Before the world knew his name
May 6, 2013 11:27 PM   Subscribe

In 1965 guitar legend Jimi Hendrix was doing the chitlin circuit with R&B acts, where he honed some of the guitar artistry as well as the showman skills that would soon set the world on fire. Here's a taste of that pre-rock star Jimi, as a member of the Buddy and Stacy revue, doing the Junior Walker classic Shotgun. If you want more pre-rock star Jimi, well, there's...

Here's Traveling to California, featuring some absolutely killing blues guitar work and exquisitely Hendrixian vocal, from the Jimmy James days (the clip features lots of great old pics of Hendrix with various bands)

And here he is sounding great on the Muddy Waters chestnut I'm a Man. He's singing the blues, but his guitar solo here was moving beyond, big time. Kickass, no holds barred. His eye was on the future.
posted by flapjax at midnite (38 comments total) 45 users marked this as a favorite

 
Interesting how many different types of guitar he used before he settled on the Stratocaster. In the first clip he's using a Jazzmaster, and in the photos from Traveling to California he's got a Danelectro, an Epihone, a Duo-sonic, and another Jazzmaster.

Guess it took him a while to find the right combination of tone & playability.
posted by awfurby at 11:38 PM on May 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Absolutely great. During Shotgun you can barely tell it's Jimi, off to the left.

You should go to Seattle sometime, Flapjax. There's a museum there about Jimi Hendrix. They have one of his headbands, but because it's a family place they don't explain how he soaked the headbands. He soaked them. In something. And wore them. So that stuff would soak in.

They don't explain that.
posted by twoleftfeet at 12:43 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I heard it was LSD
posted by thelonius at 12:58 AM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I don't know. I did a search at the Experience Music Project website for "LSD" and got "No Results Found". They've got a whole exhibit right now on Hendrix Hits London so they must know a lot about Hendrix. The evidence suggests that this "LSD" of which you speak doesn't exist, or at least doesn't have any relation to the music of Jimi Hendrix.
posted by twoleftfeet at 1:11 AM on May 7, 2013


I did a search at the Experience Music Project website for "LSD" and got "No Results Found".

Results vary, but rarely are they instant. This is the problem with LSD search engines. You try "LSD" and ... nothing... so you try again a little later.... and again nothing... and you try again and then yeah maybe something... and then EL KABONG. Eight or ten hours of your life are lost.

So I have been told.
posted by three blind mice at 1:26 AM on May 7, 2013 [9 favorites]


I invent new phrases all the time and try to get other people to use them. A few years back, I invented a phrase you could use when something was really strange. You say "that's like LSD on steroids."

It never caught on, but occasionally I would use the phrase myself. "That's so crazy," I would say, "it's like LSD on steroids."

I thought the phrase was super keen, until one day I dropped LSD while taking steroids. It's actually not that much fun.

Uh, sorry. What were we supposed to be talking about?
posted by twoleftfeet at 3:01 AM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


It's actually not that much fun.

Yeah, that girl will put a spell on you.

I mean here you have these old 1965 clips of a 23 year old Hendrix playing straight-up blues in a band where everyone is dressed in the same high school prom outfit - by 1967 he's heavy into psychedelics becomes JIMI HENDRIX and suffocates to death with his own vomit in 1970.

Now you might ask, as Frank Zappa did, "Was it the girl, or was it the music?" but I am gonna say that LSD was ultimately no friend to the brother.
posted by three blind mice at 3:21 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, I watched that Shotgun clip but I couldn't see Jimi because I could NOT TAKE MY EYES OFF the dance moves, the shirt sleeves and the high-waisted pants. Dear Lord.
posted by unSane at 3:34 AM on May 7, 2013 [3 favorites]


and then EL KABONG. Eight or ten hours of your life are lost.

Or dramatically enriched.

Or so I have experienced.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:55 AM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


I thought the phrase was super keen, until one day I dropped LSD while taking steroids. It's actually not that much fun.

You also like the phrase "super keen," apparently, which something.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:57 AM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


It's pretty amazing to think that at the time of his death, Jimi Hendrix had been playing the guitar for only 12 years.
posted by Multicellular Exothermic at 4:32 AM on May 7, 2013 [4 favorites]


Or dramatically enriched.

Well flapjax, I'm not gonna disagree that it's an experience, but "dramatically enriched" would seem to be putting a bit too much shine on the apple.

