Jimi Hendrix was born 74 years ago today (November 27) – which is all the excuse we need to revisit the life of a true rock ‘n’ roll great. Here’s 20 things you never knew about the guitarist, including the fact that his manager Mike Jeffrey once arranged for him to be kidnapped by the mafia following a dispute over his recording deal.
Hendrix went by many names. Having been born on November 27, 1942 in Seattlem his mother named him Johnny Allen Hendrix but the youngster was known as Buster growing up. Following his discharge from the army his father changed it to James Marshall Hendrix.
Jimi had many talents. Water skiing was not one of them. According to Jon Roberts’ ‘American Desperado’, he almost once died in a accident at sea. “Jimi’s out there – no life vest on – and he falls off the skis. He’s in the water thrashing around… Suddenly, I’m wondering if he can even swim. I had some good times with Jimi, but he was a disaster on water skis.”
Jimi’s father Al was drafted to fight in World War Two the week his mother Lucille realised she was pregnant. He wouldn’t see his son until he was three.
The Monterey Pop Festival saw Hendrix finish a now legendary set with ‘Wild Thing’ and set fire to his guitar. He was introduced on stage by Brian Jones of The Rolling Stones, who showed up even though his band were conspicuously absent.
Jimi actually only burned his guitar on four occasions. He got the idea from NME Features Editor Keith Altham, who suggested he tried the trick to move away from The Who-style guitar-smashing antics he previously favoured.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience were put together by The Animals’ bassist Chas Chandler. Jimi approved of Noel Redding’s hair apparently.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut ‘Are You Experienced’ has been selected for permanent preservation in the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress in the United States.
Jimi Hendrix recorded his guitar work backwards as well as forwards for the title track on ‘Are You Experienced’. The song was covered by Devo and also sampled by The Pharcyde.
The title track isn’t the only song with some studio trickery from the album. If you speed up ‘Third Stone From The Sun’ the alien voices turn out to be those of Hendrix and Chas Chandler having a conversation about spaceships.
Hendrix’s legendary teeth-playing wasn’t unique to him. He learned the trick in Clarksville, Tennesse after seeing the likes of Butch Snipes pull off the stunt, and told Melody Maker in 1969 that you had to play with your teeth in that town or you’d get shot.
Jimi Hendrix’s mother Lucille died of cirrhosis of the liver when he was 16.
Contrary to the hippy ideal, Jimi Hendrix didn’t leave the army because of his disdain for the war. He was thrown out for being “apprehended masturbating in the platoon area while supposed to be on detail”.
Jimi was arrested on 3rd May 1969 while checking through Canadian customs at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Small amounts of hash were found in his belongings but he was subsequently let off.
Jimi Hendrix left half the master tapes of their second album ‘Axis: Bold As Love’ in a taxi. They were never found again and the entire A-side of the album had to be re-recorded.
Hendrix’s first proper band was called The Casuals. They changed their name to King Kasuals after they realised there was another band of the same name in Nashville.
Their third LP, ‘Electric Ladyland’ hit the top spot in the US and Number Six in the UK. Hendrix was a huge perfectionist during the making of the record, and reportedly recorded ‘Gypsy Eyes’ over 50 times.
Jimi is buried alongside his father Al Hendrix and grandmother Nora Rose Moore Hendrix in Renton, Washington. The grave had to be moved apart from other burial sites as fans were causing too much damage.
The headstone contains a depiction of his famous Fender Stratocaster, although the guitar is shown right-side up, rather than the way Hendrix played it, upside down (left-handed).
Hendrix received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1992.