My Jimi Hendrix Experience

In the Summer of 1970, my partner Ken Mathieu and I were just about to sign a recording, publishing and management contract with the Robert Stigwood Organisation, managers of Eric Clapton, the Bee Gees, John Mayall, the Staples Singers and a couple of other class acts. One of RSO’s other new artists was Elliott Randall, guitar player extraordinaire.

At the time, Elliott was in the process of recording his album for Polydor titled “Randall’s Island”. One evening after a meeting with Rik Gunnell, president of the Stigwood Organisation here in the states, his assistant Eddie Choran invited Ken and I to go down to the studio to watch Elliott work on a track for his album.  The album was being recorded at Electric Lady Studios in lower Manhattan.

For those of you who may not know, Electric Lady was Jimi Hendrix’s studio. Here’s a brief description of its origins from the Electric Lady Studios website… 

In 1968, Jimi Hendrix and his manager Michael Jeffery had invested jointly in the purchase of the Generation Club in Greenwich Village, but - their initial plans to re-open the club were abandoned when the local mafia added pressure for fees to compete in the neighborhood. It was an unwelcome association, and since commercial studio fees for Electric Ladyland sessions were so lofty, the pair instead decided to convert the space to a highly specialized and custom-built recording facility. 

Designed specifically for Hendrix, the studio had round windows and a machine capable of generating ambient lighting in colors to fit any mood. It was a relaxing atmosphere, and the studio provided a creative space for Jimi to draft and perfect his songs - while engineer Eddie Kramer upheld the studio’s unparalleled professionalism in the background. The opening party was held on August 26, 1970. 

Before boarding a flight for London to perform at the Isle of Wight, Hendrix created his last ever studio recording at his Electric Lady - a cool and tranquil instrumental known only as "Slow Blues". 

That evening, a warm summer night, Eddie, Ken and I drove from Stigwood’s offices at 1700 Broadway to the studio at 52 West 8th Street. We walked in the entrance and past a barber’s chair bolted to the floor in the reception area. Someone said it was a favorite chair of Jimi’s. As we entered the studio control room, Elliott was playing in the studio on the other side of the control room glass and Eddie Kramer was behind the console both engineering and co-producing the album.  We sat down and were listening to Elliott play a smooth, fuzz lead, I thought very much in the style of Hendrix, when Jimi himself walked into the control room and sat down next to us.  I remember being struck by how very skinny his body was and how very large his head seemed to be.  He appeared both smaller than I imagined and bigger than I imagined at the same time.  As I remember, he sat there listening for about fifteen minutes.

Jimi died in London just a short time later on September 18th, 1970 at the age of twenty-seven.  But today is his birthday and it’s his life and his music that I’m remembering. Happy Birthday, Jimi...and thanks for the “experience”.

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