The moment Jimi Hendrix picked up his first electric guitar, the sound it produced would be changed forever. He made the instrument do things that had not been envisioned and he achieved all this within four years. Even more amazing was the fact that he could neither read nor write music.
Born Johnny Allen Hendrix on the 27th November 1942 in the American city of Seattle, Jimi had a great interest in music from an early age. He got his first instrument when his father bought him a second-hand ukulele with only one string. Unlikely as it sounds this was an improvement, for up until then, Jimi had been practising with a broom.
In 1958 he got his first guitar; another gift from his father which cost him five dollars. The first band he joined was called The Velvetones. He stayed with them for only three months before going solo. A short time after that, his father bought him his first electric guitar. It was a Supro Ozark 1560S and within a short time, he had joined his second band, The Rocking Kings.
So how did Jimi learn to play considering he couldn’t read or write music? He said that he listened to great artistes such as Buddy Holly, BB King and Muddy Waters on the radio. His technique was to concentrate on how the music sounded rather than how it was written.
In 1961, he joined the US Army and became a paratrooper. However, after a parachuting injury, he was medically discharged from the Army. He went back to music and became a session musician backing artistes like Tina Turner and Little Richard.
In those days he called himself Jimmy James and soon founded his own band, The Blue Flames. It was during this time that he met Chas Chandler, the bass guitarist with The Animals. He persuaded Jimi to move to London. He became his manager and told him to change his name to Jimi Hendrix. With Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Reddin on bass, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was born.
Hey Joe was their first single released in 1967 and it was a big hit. They found even greater fame when in June of that year they went to the USA and soon became one of the hottest bands on the planet. It is often agreed that Jimi’s greatest performance was in 1969 at the Woodstock Festival. His version of the Star Spangled Banner became a part of pop history and turned the crowd into a frenzy.
Shortly after that the band broke up and Jimi returned to London. He played the Albert Hall and toured parts of Europe. It was during this time that he shared his girlfriend’s flat in Beak Street in Mayfair, central London. Her name was Kathy Etchingham.
Jimi Hendrix’s London home
It was in 1970 that the Jimi Hendrix Experience was reformed, this time with Billy Cox on bass. They began planning a new double-album. However, the workload and the strains of touring were taking their toll on Jimi. And this was not helped by his alcohol and drugs abuse over the years. He died in London on the 18th September 1970. The PM report stated he had died by suffocating on his own vomit after taking barbiturates. He is buried next to his mother in Renton, Washington, USA.