It had been five years since Jimi Hendrix had been home.* The first time he was back in the Pacific Northwest as super rock star was in mid February 1968 when the Jimi Hendrix Experience performed at the Seattle Center Arena.** Later that year he hit more northwest venues. In the first ten days of September, 1968, The Jimi Hendrix Experience experience played Vancouver B.C., Seattle, Spokane and Portland.
I was at KJRB in 1968 and the Hendrix show was big deal for city and station. You gotta remember the nature of radio in 1968. It was especially true in Spokane . . . there was not any FM radio, yet. KJRB played all kinds of music. Hit music. Top 40 meant you played the Top 40 hits no matter the artists . . . from Bobby Sherman to Jimi Hendrix. So we were the station for modern pop/rock music.
KJRB, Norm Gregory, August 1968, Jimi Hendrix
* After being “excused” from Seattle’s Garfield High School, Jimi enlisted in the U.S. Army on May 31, 1961. After basic training he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky. There he met fellow soldier and bass player Billy Cox. After his discharge, Jimi and Billy moved to nearby Clarksville, Tennessee and tried to make a living with different bands. After a short visit with family in the Pacific Northwest, in early 1963, Jimi returned to the South. For the next two years, Hendrix made a living performing with different bands on a circuit of venues throughout the South catering to black audiences. Hendrix’ first studio recording occurred in March 1964, with the Isley Brothers, as he was a member of their band. Early in 1966 at the Cheetah Club in New York City, Linda Keith, the girlfriend of Rolling Stones guitarist Keith Richards, befriended Jimi and recommended him to Chas Chandler, who was ending his tenure as bassist in The Animals and was looking for talent to manage and produce. Chandler brought him to London and signed him to a management and production deal. It was Chandler who came up with the spelling change of “Jimmy” to “Jimi”. Chandler then helped Hendrix form a new band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with guitarist-turned-bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, both English musicians. The rest is well known history.
** This was the only Northwest date and it was at a venue not renowned for its acoustic qualities. Tom Robbins wrote in the Seattle’s Helix, “Listening to rock in the Arena is like making love in a file cabinet. It’s a study in frustration.” A press reception is held at the home of Hendrix’s father Al. The next day, not far away, Garfield High School intended to award him an honorary high school diploma. He arrived for the ceremony and in the assembly, a student asked him how long he had been gone. He replied, “About five thousand years” and walked off the stage. He never received the diploma.
What is going on here? I have been digging through My Collection of photos, news clippings and other documents from my 35 years in radio. The Collection can be sorted: