James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix was born Johnny Allen Hendrix on November 27, 1942. Although his mainstream career spanned only four years, he is widely regarded as one of the most influential electric guitarists in the history of popular music, and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century. Born in Seattle, Washington, Hendrix began playing guitar at the age of 15. In 1961, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was granted an honorable discharge the following year. Soon afterward, he moved to Clarksville, Tennessee, and began playing gigs on the chitlin’ circuit, earning a place in the Isley Brothers’ backing band and later with Little Richard, with whom he continued to work through mid-1965. He then played with Curtis Knight and the Squires before moving to England in late 1966 after being discovered by Linda Keith, who in turn convinced bassist Chas Chandler of the Animals in becoming his first manager. Within months, Hendrix had earned three U.K. top ten hits with the Jimi Hendrix Experience: “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze,” and “The Wind Cries Mary.” He achieved fame in the U.S. after his performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, and in 1968 with his third and final studio album, Electric Ladyland. Reaching number one in the U.S., it was Hendrix’s most commercially successful release and his first and only number one album. Then the world’s highest-paid performer, he headlined the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970 before his accidental death from barbiturate-related asphyxia on September 18, 1970, at the age of 27.
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Al Hendrix met Lucille Jeter in 1941 at a dance in Seattle, Washington and they married on March 31, 1942. Johnny Allen Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942 and was the first of Lucille's five children. In 1946, Johnny's parents changed his name to James Marshall Hendrix, in honor of Al and his late brother Leon Marshall
In mid-1958, at age 15, Hendrix acquired his first acoustic guitar for $5. He earnestly applied himself, playing the instrument for several hours daily, listening to blues artists such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howlin' Wolf, and Robert Johnson. The first tune he learned how to play was the theme from Peter Gunn
Before Jimi was 19 years old, police had twice caught him riding in stolen cars. When given a choice between prison time or joining the Army, he chose the latter and enlisted on May 31, 1961. Hendrix completed his paratrooper training in just over eight months, and was awarded the prestigious Screaming Eagles patch on January 11, 1962
In September 1963, Hendrix moved to Clarksville, Tennessee and formed a band called the King Kasuals. Jimi had watched Butch Snipes play with his teeth in Seattle and by now Alphonso 'Baby Boo' Young, the other guitarist in the band, was also performing this guitar gimmick. Not to be upstaged, he too learned to play with his teeth
Keith Richards’ girlfriend, Linda Keith, recommended Jimi to manager Andrew Loog Oldham who rejected him. She then referred him to Chas Chandler, who was leaving the Animals and wanted to manage and produce artists. Chandler liked the Billy Roberts song "Hey Joe,” and was convinced he could create a hit single with the right artist
Chas Chandler began recruiting members for a band designed to highlight Jimi's talents. He recruited bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell to form the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Although popular in Europe, the Experience's first U.S. single, "Hey Joe,” failed to reach the Billboard Hot 100 chart upon its release on May 1, 1967
Recommended by Paul McCartney to the organizers of the Monterey Pop Festival, Hendrix ended his performance with an unpredictable version of "Wild Thing." He kneeled over his guitar, poured lighter fluid over it, set it on fire, and then smashed it into the stage seven times before throwing its remains into the audience
Electric Ladyland was released October 16, 1968 and was the band’s third and final studio album. It included the cover of the Bob Dylan song, "All Along the Watchtower," which became the Experience's highest-selling single and their only top 40 hit in the U.S., peaking at number 20; the single reached number five in the U.K.
By 1969, Hendrix was the world's highest-paid rock musician. In August, he headlined the Woodstock Music and Art Fair and was paid a whopping $18,000. He was an important draw for the event, and although he accepted substantially less money for the appearance than his usual fee, he was the festival's highest-paid performer
Hendrix spent much of his last day in London with Monika Dannemann, the only witness to his final hours. The next morning she found him breathing, but unconscious and unresponsive. He was pronounced dead at 12:45 p.m. on September 18, 1970 and it was concluded that he aspirated on his own vomit and died of asphyxia while intoxicated