Born in 1942, James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix to parents James Allen “Al” Hendrix and Lucille Jeter as the oldest of five children, Hendrix would have a strained relationship with his parents, his father was stationed away with the military upon his birth and didn't meet him for over two months, during this time Hendrix’s mother didn’t find it easy to raise him so he was regularly looked after by friends and family mainly his mothers sister Delores Hall and her friend Dorohy Hardy. Once Hendrix’s father Al was honourably discharged it wasn’t for another two months that himself, Jimi and Lucille were reunited but sadly not much changed.
Both Al and Lucille struggled with alcohol problems which strained their relationship, the same was to be said about Jimi’s relationship with his brother Leon who was constantly in and out of foster care at this time, the brothers had three more younger siblings that were given to foster care and up for adoption, the rocky relationship of Jimi’s parents came to a head in December of 1951 when they would get divcorce, Al would take custody of Jimi and his brother, Jimi was just nine years old.
While young Jimi Hendrix was in elementary school in Seattle he gained a habit of carrying around a broom with him mimicking a guitar, the social worker at the school tried to request funding for hendrix to get a guitar as she feared if he didn’t have one it would cause him psychological damage, her efforts fell and deaf ears and Al refused to buy Jimi a guitar as well. It wasn't until 1957 after finishing elementary school and helping his father with a job moving rubbish from an old woman's home that Hendrix found an old ukulele and the woman said he could keep it.
Hendrix was thrilled, despite the fact the ukulele only had one string, he would begin learning by ear Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” playing the song one noted, a year later Jimi would finish his tenure at Washington Junior High School and he would also finally get his first acoustic guitar at age fifteen, around this time his mother fell sick with cirrhosis of the liver and she passed away at the age of thirty three, Hendrix father didn’t let him or his brother attend the funeral, he just simply gave the boys a shot of whiskey and told them “That's how man should deal with loss”.
Once Hendrix had acquired his first guitar he played for hours on end every day, learning from a wealth of blues artists like B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. After getting shown some licks by Hank Ballard & The Midnighters guitar player Billy Davis after attending one of their shows with a friend Jimi would start his first band The Velvetones and not long after he got his first electric guitar, a single pickup Supro Ozark, after releasing he was far to quiet using an acoustic guitar. Hendrix was talented out of gate, being kicked out an unnamed band for being a show off on the guitar, hendrix was a natural player, not long after getting used to playing live shows he left his guitar backstage overnight at a venue and it was stolen and his father got him a red Silvertone Danelectro guitar that Hendrix would later call “Betty Jean” after the girlfriend he had at the time.
When Jimi was eighteen years old he was sent to the military for getting caught driving a stolen car twice, he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division after completing eight weeks of basic training and he was stationed in Kentucky. Hendrix hated the military and when writing to his father got him to send “Betty Jean” as soon as possible which he did, this led Jimi to neglect his duties which led to disdain from his peers but caught the eye of Billy Cox who heard Hendrix playing and was impressed. The two made friends quickly and began playing base clubs as a loosely organised band with other musicians and called themselves The Casuals, after the two had been discharged from the army by 1963 they would play anywhere and everywhere together becoming lifelong friends.
In 1964 Jimi would audition for and become the guitarist of The Isley Brothers’ backing band, he would record the single “Testify” with them, this track becoming his first recording experience. Hendrix would later tour with The Isley Brothers and soon after that would join Little Richard’s touring band The Upsetters to record and tour more for the next year until he found himself feeling held back being a R&B Sideman.
In May 1966 Jimi Hendrix moved to New York City to start his own band that he called Jimmy James And The Blue Flames, this band wasn’t very long lived hendrix still feeling held back and like he wasn’t fully proving his potential, a few months after moving to New York Hendrix met Chas Chandler who would become his manager and take him to London in September of 1966 and Jimi would meet his to become bassist Noel Redding while Chandler found Henrix’s soon to be drummer Mitch MItchell and once the three came together, The Jimi Hendrix Experience was born.
