Jimi Hendrix
Full name James Marshall Hendrix
Birth name Johnny Allen Hendrix
Biographical facts
Birth date November 27th, 1942
Birth place Seattle, Washington, USA
Death date September 18th, 1970 (age 27)
Death place London, England
Career facts
Instruments Guitar, vocals, bass guitar, piano
Notable gear Fender Stratocaster
Gibson Flying-V
Supro Ozark 1560S
Silvertone Danelectro
Main bands The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Gypsy Sun and Rainbows
Band of Gypsys
The Cry of Love
Official website

James Marshall Hendrix - more commonly known as Jimmy or Jimi Hendrix - was an American musician, born on November 27th, 1942 in Seattle, Washington. He was the frontman and lead vocalist/guitarist of short-lived self-titled band The Jimi Hendrix Experience and went on to form Gypsy Sun and Rainbows and the Band of Gypsys, before his death in London, England on September 18th, 1970.

In his short four years in the international spotlight, Hendrix managed to change the face of rock music, inventing new, previously unseen guitar-playing techniques and sounds, including intentional feedback, extensive wah-usage, playing the instrument with his teeth and behind his head, and mixing blues, rock and funk to create a psychedelic genre which has since not been equalled.


Childhood (1942 – 1958)Edit

Johnny Allen Hendrix was born on at 10:15 a.m. on November 27th, 1942 at King County (now known as Harborview) Hospital in Seattle, Washington, USA and weighed 8 pounds. The father, 22 year-old James Allen "Al" Hendrix, was stationed with the U.S. army in Camp Rucker (now known as Fort Rucker), Alabama at the time of the birth, and so it was left to the mother, 16 year-old Lucille Hendrix née Jeter, to name and look after the baby. Lucille was forced to work odd jobs to make ends meet, and so she put young Johnny in the temporary care of a couple in California, who were friends of the family, among many other carers.


Al Hendrix with Johnny in 1945.

Al Hendrix was released from the army after World War II, and decided to take primary reponsibility for raising Johnny, who was living with Lucille's older sister at the time. On September 11th, 1946, he changed his son's name to James Marshall. He was often referred to as "Jimmy", which would eventually evolve into "Jimi". Jimmy's parents re-united shortly after the war and bought a house together in Rainier View, Seattle, but the family ran into financial difficulties when Al found it hard to find steady employment. Both parents turned to alcohol to try and forget their problems, and starting fighting a lot. According to Lucille's older sister, Jimmy would turn to her for comfort, telling her how he "didn't like the fighting [sic]" and "wished they would stop it [sic]".

By 1948, Al had begun receiving unemployment benefits thanks to the Servicemen's Readjustment Act, more commonly known as the G.I. Bill, which was much needed in the growing Hendrix family, growing thanks to a new arrival, Leon, on January 13th. Leon recalls happy memories of this family, describing how they used to "pay a nickel to go and watch ten minutes of Flash Gordon [sic]", a movie which featured Larry "Buster" Crabbe. Leon continues, saying "all his friends, everybody" used to call Jimmy "Buster", which came from Crabbe. Jimmy was said to be very interested in Flash Gordon, Leon explains how he used to "go home and put on a cape" before "jump[ing] off the roof, flapping his arms... and hit[ting] the ground [sic]". These happy memories were a turn for the better in the Hendrix household, and put Jimmy in a happy, stable family for the first time in his life.

In 1949 a third brother, Joseph, was born, though with physical difficulties in one of his legs, he had a permanent limp. He was followed by the first baby girl in the family, Kathy Ira in 1950. In 1952, fearing that he would have to pay a large sum of money to fix Joseph's disability, Al decided to give him away. Joseph recalls that he was "left on the top step to a house with a brown suitcase... and told to sit down and someone would pick [him] up [sic]". Lucille was very upset with this decision and did not want to give young Joseph up, an ongoing feud which eventually resulted in the couple's divorce. The happy family of three years prior had been destroyed, and Jimmy and Leon, only ten and four years old respectively, lived with their father, though Leon was often fostered during the 50s and the boys visited their mother often. Al wasn't around all the time, having to work a lot, and so Jimmy took on the responsibility of looking after his younger brother Leon, which Leon looks back on as Jimmy being his "surrogate father". Leon would often get taken to foster homes and different families, but Jimmy was not as he was over 12 years old and considered old enough to look after himself, so he stayed with his father.


Jimmy (right) with younger brother Leon (left).

