In the spring of 1968, a fourteen boy was spending two nights away from home attending a regional science fair at a minor state college. Having never been on a college campus, much less stayed overnight on one the young man was filled with wonder.
In the two hours he was allowed free time, he explored the campus and early on found the school book store which sold a lot more than books. In the boy’s hometown of 1,400 people there were only two places to buy records: the ‘five and dime’ that stocked only 45’s and the IGA grocery store that had a few bins of albums.
Prior to the campus visit the young man had been a top 40 radio listener and leaned toward artists like the Beatles (who he never saw together in concert), Paul Revere and the Raiders (his first rock concert in March ’67 with a friend and his older sister) and Motown acts like Temptations and The Supremes. Little did he know the March ’68 visit to a college was going to result in a sharp left turn in his music taste.
Thumbing through the albums in the Jacksonville State book store the boy saw names he did not recognize like early albums by Jethro Tull and Pink Floyd when they were completely obscure. The fourteen year old spent almost an hour thumbing through the LP’s taking time to read the liner notes. Ultimately it was cover art that drew him in to buy two albums: “Heavy” by Iron Butterfly and “Are You Experienced” by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He had no idea the effect these records would have on him, especially the Hendrix album.
Once home he listened to both albums over and over and over on his mother’s portable hi-fi. While the Iron Butterfly LP became a favorite and led him to their “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” album that would be released a few months later, it was Jimi Hendrix’s music that completely captured his attention. The album he purchased, although released the year before, was just beginning to catch on in th eU.S. and had already been followed by the release of a second album. And a third one was soon to follow. He bought both instantly when the came into the IGA.
While he had no idea about the drugs that accompanied the psychedelic scene, the young man loved the look, long hair and clothes of the culture and adopted it. It helped him to begin to ‘find himself’. Years later he found out at a high school reunion that ‘in the day’ he had been known as the “original hippie of Clay Country, Alabama”. He liked hearing that as it suited his sense being uniquely original.
Just in case you have not figured out who that young man was, it was ME!
I never saw Jimi Hendrix live. About three months before Woodstock he played once in Alabama on May 7th, 1969 in Tuscaloosa at the University of Alabama. But that was before I got a driver’s license later in the summer and could not find a way to get there.
Last night I got to enjoy about the closest thing to Jimi live I will likely ever get to see: “The 2012 Experience Hendrix Tour”. The show featured around 25 musicians from the famous to the semi-famous who spent over three hours taking turns playing Hendrix tunes. Billy Cox from one of Jimi’s bands was there. So was Robbie Krieger of the Doors and Brad Whitford from Aerosmith. Others on stage were Buddy Guy, Cesar Rosas and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos, Jonny Lang, Mato Nanji of Indigenous , Eric Johnson, Dwezil Zappa, Bootsy Collins, Chris Layton, Eric Gales, the Slide Brothers and more.
Near the end of the show it was one of the youngest guitarists present that seemed most to be filled with the musical spirit of Jimi Hendrix. Kenny Wayne Sheppard’s blazing “Voodoo Child” rendition is a performance I will never forget. When I closed my eyes it was like Jimi was on stage.
For any Hendrix fan the “Experience Hendrix Tour” is a must see if it comes to your town. How someone got so many guitar players on one tour I will never know, but will always be grateful he or she did.
Had he lived, this November James Marshal Hendrix would have turned 70. R.I.P.
Hey hey, my my. Rock and roll can never die.