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Jimi Hendrix - Biography


Jimi Hendrix Blue Plaque, The Red Lion Hotel, Spalding, Lincolnshire
Jimi Hendrix blue plaque,

The Red Lion Hotel, Spalding,


Photo by Paul Rance.

Jimi Hendrix remains rock music's greatest guitar showman. Born in Seattle, Washington, on 27th November, 1942, and christened Johnny Allen Hendrix, Jimi's name was changed to James Marshall Hendrix when he was a small child. The spelling of 'Jimmy' as 'Jimi' came when Hendrix was in England in 1966.

Hendrix was an African-American/Cherokee, and he played the guitar left-handed. But he played a right-handed Stratocaster, in effect, upside down. But then Jimi was always unique.

Similarly to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Hendrix suffered the tragic loss of his mother, Lucille, when still a teenager. Jimi was only 16 at the time, and he had also gone through the trauma of his parents getting a divorce in 1951.

Soon after his mother's death, Jimi's father, Al, changed the life of his son by buying him a ukulele and acoustic guitar. Local Seattle groups were then to be the next step for the young Jimi Hendrix.

The young Hendrix then joined the US Army, eventually being invalided out after breaking his ankle during a parachute jump.

Jimi's career could have risen a lot earlier, when he planned to record an album with the legendary guitarist Steve Cropper. Cropper's Booker T and the M.G.s took off, so Hendrix had to then bide his time.

He didn't find work hard to come by, playing with the likes of The Isley Brothers, Wilson Pickett, Jackie Wilson, B.B. King, Solomon Burke, and fellow showman Little Richard - who got nervous about being upstaged by Jimi.

Jimi ended up in Greenwich Village, and, memorably, put Village guitar king Mike Bloomfield (Butterfield Blues Band), in his place. Stunned by Hendrix's coruscating playing, Bloomfield said: "I didn't even get my guitar out...He was getting every sound I was ever going to hear - mainly through extreme volume. I didn't want to pick up a guitar for the next year." Jimi was always looking for new sounds, and it was Frank Zappa who opened his eyes to the wah-wah pedal. Something Hendrix would use to dazzling effect.

Jimi Hendrix Illustration
Jimi Hendrix Illustration by Paul Rance

Jimi Hendrix - The Man, The Magic, The Truth; Cardinal Cox Book Review

Three weeks after passsing out in a toilet at the 1967 Spalding Festival (I'm reliably? informed) Jimi Hendrix starred at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. This was the event that really kicked off the Summer of Love. Here's Hendo playing the guitar with his teeth and then behind his back. No wonder Little Richard feared being overshadowed when Jimi was in his backing band.

Jimi Hendrix - Hey Joe (Live At Monterey)

Chas Chandler, of Animals fame, cottoned on to Hendrix's untapped genius, and persuaded him to come to England, with an idea of making Jimi the centre of a power trio. With bassist Noel Redding and drummer John 'Mitch' Mitchell, that power trio became The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Their first gig was not in the UK or US, but in Paris, supporting the French Elvis, Johnny Hallyday.

In 1966, Hendrix had been introduced to some of the cream of the British rock, pop, and blues scene, including Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Pete Townshend, John Mayall, and Eric Clapton. Clapton simply said, on hearing Hendrix for the first time, "It was incredible."

Jimi Hendrix saw The Who smash their instruments at the Monterey International Pop Festival in 1967, and so decided he had to go a little further, smashing his guitar, and then, as a coup de grace, burning the unfortunate instrument, too. His most famous moment, though, remains his audacious version of 'Star Spangled Banner' at Woodstock in 1969. The highlight of the whole show, though poorly attended, because of the timing, it was another example of the old making way for a new way of doing things.

Jimi was a troubled soul, however, and on September 18th, 1970, died in London in that most unglamorous of ways, choking on his own vomit. Leaving behind a legacy of amazing guitar playing, which nature helped by giving him very long digits, he sometimes sounded like several guitarists at once, with probably, among rock guitarists, only Eric Clapton reaching such heady heights. It has often be said that it was Hendrix who gave rise to the term 'heavy metal', because one reviewer thought that's what some of his guitar playing sounded like, though he could play pretty much anyway, and anything. In a tender way, such as on 'Little Wing', and be just a blur of sexual and psychedelic energy, as on the mesmerizing, 'Are You Experienced'. His version of Bob Dylan's 'All Along The Watchtower' utilised his talents to the full, with a wondrous multi-layered guitar sound. Decades after his death, Hendrix's legacy of innovation and brilliance remains unsurpassed. Forever young, and forever new, if you like.

Copyright © Paul Rance/

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Axis: Bold As Love
by: The Jimi Experience Hendrix
October 22, 2013
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Are You Experienced
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October 22, 2013
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