History & BiographyJimi Hendrix, the most notable rock guitarist in history, was born in 1942 in Seattle, Washington in a family of black, white and native American ancestry with recent roots in Canada. After enlisting in the US army for a short period, Hendrix began experimenting with his guitar acting upon his rhythm and blues influences. Hendrix occasionally used a Gibson Flying V, but his main guitar was a Fender Stratocaster.
Following a stint in Nashville and another in New York City, Hendrix moved to London, England where he, and guitarist-turned-bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Legend has it that in his New York days the members of Rolling Stones sat through a Hendrix performance and came away unimpressed. The band was managed by Animals' Chas Chandler, who was leaving the band and wanted to manage, and former Animals' manager Michael Jeffery. They were responsible for bringing the man to the UK. English lad Mitch Mitchell had worked at a music shop and played in several bands and performed as a session player. He had also been in the Who briefly when that band was between permanent drummers.
The band signed to Track Records and began a dazzling career of recording and performing original tunes, as well as cover versions like Hey Joe, Like A Rolling Stone and All Along The Watchtower. The band was active between 1966 and 1970.
Are you Experienced?, the band’s debut, was released in 1967. Here began the wild stage antics of a guitarist who would not only damage equipment at will, but would take delight in setting his guitar ablaze. While success in the UK, and to some extent continental Europe, was immediate Canada and the US were slower to react. The band’s popularity was helped following its appearance in the film Monterey Pop. The band also appeared at the Woodstock festival where it was joined by rhythm guitarist Larry Lee and conga players Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez. This was the end of the band although a new version was envisioned by Hendrix after his Band Of Gypsys. Most fans acknowledge Electric Ladyland as the group’s pinnacle given the more direct and harder-edged songs. Redding was soon gone in 1969, however, wishing to continue on guitar. Jimi Hendrix had announced an expansion of the band without consulting or informing Redding. His subsequent band, called Fat Mattress, would often open for Hendrix however. New bassist Billy Cox was a former army friend of Hendrix who had played with him in the fledgling act, King Kasuals and subsequently as the backing band for Marion James. He played with the band at Woodstock. In the midst of legal troubles, Hendrix would apparently dissolve his band and form Gypsy Sun And Rainbows.
A heavy drug user, Hendrix died in London after choking on his vomit due to an overdose in September of 1970. A wealth of material, demos, jams and outtakes have been released posthumously. Out of all the albums only the first five were released during his lifetime. Hendrix’s father, half-sister and children have often been involved in legal toss-ups regarding the artist’s estate. With the number of commercial releases and court actions that have ensued the artist’s legacy has become an exercise in accounting instead of arts. The Kaufman Astoria Studios planned a movie, called Electric Prophet, loosely based on the life of Jimi Hendrix in 1984 and 1985 which never saw light of day. The right holders and studio did not reach an agreement. Former Americade members, who had recorded music for the upcoming movie, pressed the recordings independently. In 2008 Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills And Nash discovered a 40-year old recording of music he and Jimi Hendrix had completed. This was being prepared for release.
Drummer Mitch Mitchell was found dead in a Portland, Oregon, USA hotel room on November 12th, 2008. The 62-year old died of natural causes officially, but had been suffering from chronic exhaustion and cancer. He had just spent the last several weeks on the 2008 Experience Hendrix Tour. Universal Music Publishing Group signed a contract with the estate to become the exclusive administrator of Hendrix's catalogue for five years outside the United States beginning 2009. Bassist Billy Cox was one of the artists who were inducted into the Musicians Hall Of Fame in Nashville in the autumn of 2009. Stepsister of Jimi, CEO and president Janie Hendrix, delighted the fans of the long-dead guitarist/singer by telling NME in 2009 that she expected the corporation (Experience Hendrix) to release new audio and video every 12 to 18 months for the next decade. Another Hendrix album saw the light of day in 2010. Valleys Of Neptune was released on March 9th. It debuted on The Billboard 200 best-selling albums chart at #4. To celebrate the 70th anniversary of Jimi Hendrix's birth, the guitarist’s August 1969 Woodstock concert was shown in a few cinemas globally starting at the end of November, 2012. Zakk Wylde of Black Label Society would take part in the 2016 Experience Hendrix Tour. Authentic Hendrix was a new Jimi Hendrix inspired clothing line as of 2018. Ironically, the business people in charge called the line “luxury.” Both Sides Of The Sky was a compilation album released in 2018. It featured ten previously unreleased recordings. Legacy Recordings released The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Los Angeles Forum: April 26, 1969 on 2LP vinyl and CD in November 2022. It roughly coincided with the guitarist’s 80th birthday. This was a complete version of this show that had not been heard before. The estates of the early bassist and drummer, Noel Redding Estate Ltd and Mitch Mitchell Estate Ltd, were given go-ahead to sue Sony after launching action in 2022. They were seeking a share of the sound recording copyrights of the first three albums. Redding received $100,000 in 1973 and Mitchell received $247,500 in 1974 in order to withdraw lawsuits in the early 1970s.
Jimi Hendrix was ahead of his time. He, arguably, was the first embodiment of what would become hard rock and heavy metal.