The legendary guitarist examined
Born in Seattle, USA, on November 27th 1942, his mother named him John Allen Hendrix and raised him while his father, James “Al” Hendrix, was fighting in World War II. When his father returned from Europe in 1945 he took Jimi home, divorced his wife, and renamed him James Marshall. He didn’t become Jimi Hendrix until he arrived in London in 1966. The Animals’ bassist Chas Chandler, who became his manager, suggested he swap James for Jimi.
He dropped out of High School and enlisted in the Army in May 1959, becoming a member of ‘The Screaming Eagles’ 101st Airborne Division in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, as a trainee paratrooper. Fortunately for music fans everywhere, less than a year later he received a medical discharge after breaking an ankle on his twenty-sixth parachute jump.
His father encouraged his musical talents, buying Jimi his first $5 acoustic guitar when he was fifteen-years-old and setting him on the path to his future vocation. A year later Al purchased his first electric guitar, a Supro Ozark 1560S.
Jimi worked as a session guitarist under the moniker Jimmy James. By the end of 1965 he had played with several acts, including Ike And Tina Turner, Sam Cooke, The Isley Brothers, and Little Richard. His shows with Little Richard became caught up in a dispute over Jimi’s flashy garb – Richard felt nothing should distract attention away from his star power and so Jimi parted ways to form Jimmy James And The Blue Flames, shedding the role of back-line guitarist for the spotlight of lead guitar.
Desperate to follow in the footsteps of his own British guitar idols, Jimi touched down on British soil on Saturday 24th September, 1966. He arrived at Heathrow at 9am, carrying a small bag with his guitar, a change of clothes, pink plastic hair curlers and a jar of Valderma cream for his acne. Escorting Jimi was Chas Chandler, with whom Jimi had agreed to follow to England only if he promised to introduce him to Eric Clapton, who was at that time with Cream. Within forty-eight hours he would take to the stage for an unprecedented onstage jam with Clapton, Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce.
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