In January 1964 Hendrix decided to make a first step on his own, after playing for 2 years at a circuit of venues throughout the South, he decided to move to Harlem, NY. In Harlem he joined various bands as ”The Isley Brothers”, Little Richards touring band ”The Upsetters” or ”Curtis Knight and the Squires”. Feeling restricted by his experiences as a R&B sideman, Hendrix moved to the Greenwich Village in New York 1966 where he would get a residency at the Cafe Wha. While playing one night at the Cheetah Club, Linda Keith ( girlfriend of Keith Richards) recognized Hendrix ‘s playing. She invited him to join for a drink – he accepted and the two became friends.
Linda Keith was desperately trying to connect Jimi with important music industry people like Andrew Loog Oldham or the producer Seymour Stein. They both rejected him as they didn’t see any commercial potential. She then referred him to Chas Chandler who was leaving the Animals to pursue a career as a producing artist. Impressed with Hendrix version of Billy Roberts song ”Hey Joe”, he brought him to London and signed him to a management and production contract with himself and ex – Animals manager Michael Jeffrey Chandler began recruiting and at an audition Jimi met Noel Redding, who agreed on playing bass for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Hendrix particular liked Redding’s hairstyle and his knowledge of blues progression. Soon after, Chandler contacted Mitch Mitchell. He joined a jam with Hendrix and Redding . They shared a common interest in Rhythm and Blues. Mitchell agreed to join the band. Chandler also convinced Hendrix to change his name to ”Jimi” as it was more exotic looking.
On September 30, Hendrix met Cream and asked if he could play couple of numbers with them, Clapton recalls: ”He played just about every style you could think of, and not in a flashy way ….He walked off, and my life was never the same again”.In late October , Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp managers of the Who , signed the Experience to their newly formed record label Track Records, which released Hendrix’s first single ” Hey Joe” . One month later the band performed at London’s nightclub Bag O’ Nails. In the audience where almost all known stars like John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Jeff Beck, Pete Townshend, Brian Jones , Mick Jagger and Kevin Ayers. Ayers described the reaction of the crowd as a stunned disbelief . This successfull gig earned Hendrix his first interview with Record Mirror where the title was : ”Mr. Phenomenon ”. Further success came in 1967 with ”Purple Haze” as a Nr. 3 hit and ”The Wind Cries Mary”, which remained eleven weeks in the Uk charts on Nr. 6.
On March 31 the band performed a 45 min set at the London Astoria where in the end Hendrix would set his guitar on fire – an event that went in to musical history books. Mid 1967 the Experience’s first album ”Are you Experience ” went to Nr.2 for 33 weeks. The album features a diversity of musical styles including the R&B song ”Remember”, several blues tracks and a science fiction piece” Third stone from the Sun ” .
The second LP ”Bold as Love” opens with the track EXP which reflected his growing interest in science fiction and outer space. Bold as Love reached number 5 in the UK and 3 in the US .”Are you Experienced” was prevented to reach to the top by the LP ”Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Clubs Band”. Hendrix opened a show at the Saville Theatre with his rendition of Sgt. Peppers title track, which was just released 3 days ago. George Harrison and Paul McCartney were sitting in the audience. Paul recalls:”The curtains flew back and he played Sgt. Pepper. It’s a pretty major compliment in anyone’s book. I put that down as one of the greatest honors in my career”. After playing at the Monterey Pop Festival, Hendrix finally step foot in his home country. The audience and press were absolutely flabbergasted by his performance and image. Los Angeles Times stated: ” Hendrix graduated from rumor to legend ” .
The Experience’s third and final studio album was ”Electric Ladyland”. During the session it became more and more chaotic in the studio as Hendrix allowed numerous friends and guests to join him, which led Chandler to sever his professional relationship to Hendrix. The LP was released in mid October 1968.The double LP was Hendrix’s most commercially successful release and his only number one album.Critics described Electric Ladyland as Hendrix’s masterpiece and ”the fullest realization of Hendrix’s far- reaching ambitions”. In 1969, a European tour followed ending with 2 sold out concert in the Royal Albert Hall .
Relations between Hendrix and Redding got tense due to Hendrix unpredictable work ethic. Redding was ready to leave the band.The last performance of the original Experience line up took place on June 29 1969 at the Denver Pop Festival. Another historical moment was set when Hendrix began to play the American anthem on the Woodstock festival in August 1969. He used copious amount of amplifier feedback, distortion and sustain to replicate the sound made by rockets and bombs, which was the most electrifying moment of Woodstock. Although some people described his interpretation as a statement against the Vietnam War, Hendrix recalled 3 weeks later: ” We’re all Americans…it was like ‘Go America’. We play it the way the air is in America today. The air is slightly static, see .”
Band of Gypsy’s
With Billy Cox on bass and Buddy Miles on drums a Band of Gypsy’s LP was produced in 1970 . It was a collection of several live performances at the Fillmore East in New York and the only official live Hendrix LP made commercially during his lifetime. It reached the Top 10 in the UK and US. The Band of Gypsy’s had their last performance on January 28 1970. After the show both Miles and Redding stated that Jeffrey had given Hendrix LSD before going on stage. Miles believed that Jeffrey gave Hendrix the drugs in an effort to sabotage the current band and bring about the return of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience. Jeffrey fired Miles after the show and Cox quit .
Jeffrey made arrangement to continue with the original Experience line-up although Hendrix never intended to work with Redding again. As Redding returned to New York in anticipation of rehearsals with a reformed Experience, he was told that he had been replaced by Cox. By the time Hendrix and Jeffrey had arrange an own recording studio in the Greenwich Village called ”Electric Ladyland Studios”. Jeffrey saw it as a necessity as Hendrix from now on could work as much as he wanted while reducing his recording expenditures. Electric Ladyland Studios was the first artist owned and operated recording studio. After the Grand Opening of the studio Hendrix flew immediately to Europe to start the first leg of a European tour. On 6th of September he gave his final official concert at the Isle of Fehrmarn in Germany. The band flew from their to London where Hendrix would join for a last jam in a London Soho Jazz Club. Hendrix died less then 2 days later on 18 September 1970 due to deficient supply of oxygen.The doctor concluded that he aspirated his own vomit. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame biography states : ” Jimi Hendrix was arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music. Hendrix expanded the vocabulary and range of the electric guitar into areas no musician had ever ventured before”.