Jimmy Norman & Billy Lamont. He got his first composer credit on the Curtis Knight and The Squires's instrumental single "Hornets Nest". He formed his own band, Jimmy James and The Blue Flames, composed of Randy Palmer (bass), Danny Casey (drums), a 15-year-old guitarist who played slide and rhythm, named Randy Wolfe and the occasional stand in about this time. Since there were two musicians named "Randy" in the group, Hendrix dubbed Wolfe "Randy California" (as he had recently moved from there to New York City) and Palmer (a Tejano) "Randy Texas". Randy California would later co-found the band Spirit with his step father, drummer Ed Cassidy. It was around this time that Hendrix's only (officially claimed and partly recognized) daughter Tamika was conceived with Diana Carpenter (aka Regina Jackson), a teenage runaway and prostitute that he briefly stayed with. She was acknowledged indirectly as his daughter by both Hendrix, when Diana started a paternity suit prior to his death, and unofficially after Jimi's death by his father Al. Her claim has not been recognized by the US courts where, after death, she may not have a claim on his estate even if she could legally prove he was her father.
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 Jimi'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
"Skunk" Baxter, also claim to have briefly worked with Hendrix in this
Impressed with Hendrix's version, Chandler brought him to London 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. Shortly before the Experience was formed, Chandler introduced Hendrix to 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 on the song Killing Floor. Hendrix and Clapton remained friends up until Hendrix's death. The first night he arrived in London, he began a relationship with Kathy Etchingham, that lasted until February 1969. She later wrote a well received autobiographical book about their relationship and the sixties London scene in general.
Hendrix sometimes had a camp sense of humor, specifically with the
song "Purple Haze". A mondegreen had appeared, in which the line "'Scuse
me while I kiss the sky" was misheard as "'Scuse me while I kiss this
guy." In a few performances, Hendrix humorously used this, deliberately
singing "kiss this guy" while pointing to Mitch or Noel, as he did at
Monterey. In the Woodstock DVD he deliberately points to the sky at this
point, to make it clear. In one live recording, Hendrix can easily be
heard saying "Excuse me while I kiss that police officer"; he quickens
his pace for the last few words so he remains in time with the music. A
volume of misheard lyrics has been published, using this mondegreen
itself as the title, with Hendrix on the cover.
Hendrix' first single was a cover of "Hey Joe", using Tim Rose's
uniquely slower arrangement of the song including his addition of a
female backing chorus. Backing this first 1966 'Experience' single was
Jimi Hendrix' 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
USA). Onstage, Hendrix was also making an impression with fiery
renditions of the B.B. King hit "Rock Me Baby" and a fast version of
Howlin Wolf's hit "Killing Floor".
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 "Zappa guitar" (previously thought to have been from Miami), which has been partly refurbished. Later, as part of this press promotion campaign, there were articles about Rank Theatre management warning him to "tone down" his "suggestive" stage act, with Chandler stating that the group would not compromise regardless. On June 4, 1967, the Experience played their last show in England, at London's Saville Theatre, before heading off to America. The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper album had just been released on June 1 and two Beatles (Paul McCartney and George Harrison) were in attendance, along with a roll call of other UK rock stardom: Brian Epstein, Eric Clapton, Spencer Davis, Jack Bruce, and pop singer Lulu. Hendrix chose to open the show with his own rendition of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band", rehearsed only minutes before taking the stage, much to McCartney's astonishment and delight.
While on tour in Sweden in 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. Just one example of his strong connection with that country, he played there 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. He wrote a poem to a woman there (probably Sundquist). Sundquist had anonymously sent Hendrix roses on each of his opening nights in Stockholm, only revealing herself after his third visit in January 1969, and conceiving Daniel with him. He also had an expatriate musician friend who lived there, "King" George Clemmons, who played backup at one concert and socialized with him on at least two of his visits there. Hendrix also dedicated songs to the Swedish-based Vietnam deserters organization in 1969.
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 Meyer 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.
The opening song was Hendrix' very fast arrangement of Howlin' Wolf's 1965 R&B hit "Killing Floor". He played this frequently from late 1965 through 1968, usually as the opener to his shows. The Monterey performance included an equally lively rendition of B.B. King's 1964 R&B hit "Rock Me Baby", Tim Rose's "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 act that had boosted his profile in the UK (and internationally) with him burning his guitar on stage, then smashing it to bits and tossing pieces out to the audience. This show finally brought Hendrix to the notice of the US public. A large chunk of this guitar was on display along with the other psychedelically painted Stratocaster that Hendrix smashed (but didn't burn) at his farewell concert in England before he left for the US and Monterey, at the Experience Music Project in Seattle.
At the time Hendrix was playing sets in the Scene club in NYC in July 1967, he met Frank Zappa, whose Mothers of Invention were playing the adjacent Garrick Theater, and he was reportedly fascinated by Zappa's recently-purchased wah-wah pedal. Hendrix immediately bought one from Manny's and starting using it right away on the sessions for both sides of his new single, and slightly later, on several jams he played on at Ed Chalpin's studio.
Following the 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 re-acquainted himself with Buddy Miles, who introduced Hendrix to his future partner - Devon Wilson, who had a turbulent on/off relationship with him, from then right up until the night of his death, the only one of his women to record with him. She died only six months after Hendrix in mysterious circumstances, apparently falling from an upper window in the Chelsea Hotel, not long after her only interview (filmed) for the Warner's Film About Jimi Hendrix. Her interview along with several other people's - including Pete Townsend's original - was mistakenly thrown out, never to be seen again.
Following this very successful West Coast introduction, which also included two open air concerts (one of them a free concert in the "Pan handle" of Golden Gate Park) and a concert at the Whiskey 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". Australian journalist Lillian Roxon, accompanying the tour, concocted the story. The claim was repeated in Roxon's 1969 'Rock Encyclopedia', but she later admitted it was fabricated.
Meanwhile in Western Europe, where Hendrix was also appreciated for his authentic blues renditions as well as his hit singles there, and was often 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 most well known songs.