Jimi Hendrix, Today's Your Birthday!

That's right, this iconic blues-rock guitarist was born on this day in 1942.

After a tumultuous childhood that saw him in and out of foster care due to the instability of both his mother and father, Hendrix was arrested twice for riding in stolen cars and given an opportunity to avoid prison if he enlisted in the Army.  After only a year of service, Hendrix was discharged in 1962 and settled in Clarksville, TN.  He and an Army buddy by the name of Billy Cox began playing clubs around Nashville.  Quickly tiring of that scene, Hendrix moved to New York City in January of 1964.

Word of Hendrix's guitar prowess quickly spread and, after years of playing in a variety of bands, he made his first recording in March 1964 as guitarist for the Isley Brothers, playing on a song called "Testify", which was released as a single in June 1964.

By September, he was touring as a member of Little Richard's band.  The next two years saw Hendrix bounce from band to band, eventually forming his first band, the Blue Flame, in June 1966.  The band featured a 15-year-old slide guitarist by the name of Randy Wolfe, who would go on to change his name to Randy California and form his own band, Spirit.

The Blue Flame became a popular fixture on the New York club scene, during which time Hendrix befriended Keith Richard's girlfriend, Linda Keith.  She attempted to interest Rolling Stones manager Andrew Loog Oldham and record executive Seymour Stein in Hendrix's music, but both declined.  She then introduced Hendrix to Animals bassist Chas Chandler, who agreed to manage Hendrix.


Chandler brought Hendrix to London in September 1966 and began helping form The Jimi Hendrix Experience.  After a well-received performance at the Olympia Theatre in Paris, a mid-concert jam-session with Cream, and appearances on Ready Steady Go! and Top of The Pops, Hendrix's popularity was spreading quickly and his first single, "Hey Joe" soared into the Top 10.  1967 saw the release of new singles "Purple Haze" and "The Wind Cries Mary", both of which also enjoyed Top 10 success.

In May 1967, Hendrix released his first album, Are You Experienced, Amazingly, which featured none of his previous singles, as Hendrix had chosen to focus instead on the newer material he had written.  The album landed at #2 in the UK, kept from the top spot by the Beatles' Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band.  Hendrix, of course, had opened a show at Brian Epstein's Saville Theatre with a stirring performance of "Sgt. Peppers", which had been released by the Beatles only three days earlier.  Both George Harrison and Paul McCartney attended the show and were impressed.  McCartney went so far as to call it one of the greatest honors of his career.


Months later, the album was released in the US, with "Red House, "Remember" and "Can You See Me" dropped so that UK singles "Hey Joe", "Purple Haze" and "The Wind Cries Mary" could be added to the track list.  Amazingly, it featured none of his previous singles, as Hendrix chose to focus instead on the newer material he had written.

At McCartney's insistence, the Jimi Hendrix Experience made their US debut at the Monterey International Pop Festival.  After a blistering set in front of 70,000 people and just about every major rock journalist in the country, Hendrix ended the show by setting his guitar on fire and later smashing it.  The moment was forever immortalized by filmmaker D.A. Pennebaker and included in the documentary "Monterey Pop", which was shown in theatres in 1969.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience later appeared at the legendary Fillmore, their popularity growing so fast that they were given top billing over the original headliners, Jefferson Airplane.  The band then went on tour as opening act for The Monkees on their first headlining North American tour, but were kicked off the tour after only a few shows due to the fact that conservative groups such as Daughters of The American Revolution found his stage conduct inappropriate.  Manager Chas Chandler later revealed that the whole thing had been engineered in order to gain maximum media coverage.

In December 1967, Axis: Bold As Love was released in the UK. reaching #5 on the charts. Due to the continuing chart success of Are You Experienced, the US release was delayed three months, with the album peaking at #3 in the States.

October 1968 saw the release of the double album Electric Ladyland, which, due to Hendrix's growing perfectionism, had taken so long to record that manager Chas Chandler severed all ties with Hendrix.  The album was his first to hit #1 in the US, with "Voodoo Chile" and "All Along The Watchtower" becoming some of his best known songs.  The wide-ranging breadth of the music and the addition of numerous guest musicians hinted at Hendrix's desire to grow beyond the limitations of his current trio.  The Experience played their final show in June 1969 at Denver Pop Festival, which ended abruptly after the police sprayed the audience with tear gas.

Hendrix debuted his new lineup, Band of Gypsies, in August at Woodstock.  With management negotiating terms so that Hendrix was the final headliner Sunday night, many sets by other artists stretched beyond their allotted time so that Hendrix's set did not start until 8:30 Monday morning.  By then, the crowd of 300,000 had thinned to a mere 30,000.  Those who stayed did so only long enough to catch a glimpse of Hendrix before leaving themselves.


The band ended 1969 with a New Year's Eve performance at Fillmore East that was professionally recorded.  They would later disband in January 1970 after a disastrous show at Madison Square Garden that ended after only two songs.

The last months of his life were spent building the Electric Ladyland recording studio in New York, with final construction completed in August.  Hendrix left for London immediately afterwards, as he had a pending engagement to perform at the Isle of Wight Festival.  A European tour followed, which Hendrix had undertaken to help pay off debts he had incurred in the building of the studio.  Folliwing the tour, Hendrix would make his last live performance at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club, jamming with Eric Burdon's current band, War.  On September 18, 1970, he would die of asphyxiation from choking on his own vomit, thus ending the next phase of his brilliant career before it even began.


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