I Was There (A Peek Into History)


The other day as I put one of the US Postal Service’s Jimi Hendrix stamps on a letter, I paused for moment to consider that he’s been gone now for almost 44 years.  A lifetime.  Yet not a week goes by that I don’t hear some musical mention of him, be it one of his recordings, a performance by a tribute band, or just a lick from a rock or jazz guitarist (or even a ukulele player!) in which his influence is evident.

I only heard Hendrix live and in person once, but I’m really glad I got in at least that one show.  It was November 16, 1968, at Boston Garden.  I was a sophomore at Antioch College in Ohio, and a friend asked for company on a road trip to visit a girlfriend who lived in Boston.  So off we went in a Volkswagen beetle that was ancient even then, across the New York and Massachusetts Turnpikes (with stops at numerous Howard Johnsons, of course), arriving to find that the girlfriend had scored some Hendrix tickets for a seating area that had just been opened up in the sold-out venue.  Seats on stage, on a riser, right behind the performers!  Even better than front row!

Opening for the Jimi Hendrix Experience were The McCoys (still playing their 1965 it “Hang On Sloopy,” and featuring guitarist Rick Zehringer, who would later change his last name to Deringer and record the venerable “Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo”) and Cat Mother & The All-Night Newsboys (playing “roots” music before it had a name).  I don’t remember much about either band’s performance, but I DO remember Jimi.

Hendrix’s set was only about an hour long, but included “Fire,” “Spanish Castle Magic,” Voodoo Chile,” “Red House,” “Foxy Lady” and “Purple Haze.”  Back then Hendrix’s guitar chops just floored me.  They still do.

If you happen to have a copy of “Are You Experienced?” (whether vinyl or CD, the former being preferable) you haven’t played for a while, take it out, put in on one of those now-passe huge stereo sets, and turn it up LOUD.  See if you aren’t still floored, too.