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The Jimi Hendrix Experience was an English-American rock band that formed in Westminster, London, in October 1966. Composed of singer, songwriter, and guitaristJimi Hendrix, bassist and backing vocalist Noel Redding, and drummer Mitch Mitchell, the band was active until June 1969. During this time they released three successful studio albums. After Redding left the band in mid-1969, Hendrix and Mitchell continued to work together on other projects. The Experience reunited in 1970, with Billy Coxon bass, until Hendrix's death in September. Redding died in 2003, and Mitchell died in November 2008.
Widely recognized as hugely influential in the development of the hard rock and heavy metal music genres during the late-1960s and beyond, the Experience was best known for the skill, style and charisma of their frontman, Hendrix, who has since been called one of the greatest guitarists of all time by various music publications and writers. All three of the band's studio albums, Are You Experienced (1967), Axis: Bold as Love (1967) and Electric Ladyland (1968), were featured in the top 100 of theRolling Stone list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, at positions 15, 82 and 54 respectively. In 1992, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Jimi Hendrix arrived in England in September 1966 and, with his new manager Chas Chandler, formed a backing band with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell. Mitchell was a seasoned London drummer formerly with Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames who brought jazz chops and a lead style[clarification needed] of playing to the band. Hendrix chose Redding because of his attitude towards music and his hairstyle and Redding, who was a guitar player until that time, played bass in the band. The name, "the Jimi Hendrix Experience", was coined by their business manager Mike Jeffery. The first official appearance of "the Jimi Hendrix Experience" (invited by French singer Johnny Hallyday) was at the Novelty in Évreux, France, on October 13, 1966. Six days later the band played their first UK gig at a private showcase inScotch of St James.
Publicity photo of the band in 1968
Though conceived as back-up band for Hendrix, the Experience, as a unit, gained fame and critical acclaim. Following the lead ofCream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was one of the first groups to popularize the "power trio" format, which limited a rock band's line-up to guitar, bass and drums. This smaller format encouraged a more extroverted performance style, often at very high volumes. In the case of the Experience, Hendrix combined lead and rhythm guitar styles and used special effects to modify his guitar sound such as feedback, and later the wah-wah pedal, to an unprecedented degree. Mitchell played hard-hitting jazz-influenced grooves that often served a melodic role as much as they did timekeeping. Redding played deceptively simple bass lines that helped to anchor the band's sound. Visually, they set the trend in psychedelic clothes and, following his band-mates' Bob Dylan 1966-style hairdos, Mitchell got himself a permed copy. On January 11, 1967, the band conquered London when they appeared at The Bag O'Nails nightclub. In attendance that night were John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Brian Epstein, Lulu, the Hollies, Small Faces, Pete Townshend, John Entwistle, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Donovan, Georgie Fame, Denny Laine, Terry Reid, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton, who rarely missed any of Hendrix's London gigs. Townshend admitted, "[Jimi] changed the whole sound of electric guitar and turned the rock world upside down". Clapton agreed: "after Pete Townshend and I went to see him play, I thought that was it, the game was up for all of us, we may as well pack it in." The group came to prominence in the US only after the June 1967Monterey Pop Festival, one of the first major rock music festivals. The band's performance ended with Hendrix famously setting his psychedelically painted Fender Stratocaster on fire. After the festival they were asked to go on tour with the Monkees. They joined the tour on July 8, 1967, in Jacksonville, Florida, the second act on a three-band bill, opened by the Sundowners. Less than two weeks later, and after only a handful of engagements, they left the tour, reportedly frustrated by audience response. The last Hendrix/Monkees concert was performed at Flushing Meadows in Queens, New York – Chas Chandler later said that it was all a publicity stunt.
The cover of the US edition ofAre You Experienced by graphic designer Karl Ferris
With the Experience, Hendrix recorded his five hit singles "Hey Joe", "Purple Haze", "The Wind Cries Mary", "Burning of the Midnight Lamp" and "All Along the Watchtower", and his three most successful albums, Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love and Electric Ladyland. By April 1969, however, the band was beginning to splinter. Hendrix's deteriorating relations with Redding were coming to a head, and Hendrix also felt his musical development was hampered by the trio format. Hendrix had also begun to experiment with depressants and psychedelic drugs. He was prone to mood swings, which created conflicts within the band. The original group held together long enough to fulfill their existing engagements, culminating in the Denver Pop Festival on June 29, 1969. From the stage, Hendrix made the infamous announcement: "This is the last gig we'll be playing together". The original Experience was dissolved.
Hendrix experimented with a larger band line-up known as Gypsy Sun and Rainbows for his Woodstock concert in August 1969, but reverted to the trio format with the Band of Gypsys. But by 1970, Hendrix had disbanded the Band of Gypsys – it has been claimed this was due to the desire of Michael Jeffery (now Hendrix's only manager) to reform the original Experience line-up, but as Trixie Sullivan, Jeffery's assistant, testified, Hendrix did exactly as he felt musically and Jeffery just handled the business side, as usual. Also, according to Gypsys bassist Billy Cox, the all-black power trio was mainly a one-off to help Hendrix fulfill an outstanding obligation to Ed Chaplin by recording a one-off live LP. Jeffery called Redding and Mitchell about reforming the Experience. Both agreed to participate in what would seem to be a great money-maker of a tour: Mitchell and Redding could use the cash, and the tour would also get Hendrix out of the financial problems he was in at the time partly due to the building of Electric Lady Studios. Hendrix was open to have Mitchell rejoin, but reluctant to bring Redding back into the fold.
In early February 1970, it seemed as if the original Experience was reformed. Manager Michael Jeffery even set up an interview with Rolling Stone magazine to announce the return of the group, published on 19 March 1970 in Rolling Stone as "J.H.: The End of a Beginning Maybe" (and reprinted in Guitar Player magazine five years after Hendrix's death). While the interview gave the impression that the old wounds were healed and the future seemingly bright for the Experience, it was far from the truth. Redding was waiting for weeks to hear back about rehearsals for the upcoming tour, and when he finally spoke with Mitchell's girlfriend, he learned that he had been replaced by Billy Cox. Before it started, Hendrix "called this tour The Cry of Love, because that's what it is" in an interview; this is the only mention of that name, prior to the posthumous LP of that name (1971), and the group itself was still referred to in all ads, articles, promos, bookings, introductions, etc. as the "Jimi Hendrix Experience" or just "Jimi Hendrix". So after a break of nearly ten months (during which he only played six dates) the "Jimi Hendrix Experience" hit the road for one last tour. Hendrix felt the band should stay in America and record for the next LP, while Mike Jeffery wanted a tour of Europe. The European tour was a bad decision from the start. Hendrix had a cold, was not getting rest, and was still affected by the change of climate. His disdain for the management and his financial situation accumulated stress, and by the European leg it was evident Hendrix was unhappy and unfit to tour. Mitchell reported that Hendrix was not even doing sound checks before the performances.
Noel Redding was found dead in his home in Ireland on May 11, 2003. Will Scally produced and directed the DVD The Redding Experience (MNVDISCS), on which Redding discusses the history of the band in detail.
While touring in the US, Mitch Mitchell was found dead on November 12, 2008 in his room at the Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon. He was the last surviving member of the original Jimi Hendrix Experience, while Billy Cox remains the only surviving additional member.
- Jimi Hendrix – lead vocals, guitar (1966–1970; died 1970)
- Mitch Mitchell – drums (1966–1970; died 2008)
- Noel Redding – bass guitar, backing vocals (1966–1969; died 2003)
- Billy Cox – bass guitar, backing vocals (1969–1970)