Unarguably the greatest guitarist and blues magician of all time, Jimi Hendrix arrived in London on 22nd September 1966 after joining the 101st Airborne Division of the US army to avoid a jail sentence for car theft but hated the army immediately. A regimental report read: “Individual is unable to conform to military rules and regulations.”
Hendrix soon managed to move to New York where he was immediately noticed for his exceptional guitar skills, enough to fly him to London where the hunger for blues was inexplicably greater than in America. Here there were a lot of white guys listening to blues from America and wanting to sound like their heroes.” One of them was Eric Clapton of Cream, who invited Hendrix to sit in on a performance at Regent Street Polytechnic. And this signed the beginning of an exceptional iconic figure in the world’s music, forging a new soundscape, stretching the blues to some outer limit of expression, ethereal but fearsome, lyrical but dangerous, sublime but ruthless. By the time he left London in June 1967, he was one of the biggest acts in Britain, with a string of hit singles, a debut album that had made number two in the charts behind him, and a reputation for wild virtuoso live performances.
FOLLOWING HENDRIX’S TRACES IN LONDON
THE SCOTCH OF ST JAMES
Here is where a then unknown Jimi Hendrix first performed on the night of his arrival in England on 24 September 1966, when he joined the house band for an impromptu session on stage. It was on this night that Hendrix met Kathy Etchingham who became his girlfriend.
Beatles drummer Ringo Starr sub-let 34 Montagu Square to Hendrix from December 1966 until March 1967. It became the location where he composed 'The Wind Cries Mary', splashed some paint around during an acid trip and was then evicted. Discover more on our Bloomsbury and Knight Templar Tour.
UNIVERSITY OF WESTMINSTER
On October 1 1966, the now University of Westminster played host to Eric Clapton’s band Cream and a then unknown Jimi Hendrix. In 'Clapton: The Autobiography', Eric recalls: 'The song Jimi wanted to play was by Howlin’ Wolf, entitled Killing Floor. I thought it was incredible that he would know how to play this, as it was a tough one to get right. Of course Jimi played it exactly like it ought to be played, and he totally blew me away.'
Ronnie Scott’s was the site of Jimi Hendrix’s last ever public appearance on September 16 1970. 'Hendrix made his entrance during the second set. There was a crack in the air… the typical London jazz crowd tried to show indifference as he took the stage, but a ripple of applause greeted the greatest guitar player in the world,' noted Eric Burdon in his autobiography.
The Bag O’Nails club was the setting for Jimi Hendrix’s official London debut. Witnessed by a host of musical greats including Pete Townshend (The Who), Eric Clapton (Cream) and Jeff Beck, Hendrix created showmanship, cementing his tradition of playing guitar with his teeth.
From Mayfair, to Bloomsbury, to Notting Hill Hendrix has left a sign all over London. Join our KNIGHTS TEMPLAR TOUR to discover more.