I guess people might say Mr. Hendrix would never have amounted to anything without becoming "enriched" and that might be true - in these videos he's not the artist he would become - but dead at 27 choked on your own vomit isn't much of an advertisement for it. The line between recreational use and outright abuse is sometimes hard to navigate and it's a pity that a museum that features Jimi Hendrix would be shy about taking on this aspect of his life.
posted by three blind mice at 4:48 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


a bit too much shine on the apple.

Not for me! But LSD is, I'll grant you, the ultimate "YMMV" drug.

I guess people might say Mr. Hendrix would never have amounted to anything without becoming "enriched" and that might be true

Some people might, I s'pose. Not me, though, certainly not.

in these videos he's not the artist he would become

I'd disagree with that. In the Buddy and Stacy video he's already displaying the kind of crowd-wowing flourishes that helped propel him to stardom: twice in that clip, if you watch closely, you'll see Hendrix do a totally cool move, a running of his forearm along the neck of the guitar. And he throws in really tasty little melodic runs once or twice that were already beyond the purview of the average rhythm guitarist in an R&B revue band.

And not only that, that solo on I'm a Man is, as I remarked in the FPP, already some full-on exploratory moving-beyond-the-barriers. It's fucking psychedelic, man, that ain't no *blues* solo.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:24 AM on May 7, 2013 [2 favorites]


Not finding any actual concert footage, but at least there's a radio promo of an early US concert with the Experience.
posted by kmz at 5:37 AM on May 7, 2013


Having said what I did about the solo on I'm a Man, I'd also note that that recording may well have taken place after Hendrix had already *been experienced*, so... hey, there may well be some argument for the "he wouldn't have gone that way without acid". But at the end of the day, I guess there's not a lot of point in arguing the point one way or another. Hendrix was an exceptional, visionary musician who, like many of his peers, dropped acid. Obviously a LOT of the musicians who dropped acid didn't come anywhere close to Hendrix in creativity, innovation, expressiveness, etc.

There's no doubt that Hendrix had a whole hella lotta musical stuff going on already before he ever turned on, and I have no doubt that he would've become *great* with or without mind-expanding hallucinogens. On the other hand, I have no problem whatsoever acknowledging that psychedelics could've and would've opened his mind and pointed him toward more expansive artistic horizons, cause, yeah, that's what they do. With the right mind.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:45 AM on May 7, 2013


It's pretty amazing to think that at the time of his death, Jimi Hendrix had been playing the guitar for only 12 years.

To be fair to us mere mortals, his 12 years of playing probably included more hours of focused guitar practice than most people spend sleeping and eating. And when he did sleep the guitar slept with him.

Also, with or without LSD, Jimi Hendrix was a bad motherfucker. He would have risen to the top no matter what.
posted by wabbittwax at 5:46 AM on May 7, 2013


It's pretty amazing to think that at the time of his death, Jimi Hendrix had been playing the guitar for only 12 years.

But how many hours did he play every day? Was it 8 or more? Because 12 * 365 * 8 gives him about 35,000 hours of playing time between 15 and 27. That's a lot of playing. And at that rate, he could have passed 10,000 hours while he was still just a teenager.
posted by pracowity at 5:47 AM on May 7, 2013


Now, as for this:

but dead at 27 choked on your own vomit isn't much of an advertisement for it.

I don't think Hendrix was especially interested in being an *advertisement* for anything, and I don't think that suggesting a positive link between psychedelic drugs and musical development is an advertisement for dying at 27 by choking on vomit.

And anyway, this whole point of yours is flat out wrong from the get-go: Hendrix's death had nothing to do with the drug we're discussing here (LSD) anyway. He was on barbiturates when he died. He OD'd on downers, and he was reportedly depressed and unhappy. So even talking about LSD in relation to his death is inaccurate and misguided. Read about it.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:55 AM on May 7, 2013 [7 favorites]


Before the world knew his name

Maybe that was because he went by the name Jimmy James until the summer of 1966 when he split from his band The Blue Flames and headed to Europe where he was "discovered".
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:03 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have always been fascinated by the journeyman years of the greats. Jaco Pastorius played bass for Lou Rawls, circa 1970, for example - not a pairing I would have imagined.

Really check out "Travelling To California", it's killing.
posted by thelonius at 6:11 AM on May 7, 2013


Really enjoyed the Jimmy James performance. I'm a big "Spirit" fan and enjoyed watching Randy California do Hendrix covers at a number of live performances before his sad demise. Here's an interview with California about his association with Hendrix. California covers "Hey Joe" with a short interview covering similar ground.
posted by CincyBlues at 6:14 AM on May 7, 2013


Maybe that was because he went by the name Jimmy James until the summer of 1966 when he split from his band The Blue Flames and headed to Europe where he was "discovered".

