The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Jimi Hendrix - guitar, lead vocals
Noel Redding - bass, vocals (1966 - 1969, 1970)
Mitch Mitchell - drums
Billy Cox - Bass (1970)
The Jimi Hendrix Experience was a highly influential, though short-lived,
English/American rock band famous for the guitar work of Jimi Hendrix on songs
such as "Purple Haze", "Foxy Lady", "Fire", "Hey Joe", "Voodoo Child (Slight
Return)", "All Along The Watchtower" and "Spanish Castle Magic". Although
Hendrix was the focus and frontman, the other band members were also vital to
"the experience" including bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell.
Hendrix arrived in England in November 1966 and, together with his new manager Chas Chandler, auditions were launched to find him a backing band. Noel Redding was chosen for the bass spot. Even though he had never played bass before auditioning (he was a guitarist), Hendrix liked his look and attitude (he also looked a bit like Bob Dylan). Mitch Mitchell was a seasoned London drummer who brought jazz chops and a lead style of playing to the table. He would prove to be Hendrix's most valuable musical partner.
Though initially conceived as Hendrix's backing band, The Experience soon became much more than that. Following the lead of The Who, they were one of the first groups (along with Cream to popularize the "power trio" format, which essentially strips a rock band lineup down to the essentials: bass, guitar and drums. This smaller format also encourages more extrovert playing from the players involved, often at very high volumes. In the case of The Experience, Hendrix mixed lead and rhythm guitar duties into one, while also making use of then-revolutionary guitar effects such as feedback and wah-wah. Mitchell played hard-hitting jazz-influenced grooves that often served a melodic role as much as they did timekeeping. Redding was often seen as the eye of the storm, playing deceptively simple bass lines that helped to anchor the band's sound. Visually, they decked themselves out in psychedelic costumes and permed afros. The Experience were also one of the first integrated bands. Given the racial turmoil of the times, the sheer idea of having a black frontman with two white men was quite a strong political statement.
The lineup first came to prominence during the Monterey Pop Festival, one of the first major music festivals. The band delivered a stellar performance, that ended with Hendrix famously setting his guitar on fire.(He also played with his guitar between his legs behind his head and even with his teeth!(*) The moment was immortalized in a photograph which was used as a cover of Rolling Stone magazine. The appearance was also filmed and put into the documentary film Monterey Pop. This brought them to the attention of North American audiences. They were then asked to go on tour with The Monkees as the opening act. They abruptly left the tour after only a few dates. Chas Chandler later said that it was a publicity stunt.
With the band, Hendrix recorded his three most successful albums, Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland. In June of 1969, he decided to break up the group. Deteriorating relations with Redding had come to a head, and he also felt stilted by the trio format. Following the infamous admission by Hendrix atop the stage at the Denver Pop Festival; "This is the last gig we'll be playing together," the original experience dissolved. Using a larger band lineup for his Woodstock concert in August 1969, Hendrix was able to expand the former boundaries of the old band, but would revert back to the trio format with the Band of Gypsys. By 1970, Hendrix had disbanded the Band of Gypsys. This was due to Michael Jeffery's desire to reform the original Experience line up. However, it can also be said that the all black power trio was mainly a one off to help Hendrix fulfill an outstanding obligation to Ed Chalpin. Jeffery called upon Redding and Mitchell about reforming the Experience. Both parties to agreed to participate in what would seem to be a great money maker of a tour for the two men, Jeffery as well as getting Jimi out of the financial debts he was in at the time building Electric Lady Studios. Hendrix was open to have Mitch rejoin, but reluctant of bringing Noel back into the fold.
In early February , it seemed as if the original Experience was reformed from the ashes of Denver. Manager Michael Jeffery had even went as far as setting up an interview with Rolling Stone magazine to announce the reformation of the group. This was not published until 5 years after Hendrix's death in the pages of Guitar Player. While the interview displayed that the old wounds of the past was healed up and the future seemingly bright for the Experience; it was far from the truth. Redding was waiting for weeks to hear back about rehearsals for the upcoming tour when he finally spoke with Mitch's girlfriend and was told, much to his disappointment, that he was replaced by Billy Cox. The new line-up was referred to as "The Cry Of Love" and subesequently went on tour. Hendrix died later that year when he choked on his own vomit in his sleep.
The Experience was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.