Ten Things About Jimi
1. Jimi was born Johnny Allen Hendrix on 26 November 1942. His paternal grandmother, was of Cherokee decent and a dancer in a vaudeville troupe. His father, James Allen (Al) changed Jimi's name to James Marshall Hendrix on 11 September 1946. Marshall was in honor of Jimi's paternal uncle, Leon Marshall who died of a ruptured appendix in 1932.
2. Jimi's mother, Lucille Jeter (b. 12/10/1925) was a hard drinker. When Jimi was a toddler, his father was in the army and unable to get time off to visit his wife and son. Jimi spent a lot of time being brought up by other family members and friends of the family. Lucille had cirrhosis of the liver and died of a ruptured spleen in 1958. In 1967, whilst performing at the Saville Theater London, Jimi sang and dedicated 'The Wind Cries Mary' to his mother. Jimi was devastated when she died as Lucille represented a sense of danger, excitement and fun. She was the inspiration for some of his songs and it is suggested that Jimi was always attracted to dangerous, outgoing women with a free spirit. (Shapiro & Glebbeek, 1990)
3. Jimi was the oldest of three brothers. Leon was born in 1948 and Joseph was born in 1949. His parents separated in 1951 and Joseph was fostered. He had two more siblings named Cathy Ira (b. 27/9/1950) who was adopted and Pamela Marguerita (b. 27/10/1951).
4. As a child, Jimi had a dog named Prince after Prince Valiant in a 1954 Swashbuckling movie that he used to watch with his brother and his dad. Jimi's childhood nickname was Buster after the actor Buster Crabbe who played Flash Gordon in the 1930's.
5. At school, Jimi was better at art than he was at music and it was suggested that this was because of school moves. When he left school, he became a laborer for his father's landscape gardening business. However, he felt that he was being exploited and chose to join the army and become a paratrooper. He was discharged from the 101st Airbourne Division in 1962 after breaking his ankle.
6. A 'One-strand on the Wall' is a make-shift musical instrument consisting of the wire from a bale of hay or a broom which was hammered to the wall of the house and stretched and secured at the other end with a stone or rock. One hand plucked the beat and the other slid a bottle along the surface of the wire. As he could not afford to buy one, this was Jimi's first contact with an instrument that resembled a guitar and he was following other blues guitarists such as Elmore James and B.B. King who used this method to learn how to play.
7. Jimi would carry a broom with him as he walked around his neighbourhood. He was thought of as crazy as he would sing notes and pretend to play his broom. A social worker was concerned for his mental health and suggested that he would psychologically benefit from being bought a guitar. Jimi was a self-taught, left-handed guitar player. His guitar was a Fender Stratocaster and he favoured Marshall amplifiers. His first band when he came out of the army was the King Kasuals. He also had other bands including The Rainflowers; Jimmy James and the Blue Flames; The Gypsies Sons and Rainbows. It was under this latter band name that Jimi performed The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock in 1969; receiving critical reviews.
8. Jimi could play the guitar behind his back, pick the strings with his teeth and play the guitar between his legs, simulate sex acts on his guitar and set fire to it on stage. He has been described as "making magic with his guitar, music that no-one had heard before, wild, maniacal and soaring." (Pascall, 1978)
9. Jimi would let the music speak for him on stage. Off stage, he was described as softly spoken, shy and inarticulate. He would giggle behind his hand when he did speak. His hits include "Hey Joe", "Purple Haze", "Crosstown Traffic", "Voodoo Chile", "All Along The Watchtower" and "The Burning Of the Midnight Lamp".
10. Jimi died age 27 years on 18 September 1970. The inquest recorded an open verdict, death by suffocation due to inhalation of vomit. His girlfriend, Monika Danneman gave a different account of events leading to Jimi's death to those given by the hospital staff at St Mary Abbots Hospital in Marloes Road, London. The coroner found no evidence of drug addiction; no needle marks anywhere on his body (NME, 1990) however, it is reported that he had taken approximately 9 sleeping pills the night before. It is NOT suggested that this was attempted suicide as the report states that there was more medication available in the hotel room that Jimi did not touch.
Listen to his music. Admire his talent and discover the people he influenced. Remember Jimi Hendrix.
Larkin, Colin - The Guiness Encyclopedia of Popular Music (1993) - Guiness Publishing
NME - The Rock 'n' Roll Years (1990) - Hamlyn Publishing
Pascall, Jeremy - The Illustrated History of Rock Music (1978) - Hamlyn
Shapiro, Harry & Glebbeek, Caesar - Electric Gypsy (1991) - William Heinemann