Yeah, thanks, 10th Regiment, but, well, Jimmy James wasn't exactly a name that *the world* knew, is what I'm saying, y'see. Y'see?

But I'm sending that comment along to the Department of Disingenuous Litteralness, where it will remain on file! :)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:15 AM on May 7, 2013


Oh, I know what you are saying.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 6:40 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


He OD'd on downers

Pat O'Day tells a different story about Jimi's drug use and death. Granted, he's a legendary promoter and was a friend of Jimi's, so there may be some revisionist history going on. In any case, it's a real treat to listen to him tell stories.
posted by Balonious Assault at 6:48 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


Man, I'm not into the blues.

They make me sad.
posted by noaccident at 6:49 AM on May 7, 2013


I just found out that People, Hell and Angels exists and is on Spotify. Down the rabbit hole we go...
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:05 AM on May 7, 2013


People, Hell and Angels is one of the best things they've pulled out of the vaults in a long time.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:25 AM on May 7, 2013


Just jumping in on the whole "12 years" conversation - remember that Jimi was in the army, so presumably that cut in to his practice time quite a bit. These recordings, F@M, are really cool to listen to - I've always enjoyed Jimi's blues playing more than his rock playing. They reveal a lot about how natural Jimi's playing was. Also, I wonder what kind of amps he was using - presumably he wasn't lugging Marshall stacks around on the chitlin' circuit (if they were even available at that point). Whatever it is, it sounds LOUD - you can hear the beginnings of his fascination with feedback.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:34 AM on May 7, 2013


remember that Jimi was in the army

So outside of basic training, he'd have had a lot of down time, particularly after his injury in jump school.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 7:38 AM on May 7, 2013


thanks for clarifying.
posted by fingers_of_fire at 7:39 AM on May 7, 2013


Also, I wonder what kind of amps he was using

Probably Fender amps, which he continued to use in the studio. Chas Chandler relates Jimi's concerns before going to the UK were he wanted to meet Clapton and Beck, and was concerned about getting Fender amps.

As far as the practice thing goes, Ernie Isley (Isley Brothers) tells of the time when Jimi lived with the brothers at their home while in the band in 1964. Not only would he carry his guitar around constantly, he would fall asleep playing guitar, and would be playing before his feet hit the floor in the morning.
posted by Enron Hubbard at 7:51 AM on May 7, 2013


RE, the Buddy and Stacy clip, here's a previously.

Lagniappe:

My Diary by Rosa Lee Brooks, with Jimi Hendrix (guitar) and Arthur Lee (composer, production, bg vocals, maybe 2nd guitar, recorded between February - April 1965.

Possibly the earliest collaboration between Lee and Hendrix, but not the earliest studio recording of Hendix.

That might be this:

Testify, pts I & II, recorded June 1964.

A completely crazy double single with references to Ray Charles, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Jackie Wilson, and obliquely, the Beatles.

Recognizable Hendrixia throughout.

Not to be confused with this very different, less crazy Isleys track called Testfy, recorded somewhat later.

 
posted by Herodios at 7:56 AM on May 7, 2013


I've always been amazed that Jimi has had such a long-lasting legacy as a rock and roll god, considering he only ever played three songs.


According to the radio, that is.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:23 AM on May 7, 2013 [1 favorite]


considering he only ever played three songs

Well, that is more than Led Zeppelin, and those guys' song gets all sorts of air time on "Classic Rock" stations.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:33 AM on May 7, 2013


Also, 'Get Out My Life Woman.'
posted by box at 10:21 AM on May 7, 2013


But how many hours did he play every day? Was it 8 or more? Because 12 * 365 * 8 gives him about 35,000 hours of playing time between 15 and 27. That's a lot of playing.

According to Lou Reed, he was always playing on stage. I don't think he means this litterally of course, but it just confirms he got a lot of practice anyway.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 10:39 AM on May 7, 2013


Worth mentioning that at this same time Hendrix was playing and recording on some raucous Isley Brothers tracks
posted by elr at 12:18 PM on May 7, 2013


Oh that Jimmy James track is fantastic. Pure Buddy Guy eh? Buddy used to do this thing in shows where he would imitate all kinds of other blues guitarists, but he saved special relish for playing like this and letting everyone know that he taught Jimi how to do that. On this track you have to give Buddy Guy props, and Jimi, well, Jimi eats his teachers!
posted by salishsea at 12:20 AM on May 8, 2013


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