Seattle was a very multi-ethnic place to live, and there was no conflict between the masses of Blacks, Whites and Asians living in the city. This togetherness and peace in the place of Jimmy's residence meant that he was free to focus on his arts and his interests at Leschi Elementary School, which people close to him noticed. He was said to have an extraordinary artistic vision, and when he painted his colours were bright and extremely psychedelic, paving the way for his music. Jimmy's brother Leon recalls that Jimmy wanted to "hear everything", and so listened to the top 40 on the radio when it was born in the 50s. Jimmy's first interest in the guitar was seen by both his father and his auntie, whom he lived with for periods of time, who both witnessed him playing guitar on a broom to Elvis Presley songs. According to Leon, Al was working for "a rich lady", who once asked him to clean out her garage. In doing so, he found a ukelele with one string, and brought it home. Originally joking about it, Al gave the ukelele to Jimmy: the first instrument he owned. Leon recalls how he used to loosen the string to get a deeper sound, and tighten it to get a higher pitched sound, and he apparently managed to play a few tunes on this one-stringed uke.

Jimmy was a very quiet child due to his childhood insecurities, and when he attended Meany Middle School, he was relatively unknown due to his quietness. Though a quiet boy, Jimmy got into a lot of mischief in school, often being punished for arguing with teachers and not doing as he was told at school. His temporary carer, Al's sister, was often called to the school to speak with teachers about Jimmy's behaviour, worsened by the fact that he was apparently bullied due to his lack of fitting clothes and his poor family. Though not a high achieving student, Jimmy possessed much knowledge about most notably the stars, and had strong interests in the paranormal, UFOs and astrology. He was noted for his vivid, strong imagination which helped him see the world through a scientist's eyes, something which influenced his music in later life. His interest in science-fiction movies was also strong, and he would often "make weird noises" and go into characterisations of aliens and sci-fi stars, something which personified his strong imagination and artistic flair.

Hendrix's father didn't like the idea of Jimmy earning a living with his imagination, and believed he had to work to survive. By 1957, Jimmy's ideas of fame through music began to take shape. His idols around this time included Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and "The King", Elvis Presley. The latter was his main influence, and on September 1st, Jimmy experienced the dream - he went to see Elvis Presley perform live at Sick's Stadium. Also in 1957, Jimmy met another of his favourite artists, Little Richard, who was visiting Jimmy's mother around the corner from his house. Though all these musical influences were present in his life, Jimmy was more focused on joining the local football team. He was a small, not very largely built child, but his determination and spirit made him a very strong player on the pitch.

Jimmy moved back in with his father around this time, and started missing school, which Al did not insist that Jimmy had to attend. Thanks to this truency, Jimmy failed 9th grade and was forced to repeat the year. Jimmy's life was again unstable; he was not attending school, he was missing football practice, and to top this off, on February 2nd, 1958, Jimmy Hendrix's mother, Lucille, died. Though some believed this death to be down to excessive drinking, Lucille actually suffered a ruptured spleen, which is what killed her. The accident was believed to be a result of a fall, as she was, at the time, wheelchair-bound. When Lucille's sister and friend went to Harborview to visit Lucille, they found her lying in the hallway surrounded by doctors and nurses, who believed they could have saved her, had they known she had a ruptured spleen. After telling them that their mother had passed, Al did not allow his children, Jimmy and Leon, to attend the funeral. Instead, he gave them a shot of alcohol and claimed that "this is how men do it", per Leon. A broken Al now worked even more, leaving Jimmy and Leon to basically fend for themselves. Lucille's death affected Jimmy most of all, who would often go to his aunt's house, sit on the porch, and simply cry.

To help shadow the death of his mother, Jimmy was given his first real guitar, a Kay acoustic purchased by Al from a friend for $5.00. From this point on, Jimmy and his guitar were inseperable, and music became his supreme passion and his one love. The first songs he was reported as playing were "Louie Louie" and "Peter Gunn", and he used to play material by Billy Butler, Muddy Waters and Eddie Cochran, as well as singing many Elvis Presley songs, including "Hound Dog" and "Love Me Tender", which Leon says he used to sing to him when he went to sleep. Jimmy played his guitar whenever he could. When not at school, he would more than likely be playing his guitar. As a child he would play guitar to the radio and his records until he fell asleep, before he woke up and instantly carried on playing licks, without a moment of hesitation. Jimmy's major influences evolved into blues, spanning such artists as Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf. This blues influence is what eventually pushed him into psychedelic rock and roll, and created the Hendrix sound.

First bands (1958 – 1961)Edit

Jimmy played his first gig with an unnamed band in a synagogue basement, though he was fired between sets for his wild playing and showing off. Jimmy joined his first formal band, The Velvetones, in 1958 as acoustic guitarist. The way he played his right-handed guitar left-handed made him stand out from the band, who regularly played at the Yesler Terrace Neighbourhood House, without pay. After staying with them for three months, Jimmy left The Velvetones.

