Jimi Hendrix: Rock 'n' Roll Legend
The extraordinary performances, recording, and lyrics of
James Marshall Hendrix have made him impossible to forget. This
American rock music guitarist made a legendary mark not only in
the history of rock 'n' roll but also on the pop culture as a
whole (Ross 32). With unique techniques never seen before and
blatant sex-related performances on stage, he became one of the
most influential music figures of the 60s (Kamin).
Hendrix was not born into stardom nor was it given to him by
any means. He strived all throughout his life to be the very
best. Johnny Allen Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942 in
Seattle, Washington to Al and Lucille Hendrix, and not until four
years later did his father change his son's name to James
Marshall Hendrix. He certainly did not lead an easy life with
his sporadic schooling and his parents' divorce in 1958. Added
to the building pressures, his mother died just one year later
("Jimi", Rolling 42).
Hendrix purchased his first guitar in 1958, probably to
relieve tensions as it was the same year his parents divorced.
It was a used acoustic for which he paid only five dollars. At
the age of seventeen with only one year's playing experience, he
joined his first band, the Rocking Kings. It may be hard to
imagine because of his image, but Hendrix was also in the Army
for a brief period of time. He was soon discharged as a result
of "medical unsuitability" after a parachuting accident in which
he landed on his ankle ("Jimi", Rolling 42). He ventured back to
his hometown of Seattle and began playing with Bobby Taylor and
the Vancouvers (Wolters, "Pre-Experience").
He seized the opportunity to go on the road after being
discovered by Little Richard in 1963 but soon regretted the
decision because he felt the tour was degrading, and he was
constrained as being a sideman to Richard. His guitar was used
as little more than a background rhythm instrument, but Hendrix
developed his playing talent and soon discovered how to gain
control and take lead of the music. Unfortunately, he never was
able to get Richard to realize his talents, so he abandoned
Richard's tour in St. Louis (Wolters, "Pre-Experience").
After aimlessly wandering for awhile, Hendrix found himself
in Atlanta and once again teamed up with Little Richard. The
tour brought them to Los Angeles where he then went in his own
direction. He hooked up with Richard for a third time during the
summer of 1964 to record an album in which he again felt confined
as being only a backup to Little Richard (Wolters,
"Pre-Experience").
Hendrix later joined the budding musician Arthur Lee, but
the partnership did not last long as he once again set out in
search of his own identity (Wolters, "Pre-Experience"). He
embarked as a traveling musician for various tours backing such
artists as Ike and Tina Turner, Muddy Waters, Elmore James, B.B.
King, Chuck Berry, King Curtis, Solomon Burke, Chuck Jackson,
Jackie Wilson, and several others (Wolters, "Hendrix").
On his next endeavor, he teamed up with saxophonist Lonnie
Youngblood. The pair was short-lived as Hendrix soon split, and
his adventurous spirit ended him up in New York where he rented a
small, cheap apartment and drifted from job to dead-end job
(Wolters, "Pre-Experience").
The spring of 1964 brought better luck to Hendrix. Ronnie
Isley of the Isley Brothers hired him on the spot as lead
guitarist after hearing him play for only a short amount of time.
He lived with the group for a few months, and they actually
purchased him his first Fender guitar ("Jimi, Rolling 44). The
band toured in 1964 and also released some albums, but Hendrix
was still dissatisfied with his situation. He grew tired of the
group and left the Isleys to join Curtis Knight and the Squires
(Wolters, "Pre-Experience").
Not long had the group been playing in the New Jersey area
when Keith Richard, guitarist for the Rolling Stones, caught a
glimpse of the stand-out guitarist and wanted to help the young,
developing musician. He brought Hendrix to the attention of
important music industry people ("Jimi", Facts 425). On October
15, 1965, Hendrix signed his first recording contract with Ed
Chalpin and PPX Productions in which he was paid a single dollar
and promised one percent royalty on all future record sales
(Wolters, "Pre-Experience").
Surprisingly, he only released five albums while he was
alive. They include, in order, Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold
As Love, Electric Ladyland, Band of Gypsys, and Cry of Love
(Wolters, "Discography").
He formed his dynamic rock band on October 12, 1966 and
called it the Jimi Hendrix Experience, a name