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Jimmy Hendrix

Essay by   •  January 4, 2011  •  Research Paper  •  10,553 Words (43 Pages)  •  2,629 Views

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Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Washington, USA. Named Johnny Allen Hendrix at birth by his mother, Lucille Hendrix nÐ"©e Jeter[10] His mother, having difficulties, had put him in the care of a couple in California. On his release from the army his father, James Albert "Al" Hendrix, retrieved him and re-named him James Marshall Hendrix in memory of his deceased brother, Leon Marshall Hendrix.[11][12] He was known as "Buster" to friends and family, from birth.[13] Shortly after this Al reunited with Lucille. Hendrix had two brothers, Leon and Joseph, and two sisters, Kathy and Pamela. Joseph was born with physical difficulties and at the age of three was given up to state care. His two sisters were both given up at a relatively early age, for care and later adoption, Kathy was born blind and Pamela had some lesser physical difficulties. Al found it hard to gain steady employment after the Second World War, and the family experienced financial hardship. Hendrix's parents divorced when he was nine years old, and his mother died in 1958. On occasion, he was sent to live with his grandmother in Vancouver, Washington because of his unstable household, and his brother Leon was put into temporary welfare care for a period[14]. Hendrix grew up as a shy and sensitive boy, deeply affected by the conditions of poverty and neglect that he was raised in, and by the troubling family events of his childhood. In a relatively unusual experience for African Americans of his era, Hendrix' high school had a relatively equitable ethnic mix of African, European (including Jews) and Asian (Japanese, Philipino and Chinese) Americans.[15] Most American inner cities of the 1950s were heavily segregated by race, as was Seattle, so for most of his upbringing he lived in the predominantly African American Central District along with white, Asian and Native American residents.[16]

At age 15, around the time his mother died, he acquired his first acoustic guitar for $5 from an acquaintance of his father. This guitar would replace both the broomstick he would strum in imitation and the one-stringed ukulele his father had found while cleaning out a garage, on which Jimi reportedly managed to play several tunes.[17][18] He learned by practicing almost constantly, watching others play, through tips from more experienced players and listening to records. In the summer of 1959, his father, Al Hendrix, bought Jimi a white Supro Ozark, his first electric guitar, but without an amplifier. That same year his only failing grade in school was an F in music class. According to fellow Seattle bandmates, he learned most of his acrobatic stage movesвЂ"a major part of the blues/R&B traditionвЂ"including playing with his teeth and behind his back, from a local youth, Raleigh "Butch" Snipes,[19] guitarist with local band The Sharps, and also performed the "duck walk" of Chuck Berry. He played in a couple of local bands, occasionally playing outlying gigs in Washington state and at least once over the border in Vancouver, British Columbia.[20]

Hendrix was particularly fond of Elvis Presley, whom he saw perform in Seattle, in 1957.[21] Leon Hendrix claims in an early interview that Little Richard appeared in his Central District neighborhood and shook hands with his brother, Jimi Hendrix, although unattested elsewhere and vehemently denied by his father.[22] Hendrix's early exposure to Blues music came from listening to records by Muddy Waters and B.B. King that his father owned.[23] Another impressionable image came from the 1954 western Johnny Guitar, in which the hero carries no gun but instead wears a guitar slung behind his back.

His first gig was with an unnamed band in the basement of a synagogue. After too much wild playing and showing off, he was fired between sets. The first formal band he played in was The Velvetones who performed regularly at the Yesler Terrace Neighborhood House without pay. His flashy style and left-handed playing of a right-handed guitar already made him a standout. He later joined the Rocking Kings who played professionally at such venues as the Birdland. When his guitar was stolen (after he left it backstage overnight), Al bought him a white Silvertone Danelectro which he painted red and emblazoned with the words "Betty Jean" (Morgan), the name of his high school girlfriend.

Hendrix had completed middle school with little trouble but didn't graduate from Garfield High School, although he would later be awarded an honorary diploma, and in the 1990s, a bust of Hendrix was placed in the school library. After he became famous in the late 1960s, Hendrix told reporters that he had been expelled from Garfield by racist faculty for holding hands with a white girlfriend in study hall. However, Principal Frank Hanawalt says that it was simply due to poor grades and attendance problems.[24]

In the Army

Hendrix got into trouble with the law twice for riding in a stolen car. He was given a choice between spending two years in prison or joining the army. Hendrix chose the latter and enlisted on May 31, 1961. After completing boot camp, he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky. His commanding officers and fellow soldiers considered him to be a sub-par soldier: he slept while on duty, had little regard for regulations, required constant supervision, and showed no skill as a marksman. For these reasons, his commanding officers submitted a request that Hendrix be discharged from the military after he had served only one year. Hendrix did not object when the opportunity arose to do so.[25] Hendrix would later tell reporters that he received a medical discharge after breaking his ankle during his 26th parachute jump. The 2005 biography Room Full of Mirrors by Charles Cross claims that Hendrix faked being homosexualвЂ"claiming to have fallen in love with a fellow soldierвЂ"in order to be discharged, but has never produced any sound evidence to support this contention.

At the post recreation center, he met fellow soldier and bass player Billy Cox, and forged a loyal friendship that would serve Hendrix well during the last year of his life. The two would often play with other musicians at venues both on and off the post as a loosely organized band named The King Kasuals.[26]

As a celebrity in the UK, Hendrix only mentioned his military service in three published interviews, one in 1967 for the film See My Music Talking, (much later released under the title Experience) which was intended for TV to promote his recently released Axis: Bold As Love LP, in which he spoke very briefly of his first parachuting experience: "...once you get out there everything

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