In the summer of 1959, Al bought Jimmy his first electric guitar, a white Supro Ozark 1560S, which lead him to join a new band, The Rocking Kings. The Rocking Kings were noted for all wearing a white shirt with a red blazer on top, which Jimmy did not have and could not afford. To help pay for the jacket, Jimmy and Leon went to work with their father, and Jimmy paid $5.00 for his red blazer. And so, at the age of seventeen, Jimmy joined the Rocking Kings, with whom he played his first proper gig at a National Guard armory. The band played rhythm and blues classics such as Muddy Waters, though Jimmy had terrible stage fright and believed all the other local guitarists to be much better than himself. Jimmy carried on playing odd gigs at small venues for $5-6 a piece, including The Spanish Castle, which obviously created the influence for the song "Spanish Castle Magic".


Hendrix with his Silvertone Danelectro and red Rocking Kings jacket in 1958.

Though not the lead guitarist of the band, Hendrix was often praised for his stage presence and skills, including the Chuck Berry "duck walk", and the fact that he could play with his teeth and behind his head, skills he learnt from a local guitarist with The Sharps named Raleigh "Butch" Snipes. Jimmy's position in the band started to break down as he began to get carried away with his playing, using excessive amounts of feedback and going off on individual jams in the middle of songs. The Rocking Kings (who changed their name to Thomas and the Tomcats in the summer of 1960) also played at the famous Birdland club. It was believed that if you were in a band and you managed to reach the heights of playing at Birdland, that was as far as your band was going to go, that was the big time venue. On October 31st, 1960, Jimmy was expelled from Garfield High without graduating, due to poor attendance and low achievement. He began working for his father, and after an accident, decided he wanted to leave Seattle

Army life (1961 – 1962)Edit


18 year-old Hendrix in the U.S. army.

Jimmy got in trouble with the law twice for stealing a car, and was given the choice of spending two years in prison or joining the army. On May 31st, Jimmy enlisted in the army and left Seattle for Fort Ord, California to begin his basic training. On October 31st, just one year after leaving high school, 18 year-old Jimmy trained for the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Soon after his 19th birthday, Jimmy was given the "Screaming Eagle" patch for his uniform so that he could take to the skies for his first parachute jump.

Missing his music,the Jimmy wrote to his father, asking for him to send him his guitar. While stationed at Fort Campbell, Jimmy met bass guitarist Billy Cox and they formed a band known as The King Kasuals. On July 2nd, 1962, after his 26th parachute jump, Jimmy received an honourable discharge from the army thanks to a broken ankle. There are many other stories concerning Hendrix's release from the army, including that he faked being a homosexual, or simply lacked enough skill to make it in the army.

Early career (1962 – 1966)Edit


The King Kasuals, from left to right: Hendrix, Billy Cox and Alphonso Young.

Upon their release, Hendrix and Cox moved to Clarksville, Tennessee and continued with their band, The King Kasuals, with Alphonso Young on guitar, who was eventually replaced by Larry Lee. The band eventually moved to Jefferson Street in Nashville, where they played regularly at Club del Morocco. The band played on the Chitlin' Circuit until 1964, when Hendrix left and played with various backing bands for rhythm and blues acts such as Chuck Jackson, Sam Cooke and Jackie Wilson.

In January of 1964, Hendrix moved into the Hotel Theresa in Harlem, New York City, and in February he won an amateur musician contest at the Apollo Theater, before he was hired as the new guitarist for The Isley Brothers. Hendrix performed on the two-part single "Testify" with the band, and played on the Chitlin' Circuit, before he left to work with Gorgeous George Odell.

In December of 1964, Hendrix was hired by Little Richard to play guitar in his new band, The Royal Company. He briefly left the band to play with Ike & Tina Turner, but re-joined Richard's band before getting fired in July, 1965 for missing a tour bus. Later in the year, Hendrix joined forces with Curtis Knight and The Squires, whom he stayed with for about four months. On October 15th, 1965, Hendrix signed a three-year recording deal worth $1.00 and 1% of Curtis Knight's royalties with Ed Chalpin.

1966 saw Hendrix continuing backing musicianship with artists such as King Curtis, before in May he rejoined The Squires for a week and subsequently began his own band, The Rainflowers, with Randy Wolfe (named Randy California by Hendrix) on guitar, Randy Palmer (named Randy Texas by Hendrix) on bass guitar and Danny Casey on drums. This shifted Hendrix from being a back-line rhythm guitarist to being a frontman of a rock band. The Rainflowers changed their name to Jimmy James and The Blue Flames in June of '66, and gained a regular place at the Café Wbxxndjtd


The Jimi Hendrix Experience (1966 – 1969)Edit

Main article: The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Gypsy Sun and Rainbows (1969)Edit

Main article: Gypsy Sun and Rainbows

Band of Gypsys (1969 – 1970)Edit

Main article: Band of Gypsys

The Cry of Love (1970)Edit

Main article: The Cry of Love

Death (1970)Edit

Jimi died at the age of 27 due to drug related complications. He died on September 18th, 1970, His grave and memorial is located in Greenwood Memorial Park in Washington

Posthumous activity (1971 – present)Edit


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