Marching To His Own Tune - Jimi Hendrix Gains Experience
by Tracy Falbe
Jimi Hendrix, the rock legend of the rebellious sixties, was actually a firm patriot for the United States. Ironically, he is a glorious symbol of the rebellious blossoming of artistic creativity that emerged during the cultural revolution of the 1960s. “Hey, Mr. Business Man, you can’t dress like me” is an example of his delight in free expression and rebellious sentiment toward the ascendant culture from the song “If 6 was 9” on the album Axis Bold As Love. Jimi Hendrix’s wild hair is the antithesis of the short-haired military man, but he was not an anti-military person as some other famous musicians were.
Although Jimi Hendrix had been enthusiastic about his military membership, he immediately went back to music full time upon being discharged. There is no indication that he considered any other course for his life at this point.
From 1962 to 1966, Jimi Hendrix lived the life of a starving musician. His journey took him through Nashville, Tennessee’s famous music scene and then onto New York City, where he played numerous and usually low-paying gigs.
On July 5, 1966, his talent was about to stop languishing in obscurity. That day musician and businessman Chas Chandler, who had been the bassist for the Animals, saw Jimi Hendrix play for the first time.
Delighted by the opportunity to find such talent unsigned by a record label and even without a manager, Chandler approached Jimi Hendrix about making a deal. Jimi Hendrix was interested in Chandler ’s proposition that if he came to Great Britain , he could form a band and play his own songs.
Once the details were hashed out, Jimi Hendrix went to Great Britain with Chas Chandler, who, along with his business partner Mike Jeffery, would manage Jimi Hendrix’s career.
Jimi Hendrix, so thoroughly American with his upbringing in the western United States, military service, and Cherokee, African, and Irish heritage, was about to unlock fame’s door in Europe.
Although soon to join the legends of rock, Jimi Hendrix had trouble entering Great Britain. With no money or proof of employment, Jimi Hendrix was not exactly a candidate for admittance to the country in the eyes of the British authorities, but Hendrix’s new manager, Chas Chandler, convinced authorities to grant a meager seven-day tourist visa.
Despite this inauspicious start to Chandler’s vision of Jimi Hendrix causing a music sensation in Europe, Chandler moved ahead rapidly with his plans. He gushed to the members of the London music scene that he had an awesome American guitarist who was going to blow people’s minds. Auditions were promptly begun for musicians in Jimi’s band and tour dates and studio time were scheduled.
Guitarist Noel Redding appealed to Jimi Hendrix and Chandler who invited the guitarist to join the band as the bassist. Having seen and heard Jimi Hendrix on guitar, Redding agreed to play bass because when Jimi Hendrix was in the room there was no need for anyone else to play guitar.
Next came the 19-year-old Mitch Mitchell, a British child star turned musician. He played drums and had performed with several bands already despite his youth. His addition to Jimi Hendrix’s band as drummer completed the casting of what would become one of the most impressive three-piece rock bands ever, with music ranging from lovely to extreme.
The new band would have Jimi Hendrix on vocals, but despite his uninhibited and fantastic performance as a guitarist, he lacked confidence as a singer. Chas Chandler had to coax and encourage Jimi Hendrix to sing. Although a hesitant singer, Hendrix’s vocals complemented his music well. His gently evocative vocals came across with sincere feeling that could genuinely connect with listeners.
A band arguably does not exist without a proper name, and Jimi Hendrix and Chandler dubbed the new band the Jimi Hendrix Experience after a day of deliberation with band mates. It was also at this time that Jimi started spelling his name “Jimi” because his manager thought it would look more distinctive in print. It did.
With a name and plenty of raw young talent, the Jimi Hendrix Experience played its first gig in Evreux , France on October 13, 1966. This debut and subsequent shows in France failed to impress critics, but the band was not discouraged. Chandler and Jimi Hendrix worked to make improvements to their theatrical presentation and of course rehearse more so that the new band could refine its style. This hard work, planning, and willingness to revise in order to improve marked Jimi Hendrix’s career. He constantly sought to make his music better and explored how to express himself more completely through music. Talent usually cannot flourish unless harnessed by hard work and Jimi Hendrix excelled in both categories. As his career started to take off, he would tour relentlessly and dig deeper into the concepts and stories that he could tell with his guitar.
With the debut of the Jimi Hendrix Experience accomplished, the band headed back to Great Britain to record a single. The song “Hey Joe” was released in December 1966. It gradually began to arouse interest from music listeners and get played on the radio.
With “Hey Joe” climbing the music charts, Jimi Hendrix and his two band mates started playing the London rock-and-roll scene and attracted quite a bit of attention. Jimi Hendrix let loose and treated packed concert halls and clubs to his riotous and flamboyant showmanship. He also pushed his guitar playing into new zones as he experimented with sound during his passionate performances.
The top rock musicians of Great Britain, all legends of rock themselves, attended London shows of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Famous people like Mick Jagger and Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones, Pete Townshend of the Who, Paul McCartney of the Beatles, Jeff Beck of the Yardbirds, and the esteemed Eric Clapton of Cream all went to see the Jimi Hendrix Experience. With such famous rockers frequently at the shows, the Jimi Hendrix Experience gained credibility, popularity, and press coverage.
In May 1967, the full-length album Are You Experienced? was released and quickly became popular. In Great Britain it went to number three. Not bad considering the number one album at the time was the Beatles’ Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Talk about stiff competition. Can you imagine such groundbreaking instant classics filling the charts today?
CONTINUE >> Rock-and-Roll Adventure - The Jimi Hendrix Experience Intensifies
Page 1 - A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix
Page 2 - A Guitar Hero Is Born - Jimi Hendrix the Early Years
Page 3 - Marching to His Own Tune - Jimi Hendrix Gains Experience
Page 4 - Rock-and-Roll Adventure - The Jimi Hendrix Experience Intensifies
Page 5 - Jimi Hendrix - Making Love With the Gods