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24 Things You Probably Don’t Know about Jimi Hendrix
Did James Marshall Hendrix die the way we think he did?
Most rock and roll enthusiasts know a lot about Jimi Hendrix, who died on September 18, 1970. They certainly know that Hendrix may have been the greatest rock guitarist of all time, and that he made iconic performances at Woodstock and the Monterey Pop Festival; and that Jimi (left-handed) often played a right-handed guitar strung backwards and turned upside down; and that he once toured with the Monkees. Everybody knows that stuff, right? But they may not know the following facts, tidbits and trivia, all which are worth knowing, especially if you’re as much of a Hendrix-phile as the author is!
So please check out this list. You won’t be disappointed!
1. Jimi Hendrix was borne of mixed ancestry. Generally considered African-American, he had both white and American Indian blood in him. His paternal great-great grandmother was a full-bloodied Cherokee Indian, who married a white Irishman named Moore. And Hendrix’s paternal grandfather resulted from the extramarital affair between a black woman and a rich white man.
2. Hendrix used three Super Lead 100-watt Marshall amplifiers during his performances. Usually Jimi played them in unison and would turn the control knobs to the maximum level, and this became known as the Hendrix setting.
3. When Hendrix arrived in London in 1966, hoping to be “discovered,” his name was Jimmy Hendrix. Then his manager, Chas Chandler, former bassist of the Animals, suggested he change the spelling to the more exotic “Jimi.”
4. While a teenager, Hendrix sketched car designs and sent them to the Ford Motor Company. Whether Ford responded in any way is unknown. Also, Jimi liked to draw action pictures of NCAA college football players, particularly those of what is now the Pac-12.
5. Because Jimi’s family was poor when he was a kid, when he wanted to see Elvis Presley perform at Sick’s Stadium in Seattle on September 1, 1957, he could only watch Elvis from atop a nearby hill.
6. When Jimi was four years old, his father, Al Hendrix, changed Jimi’s name from Johnny Allen Hendrix to James Marshall Hendrix, in honor of Al, whose first name was James, and his late brother Leon Marshall.
7. Jimi Hendrix could have been considered a so-called One Hit Wonder, because his only U.S. top forty hit was “All Along the Watchtower,” a song included on the double-album set, Electric Ladyland, his only number one album, by the way.
8. In December 2011, Guitar World selected Jimi’s playing of the “Star Spangled Banner” at Woodstock as number one on his list of 100 Greatest Performances.
9. In 1961, Jimi was forced to join the Army because he had twice been caught by the police while riding in stolen cars. But Jimi did badly in the Army, the 101st Airborne Division actually, and was soon discharged. Jimi always said they had discharged him because he had broken his ankle while training to be a paratrooper, but this was apparently a fabrication.
10. While unheralded as a musician in the early 1960s, Hendrix worked as a session musician under the name Jimmy James. Then, later, after forming his own group, he called it Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.
11. During Jimi’s childhood, his father Al and Jimi’s mother Lucille, who often got drunk and frequently ended up fighting, at which point young Jimi would hide in the closet.
12. The apartment Jimi shared with girlfriend Kathy Etchingham at 23 Brook Street in London was next door to the house classical music genius George Frideric Handel lived in during the eighteenth century. Both buildings now have a historical landmark plaque.
13. The original cover design for Hendrix’s album Electric Ladyland featured more than a dozen naked women. But this photo was the one used in the UK; the one produced for the U.S. market only showed Jimi performing.
14. Mick Jagger’s brother, Chris Jagger, designed the hand-painted silk jacket Jimi wore when he burned his guitar at the Monterey International Pop Music Festival in June 1967.
15. Jimi was once refused service in a Liverpool, England bar because the bartender thought he was a clown. The circus was in town and the bar had the rule: No Clowns Allowed.
16. While living in London in the early days, Jimi rented Ringo Starr’s apartment at 34 Montagu Square, along with manager Chad Chandler. Eventually, Ringo threw them both out.
17. Hendrix was supposed to make an appearance in the Beatles’ TV movie, Magical Mystery Tour, but scheduling conflicts prevented this from happening. Instead, the Fab Four had to write a scene for the Bonzo Dog Band.
18. Hendrix’ first “guitar” was a ukulele with one string, an instrument he had found while looking through trash. Plucking it, Hendrix would play along with tunes by Elvis. Interestingly, Hendrix acquired his first real guitar, an acoustic, at the age of 15, and then learned blues tunes by Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson.
