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How well do you know Hendrix?

10 (or so) things you might not know about Jimi


Jimi Hendrix was nothing if not an enigma. During the years since his death in 1970, facts, rumors and questions have emerged over nearly aspect of his life, from his abbreviated Army service to his sexual preferences to the reason he was kicked out of high school.

Some aspects of Hendrix's short but eventful life are well known. Others, not so much. Here are some of the things you might not know.

The temporary Woodstock band

© Henry Diltz, courtesy of Rhino Entertainment

You've probably seen or heard at least part of Hendrix's performance at Woodstock in 1969. What you might not know about that performance is that Hendrix had to put together a temporary band, since The Jimi Hendrix Experience had disbanded. The resulting group, named Gypsy Suns and Rainbows, featured Hendrix's first and only use of a second guitarist, Larry Lee, with whom Hendrix had performed very early in his career. The makeshift band logged a total of two performances before breaking up.

Follow that cab!

Jimi Hendrix
Photo by Central Press/Getty Images

Hendrix seemed to be pleased with the recording of Side 1 of Axis: Bold as Love, especially the mix of "If 6 Was 9." In fact, he hoped to keep the master tapes safe by taking them home with him at the end of the recording session. But then he left them in a taxi that he took to a party after leaving the studio, and they disappeared. What finally appeared on the album was remixed the next day, all except "If 6 Was 9" which was salvaged from a backup recording of the original session that bassist Noel Redding had made.

Electric what?

Jimi Hendrix - Electric Ladyland
Polydor Records

Did you know:

  • ... that Hendrix wanted photographer Linda Eastman (who would soon become Linda McCartney) to shoot a picture of the band for the cover of Electric Ladyland? (It didn't happen. The label had other ideas.)
  • ... that the label's idea -- nude women on the cover -- was ultimately replaced with an image of Hendrix because of the controversy provoked by the naked ladies? (Hendrix didn't like the idea either, because it had no connection to his Electric Lady Studio, which had inspired the album title.)
  • ... that if Hendrix hadn't caught a studio engineer's error on the label of the master tape, the album would have been titled Electric Landlady?

All that jazz

Miles Davis
Photo by Express Newspapers/Getty Images

You might know, or have guessed, that Hendrix was planning his next album after the release of Electric Ladyland. What you may not know is that he was going to record it with jazz trumpeter Miles Davis, whose work was so strongly influenced by Hendrix that he had ditched traditional jazz for the jazz-rock fusion he introduced on his 1970 album, Bitches Brew. The two had agreed to the terms of their collaboration, but Hendrix died before they began work on it.

Orange jumpsuit or green uniform?

Jimi Hendrix
Photo by Central Press/Getty Images

You probably know that Hendrix briefly served in the Army in the early '60s. What you may not know is that the reason he enlisted was that a judge gave him a choice between two years in prison or two years of military service, when he was caught stealing cars. Mercifully (for both him and the Army) he was honorably discharged after just a year. The Army cited behavior problems and various rules infractions. Hendrix claimed it was a medical discharge, based on an ankle injury sustained in a parachute jump.

Just a player in the band

Jimi Hendrix
Photo by Hulton Archive / Getty Images

No doubt you know that Hendrix's success as a performer came after he left the Army, but not immediately after. Between the time he returned to civilian life and the time he signed his first major recording deal with The Jimi Hendrix Experience, he played sessions and live performances with artists like Little Richard, Ike & Tina Turner, and the Isley Brothers, among others.

I'll have what he's having

Jimi Hendrix
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

It's well known that Hendrix was a major influence on rock guitarists from then until now. What you may not know is that he not only influenced their music, he influenced what they used to play it. His contemporaries noticed that he used Sunn amplifiers with his Fender Stratocaster guitar. They also noticed when the amps couldn't handle Hendrix's strenuous style and kept blowing out. Accordingly, when Hendrix switched to a Marshall amp, guess which one became the new favorite of most every other rock guitarist of the day.

The name game

Jimi Hendrix
Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

He was born Johnny Allen Hendrix. When he was four years old, his parents changed his name to James Marshall Hendrix. When he first started performing, his stage name was, at various times, Maurice James or Jimmy James. He eventually became Jimi Hendrix on the advice of his manager, Chas Chandler (who was The Animals' bassist at the time he "discovered" Hendrix.) Chandler thought that Jimi would be more memorable than Jimmy. No matter what Hendrix called himself, his family and close friends always called him Buster.

Irish Indian

Hendrix was part American Indian, part Irish, part African American. His great grandmother, a full-blooded Cherokee, married an Irishman. Their daughter (Hendrix's grandmother) married the son of a black slave.

Better late than never?

Jimi Hendrix
Photo by Express/Express/Getty Images

You might know that Hendrix never finished high school, but do you know why? He was expelled. The principal said it was because of poor attendance and lousy grades. Hendrix maintained that it was because he was holding hands with his girlfriend, who was white. More than 20 years after his death, the school put a bust of him in the school library and awarded him an honorary diploma.

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