The Jimi Hendrix Experince’s debut album titled “Are You Experienced” was released in the UK on the 12th of May 1967 and in the US on the 23rd of August 1967 and was an immediate critical and commercial success in both countries reaching number two in the UK Album Charts and number five on the US Billboard 200 Charts. The US version of the album features some of Hendrix’s best known songs “Hey Joe”, “Purple Haze” and “Wind Cries Mary” where as the UK version didn’t feature these tracks, nevertheless this didn’t hinder album sales as “Are You Experienced” sold over one million copies within seven months of its release. The Release of “Are You Experienced” set a new standard for rock and roll, a true era defining classic.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience didn’t wait long before they released their follow up album “Axis: Bold As Love” which was released on the 1st of December 1967 in the UK and the 15th of January 1968 in the US. The album was praised for Hendrix’s progression as a songwriter with “Axis: Bold As Love” being home to classic tracs “Spanish Castle Magic”, “Little Wing” and “Castles Made Of Sand” which showed Hendrix using a more soul sounding guitar as well as demonstrations of Hendrix’s R&B roots all wrapped together perfectly with the signature psychedelic tone only hendrix could make.
The third and final album The Jimi Hendrix Experience “Electric Ladyland” is regarded as arguably Hendrix’s best work nowadays, while at the time of its release (16/10/1968 US and 25/10/1968 in the UK) the album wasn’t a smash hit critically with some critics stating that the album was missing structure and was muddled, while commercially the album was The Jimi Hendrix Experiences best performing with it getting to the number one spot in the US Billboard Hot 200 and number six in the UK Album Charts. As the years have went on “Electric Ladyland” is praised as one of the best and most important albums in rock and music history, a true masterpiece of psychedelic rock with absolute work of art tracks “Voodoo Chile”, “Crosstown Traffic” and Hendrix’s superb cover of Bob Dylan's “All Along The Watchtower” which became the bands most popular single getting to the number twenty spot in the US Billboard Hot 100 Charts and number five in the UK Singles Charts.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience were one of the best and are one of most influential bands of all time, their three albums leaving such a mark on music history that all of them are in the conversation of the best albums of all time, the pairing of Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass providing the rhythm for Jimi Hendrix to play guitar only how he could is an ‘Experience’ in and of itself but the true genius of this trio is Jimi Hendrix his masterful guitar playing changed the music landscape forever with anybody who was anybody who played guitar or made music envious of Hendrix’s effortless ability.
Hendrix had two major festival performances during his career the first was at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967 with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, They got their spot on this line up thanks to Paul McCartey telling the organisers of the festival that it would be incomplete without The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Hendrix’s set was comprised of covers and originals and he absolutely blew the crowds mind with his outfit and stage antics as this is the show where hendrix set his guitar alight after the last song and a young boy called Ed Caraeff took one of the most legendary pictures in rock and roll history of Jimi on his knees summoning the flames on his guitar higher as it burned.
The next festival performance was at the 1969 Woodstock festival, at this time Hendrix was no longer performing with The Experience though when Hendrix took to the stage was billed as The Jimi Hendrix Experience to which hendrix would correct this stating “We decided to change the whole thing around and call it 'Gypsy Sun and Rainbows'. For short, it's nothin' but a 'Band of Gypsys'.” This iconic performance is most famously remember for Hendrix’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” in which he used heavy distortion, feedback and sustain to simulate the sound of planes and bombs dropping, percieved by a lot of people as Hendrix making a statement against the Vietnam War.
After the disbanding of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hendrix would go on to form The Band Of Gypsys with Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums, the group would would go on to release one album of new live material, which was still guitar centric but had a more R&B,soul and funk sounds as well as a change in lyrical themes, straying away from the psychedelic passages of songs like “Voodoo Chile” and instead the anti war song “Machine Gun” which is considered to be the highlight of the album and another classic hendrix track.
There is a lot of ambiguity surrounding the death of Jimi Hendrix, what is known is he spent his last day with his girlfriend Monika Dannemann in London, they spent the night at her flat drinking wine and talking for hours, they went to sleep at 7am and when Monkia awoke at 11am hendrix was breathing but unconscious and not responding an ambulance was called and hendrix was taken to hospital but there was nothing that could be done and on the 17th of September 1970 Jimi Hendrix passed away and the world lost a once in a lifetime talent whose music changed the face of rock and roll forever, someone who is still to this day talked about and revered as the best to ever pick up a guitar by his peers and countless fans and will be for years to come.
New Vinyl Records By Jimi Hendrix On Life Of Vinyl
Second Hand Records By Jimi Hendrix On Life Of Vinyl