19. Never married, it seems Hendrix nevertheless sired at least one son. Six women brought paternity suits against Jimi, but all of them lost. But he did acknowledge James Daniel Sundqvist to be his son and that his former Swedish girlfriend Eva Sundqvist was the mother. Hendrix’s son James is now in his forties.
20. Hendrix’s bandmates called him “The Bat,” because he would darken or block his windows and sleep during the day. Perhaps this was a better nickname than the “Black Elvis” or the “Wild Man from Borneo,” two of his publicity monikers.
21. “Purple Haze,” perhaps Jimi’s most popular song, has long been considered a drug tune. Please recall these words from the song, “S’cuse me while I kiss the sky!” Wasn’t he talking about being high? Also supporting this belief, while at the Monterey Pop Festival, LSD chemist Owsley Stanley called a batch of his acid Purple Haze. Certainly the tune sounds decidedly druggy, but it isn’t about drugs; it’s about a guy who’s been bewitched by this foxy lady. Remember these lines from the song: “Am I happy or in misery? Whatever it is – that girl put a spell on me!” Even Jimi’s love songs sounded really dramatic.
22. Jimi liked driving fast, flashy cars. At one point, he owned six Corvette Stingrays. And he enjoyed driving them, of course, even though he didn’t have a driver’s license! Apparently Jimi had bad eyesight and wasn’t about to wear spectacles.
23. When Chas Chandler, Jimi’s manager, discovered that Jimi had been having an affair with his wife Lotta, he sold his managerial interest in Hendrix to Mike Jeffery for £100,000. Incidentally, Jeffery had been an agent in the British Secret Service; and he had ties to members of the criminal underworld and was considered a dangerous person.
24. Jimi Hendrix may not have died of an accidental drug overdose, or as the coroner graphically described it, “barbiturate intoxication and inhalation of vomit.” When Jimi died he had moderate amounts of wine, amphetamine and marijuana in his system - as well as 1.8 grams of barbiturate, which apparently caused him to choke to death on his own vomit. According to his girlfriend Monika Dannemann, the last person to see Jimi alive, Jimi took nine Vesparax tablets before going to bed, though she never actually saw him consume the pills. (Dannemann committed suicide in 1996.) Incidentally, Jimi was an insomniac and often took barbiturates to help him sleep, but taking that many would have been a huge overdose. Moreover, the doctor who tried to revive Jimi found much wine on Hendrix - his clothes were soaked with it; there was much wine found in his lungs too. It seemed Jimi had drowned in wine. Could someone have forced the sleeping pills and wine down Jimi’s throat, killing him in the process?
If Jimi Hendrix was in fact murdered, it’s been suggested that the Black Panthers murdered him because he wasn’t political enough; or perhaps the CIA snuffed him because they thought he was too political.
Maybe a more credible possibility is that Jimi’s manager murdered him. In his book, Rock Roadie, James “Tappy” Wright, the road manager of Hendrix, wrote that Jimi’s business manager Mike Jeffery admitted to him that he had murdered Jimi because he thought Jimi would soon fire him; and once Jimi was dead Jeffery wanted to collect the 1.2 million quid in life insurance. A quote from Wright’s book may explain it all. This is Mike Jeffery speaking to James “Tappy” Wright:
Tappy, I was in London the night of Jimi’s death and together with some of our old friends from up North we went round to Monika’s hotel room, got a handful of pills and stuffed them into his mouth . . . then we poured a few bottles of red wine deep into his windpipe. I had to do it. You understand, don’t you? I had no choice. Jimi was worth much more to me dead than alive.
Years later, Jeffery died in a plane crash in 1973. Keep in mind, at one point during their business arrangement, Jeffery had some thugs abduct Jimi for three days just to show Jimi how powerful Jeffery was!
So, was Hendrix really murdered? Or did he actually die of a drug overdose? Some people think he may have popped all those downers, hoping to die in the process. It appears we’ll never know for certain how Jimi Hendrix died, because many of the people from those days are long gone, so the witnesses are few. At any rate, it could be said that Jimi was simply another one of those rock stars who died young at the age of 27, seemingly a dangerous age in a high-risk occupation. There’s the story. How they died is merely a footnote.
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© 2015 Kelley