Jimi Hendrix is a musical icon. Probably the best self-taught guitarist that ever lived, his blending of blues, funk, soul and rock and roll has turned him into a legendary figure. When people try to define the sixties through music, three people usually stand out…..Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Jimi Hendrix.
Jimi Hendrix grew up in the Seattle, Washington area, and was born in 1942. An adorable war baby, he has a younger brother named Leon. He was like any other poor black kid, just trying to get by and figuring out what to do with his life. That is, until he heard the tinny music coming across his father Al’s radio. Listening to Muddy Waters, Howling Wolf, and some of the other seminal blues musicians had a tremendous effect on him. He desperately wanted a guitar!
His infatuation with the guitar led him to take a broom and play air guitar in his bedroom. His father Al used to get upset as the reeds of the broom would fall off as young Jimi would pretend he was playing a real guitar, and this certainly didn’t bode well for a happy home life. Jimi dreamt of the time when he would be old enough to leave home, and his ticket out was the Army. He wanted to be a “Screaming Eagle” paratrooper, so he joined and made the cut. When he was done with his training for the day, he would take his guitar and practice.
He actually got to be quite good, and that’s how he met another army buddy, Billy Cox, who was to play bass in Jimi’s “Band of Gypsys”. But they had to play the tough chitlin circuit in the southern states first, so that’s what Jimi did when he was honorably discharged from the Army due to a back injury from jumping.
Eventually, he hooked up with Little Richard, and joined his band. He also played with the Isley Brothers, and other popular musicians and bands while touring the country. But he really wanted to front his own band, and he knew he was good enough to do it! So off to New York he went, and he starved when he first hit the city.
Since he was a rather good looking man, different ladies would take him in and give him a place to stay and feed him. All the while he was trying to get something going in the “Big Apple”. He would hook up with other musicians and try to form a lasting partnership, but they fell apart all too often, However, he never gave up. He eventually landed a gig in a little club in the village called the Cafe Wha?, and that is where his life changed……
He was discovered by Linda Keith, who dated many musicians such as Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones and Brian Jones , and who would eventually have a relationship with Jimi. But at the time she saw Jimi on stage, she knew he was something very special. Eventually word got around, and Chas Chandler, with the popular group The Animals, decided to manage him after he heard him. He wanted to take him to England and form a band, using Jimi as the front man. Jimi finally got a break!
Jimi Hendrix tore England apart! After Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton saw him perform, they actually got nervous, knowing that they’d witnessed something magical. This “Wild Man of Borneo”, as some newspapers nicknamed him, might be the best guitar player who has ever lived, and the other ax-men knew it!
When the Jimi Hendrix Experience played the Monterrey Music Festival in 1967, and Jimi lit his guitar on fire, a star was born! All of sudden, virtually overnight, Jimi was huge. He had concert dates all over the country, record albums coming out, and money was pouring in. His career was meteoric, and all of this happened in a very short span of time, as he died in 1970 at the age of 27. But the musical legacy he left, and his historic performance at Woodstock, just about said it all. Jimi Hendrix turned into a legend, and an icon from those heady days of the sixties will last forever…..