Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fans still fascinated by Hendrix

As the fourth decade since his death approaches,
fans continue to appreciate the work of rock icon Jimi


Although Jimi Hendrix has been dead nearly 40 years, fans still snap-up his records and compact discs even as the rock idol's estate issues new product.

Millions consider Hendrix to be the greatest guitarist ever.

The most recent addition to the Hendrix discography came on April 17 when "Live at Clark University" was released as a 33 rpm record album exclusively for National Record Store Day.

Fans snapped up the disc which was available only at independent record stores, although copies soon began appearing on eBay, the giant on-line auction house.

Previously circulated as an unauthorized "bootleg," the set was taped March 15, 1968 during the second of two shows at Atwood Hall at the school located in Worchester, Mass.

About 600 students packed the student auditorium to hear Hendrix play "Fire," "Red House," "Wild Thing" and other staples. Tickets cost $3, $3.50 and $4.

The shows were professionally recorded, but the first concert was marred by technical problems, Hendrix explained in an interview.

The long-player is the 12th release from Dagger Records (named after the song "Dolly Dagger"), a private issue label established by the Hendrix family to meet the demands of the musician's most ardent fans.

Janie Hendrix, Eddie Kramer and John McDermott produced the recording for Experience Hendrix.

Ms. Hendrix heads that business and Authentic Hendrix to see that the music of her brother is "kept alive through the preservation of his legacy."

"He created his music so we wouldn't have to struggle. Our gift to him is to keep it alive," she said in a book she put together with McDermott called "Jimi Hendrix: An Illustrated Experience."

Surprisingly, the new LP follows the release in March of "Valleys of Neptune," a new CD containing a dozen previously unreleased studio recordings. The 60-minute disc includes 10 tracks recorded between February and May, 1969 as Hendrix worked on a follow-up to the "Electric Ladyland" double album from 1968.

Although some of the songs are later takes of familiar tunes, a few others are surfacing for the first time, notably "Crying Blue Rain" which closes the album.

I've been a fan of Hendrix ever since I heard "Purple Haze" on the radio in the summer of 1967. All his legitimate albums on Reprise Records found their way into my collection as did many "unofficial" posthumous releases on labels such as Shout, Saga, Thunderbird, Trip, Phoenix and Springboard.

Just recently I picked-up an out-of-print four-CD Hendrix set called "Stages." The box includes live shows from Stockholm, Paris, San Diego and Atlanta, showing how Hendrix evolved from 1967 through 1970.

Hendrix broke nationally after his stunning set at the Monterey International Pop Festival on Sunday, June 18, 1967 was witnessed by an estimated 90,000 people. Hendrix famously set fire to his guitar at the end of his program.

Born on Nov. 27, 1942 Hendrix played with Joey Dee & The Starlighters, the Isley Brothers, Little Richard and his own Jimmy James and the Blue Flames.

He from the U. S. moved to England at the suggestion of manager Chas Chandler where he formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell.

Their magnificent first album "Are You Experienced?" was released in March, 1967.

The Experience made their debut Michigan stop in Ann Arbor, not at the University of Michigan, but at the Fifth Dimension Club. Shows took place at 7 and 10 p. m. on Monday, Aug. 15, 1967.

Hendrix played his white Gibson Flying V electric guitar at the club.

Also on the bill at the venue, located at 216 West Huron St., were the Thyme and the Hideaways.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience made four more trips to Michigan, all to Detroit. They performed shows at the Masonic Temple Auditorium on Feb.23 and May 24, 1968 and at Cobo Arena on Nov. 30, 1968 and May 2, 1969.

A rock group produced by Hendrix, Cat Mother and the All Night News Boys, famous for a medley of oldies called "Good Old Rock 'N Roll," opened the Nov. 30 show.

Marquette's Gordon MacDonald doesn't remember the warm-up band, but was impressed with Hendrix and the musical equipment the Experience used on stage.

MacDonald attended the concert with fellow musician Jon Labby, after getting tickets from Mike McKelvey. McKelvey couldn't go because his band Walrus was booked to play in Ann Arbor that night.

"The stage was set with three Marshall double stacks on the left, one of which had ripped speaker cloth," which MacDonald assumed happened when it was rammed by Hendrix's guitars in previous shows.

"He had a guy constantly tuning his guitars. Noel (Redding) played a Fender bass and had two Sunn 2000 heads with five dual 15-inch cabinets on his right side and three more on Hendrix's side. Mitch (Mitchell) had his double bass drum, light wood tone drums in the center," MacDonald explained.

MacDonald said that following the concert, "Hendrix apologized for not giving us a top-notch show as he was tired from a double show in Chicago the day before. Jon and I looked at each other and didn't notice Hendrix was slouching. We laughed at each other for having our mouths open as we were in awe of the performance."

Hendrix was the headline attraction at the Woodstock Music Festival in Bethel, New York on Aug. 18, 1969. He played a 16 song set, including his famous rendition of ''The Star Spangled Banner."

Escanaba resident Pete Quinn saw Hendrix perform in Germany at an event called Berlin Super Concert '70. The Experience were the headliners at a indoor festival at the Duetschlandhalle on Sept. 4, 1970.

Hendrix played such concert favorites as "Sunshine of Your Love," "Purple Haze" and "Foxey Lady."

Other acts on the bill included Ten Years after, Procol Harum, Cold Blood, Canned Heat and Cat Mother.

The Berlin performance was the second to last appearance of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Following a concert at Germany's Isle of Fehmarn on Sept. 6, remaining tour dates were cancelled, after both Hendrix and bassist Billy Cox became ill.

After breathing new life into rock music for four years, Hendrix died of a drug overdose in London on Sept. 18, 1970 at the age of 27.

Former Iron Mountain resident Joey Giannunzio recalls seeing the "pre-fame" Hendrix play guitar behind the Isley Brothers.

On Jan. 14, 1964 Hendrix recorded "Testify, Parts 1 & 2" with the Isley Brothers, then toured with the group for about nine months, music historians note.

Giannunzio, lead singer for Joey Gee and the Blue Tones, says he saw Hendrix with the R&B vocal trio at the Upper Peninsula State Fair in Escanaba in August, 1964.

Roy Orbison, who had 19 hit singles, including "Oh, Pretty Woman," was the top act at the fair that year. The Isleys could have opened for Orbison or performed separately, but fair archives for that period no longer exist. Separate verification of a local show by the Isleys has yet to surface.

Publicity about the fair in the Escanaba Daily Press and Gladstone's Delta Reporter doesn't mention the Isleys, but they were far less-known, their "Twist and Shout" hit already two years old at that time.

Giannunzio, working under the name Joe Cooper, went on to a lengthy career as a disc jockey and radio personality in Michigan and Washington, including Seattle, the home town and final resting place of Jimi Hendrix.

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