A Brief Jimi Hendrix Biography
27 November 1942 - 18 September 1970
Jimi was born Johnny Allen Hendrix on November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Washington. His name was changed shortly afterwards, by his father, to James Marshall Hendrix. His early years were a characterised by his parents not getting on and seldom having enough money to take proper care of hime. On occasion he would be sent to live with his grandmother in Vancouver, Canada. Although he had little contact with her he was deeply affected by the death of his mother in 1958. It was around this time that he took up music more seriously with the aquisition of his first guitar. His incandescent career had humble roots in a number of local Seattle bands such as The Velvetones and The Rocking Kings.
In 1961, after getting into trouble with the police, Hendrix chose to join the army rather than risk going to jail. Never one to do things by halves he joined the 101st Airborne Division, aka The Screaming Eagles. After basic training he found himself stationed on the border of Kentucky and Tennessee, well withing striking distance of both Nashville and Memphis. Then, as now, hotbeds of music. It was while stationed here that he met and played with Larry Lee and, most importantly, Billy Cox.
After his discharge from the army, he began gigging around Nashville on a more formal footing before launching out into the "Chitlin' Circuit" backing just about everybody who was anybody in soul and rhythm and blues circle. He notably spent extended periods with Little Richard and The Isley Brothers before finding himself in New York where he joined Curtis Knight and the Squires. Eventually, after putting his own band together, Jimi was heard playing at the Cafe Wha (which is still in the same location in Greenwich Village) by Chas Chandler who convinced him to come to England.
Chandler put teamed Hendrix with Noel Redding, a guitarist playing bass, and John "Mitch" Mitchell, a young drummer widely admired for his jazz phrasings and, as it turned out, the perfect foil for Hendrix. Although the rise of The Jimi Hendrix Experience was meteoric, it took several months of very hard work with very little pay before it got off the launchpad. Released as 1966 drew to a close, the band's first single, “Hey Joe,” shot up the charts and several more hits followed in quick succession. He triumphed on his return home by blowing minds at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967, culminating in him torching his guitar. The Experience recorded three seminal albums but by the time of the third the cracks in the organisationwere beginning to show. Chas Chandler and the Denver Pop Festival in mid-1969 marked the end of the original line-up.
The next few months saw uncertainty in personnel. An expanded group played at Woodstock but did little else. As the year turned into a new decade a new trio, The Band Of Gypsys, emerged with a much funkier sound keeping old army buddy Billy Cox from the Woodstock line-up and adding Jimi's long-time friend Buddy Miles on drums. This too was short-lived however and disbanded after four Fillmore East shows and an aborted appearance at Madison Square Garden.
By the time the 1970 USA tour began in April, Mitchell was back on the drum stool with Cox retaining the bass despite earlier suggestions that the original Experience line-up would be reformed. It was this same line-up that travelled to Europe for the tour that would end at the Isle Of Fehmarn closely followed by Jimi's death in London.