Jimi’s First Day in Britain

Source: RollingStone.com: Jimi HendrixJimirollingstone

Jimi Hendrix took his first footsteps on British soil on Saturday, September 24th, 1966, arriving at Heathrow at nine in the morning. As he walked off the plane, he carried a small bag that contained a change of clothes, his pink plastic hair curlers and a jar of Valderma cream for the acne that still marred his twenty-three-year-old face. These few items, along with his precious guitar, were all he owned.

Escorting Jimi was Chas Chandler, formerly the bassist for the Animals, who was launching himself as a manager. Chandler had come upon Jimi in a Greenwich Village club and spilled a milkshake on himself, convinced that Jimi was his ticket to riches. Jimi was penniless at the time, having spent the previous three years as a backup musician on the chitlin circuit. Though Jimi had been born in Seattle, and didn’t even begin to play guitar until he was fifteen, by the time Chandler met him he had already toured the nation with countless R&B combos, including Little Richard and the Isley Brothers. In Greenwich Village, fueled by both LSD and Bob Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde, Jimi was attempting to re-create himself as a solo act. He was playing to twenty teenagers when Chandler arrived, yet Jimi still only agreed to follow him to England if he promised to introduce him to Eric Clapton.

Once in England, Chandler immediately set out to turn Jimi into a star. On the way from the airport, they stopped by the house of bandleader Zoot Money. Jimi attempted to play his Stratocaster through Money’s stereo, and when that failed, he grabbed an acoustic guitar and began to wail. Andy Summers, who a dozen years later would help form the Police, lived in the basement and heard the commotion. When he came upstairs to join the informal party and found himself mesmerized by how Jimi’s huge hands seemed at one with the instrument’s neck, he became the first of Britain’s guitar players to be awed by Jimi’s phenomenal skill.