I was a student at York University in 1967 when the Jimi Hendrix Experience came to play a gig in one of the college refectories. A clairvoyant student social secretary had booked them before they were famous, for a fee of well under £100. By the time of their York date they were a sensation. ‘Hey Joe’, recorded in London in October 1966 and released two months later, had been in the Top 10 for the past three weeks, following Hendrix’s club appearances in front of rock-giant guitarists like Clapton and Townshend in London, which had created a remarkable buzz around him. Nor had it hurt that he was so very photogenic.

In such a situation, suddenly able to command real money, most rising stars would have blown out a barely-paying student gig. Hendrix didn’t. He, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell arrived - albeit very late. Their van had broken down on the way north.

Shortly after midnight on the morning of February 19th - 45 years ago today - the three of them were in a “dressing room” (a seminar room and bathroom, if I remember it aright) getting ready to perform. I was a student journalist. I knocked on the door and was asked in. And there, from about 12.15am and for around 25 minutes, I was able to chat with Jimi Hendrix, who was already dressed for his performance in black jeans, black pointy boots and a yellow, very London-boutique satin shirt.

We stood side by side, leaning back against the side of a table, smoking cigarettes, and he spoke quietly and warmly, with what my diary of the time recorded as “typical New York buoyancy” (whatever that meant). He was about my own height but his high-heeled boots and big hair made him taller. It was kind of him to spend time with me just ahead of a performance - something I’m not sure I appreciated at the time - but I liked him at once and he put me very much at my ease.

Mostly we talked about Bob Dylan - a mutual enthusiasm. Hendrix said, almost shyly, how much he admired Dylan as an artist and as the embodiment of cool. This was long before either had recorded their very different versions of ‘All Along The Watchtower’, but it had been reported that Hendrix had been given copies of a Dylan single or two that had been withdrawn shortly after their release in the States. (This can only have meant ‘Can You Please Crawl Out Your Window?’ ) I said I’d read this story and asked him about it, but he couldn’t recall the song titles. We were interrupted from time to time by Noel Redding rushing about self-importantly, primping his hair over and over in a nearby mirror. He did himself no favours alongside Hendrix, who had no self-importance whatever but was unassuming, straightforward and thoughful.

I took my leave of him a little before 12.45 and at 1 o’clock in the morning the gig began. It was the billed as the Jimi Hendrix Experience but the other musicians could have been anyone. My diary tells me I watched “his one-hour performance, which was, in the main, excellent - especially his full-length version of Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone’.” The quiet figure in the dressing room had become the electrifying, strutting star, the shaman showman, humping the stacks of amps one minute and theatrically quiet the next, but more often and more interestingly inducing his own trances by that always extraordinary guitarwork. I never saw him again.


  1. Rambling Gambling Gordon20 February, 2012

    A good story. (One, as they say, to tell the grandchildren.)

    I’ve read before how restrained and self-effacing Hendrix was, despite the scale of his talents.

    Hmmm. How did your time with him compare with your meeting with Dylan?

  2. Hendrix: easy & relaxed
    Dylan: perilous & tense

    I think the only thing these memorable meetings had in common was their length...

  3. The JHE were not late for the gig as it not due until 1 in the morning (goes to show, students spent little time studying in the sixties!) . The fee was not well below 100, it was 150 (as duly written down to Noel Redding in his diary).

    You should have RECORDED the gig! ;)

    Caesar Glebbeek

  4. Rambling Gambling Gordon22 February, 2012

    How much that single word 'perilous' conveys...

  5. Caesar: I dispute these details. Noel Redding was wrong (about a lot of things).

  6. McHenry Boatride23 February, 2012

    I wouldn't know about the facts regarding timing or fee (and they seem fairly irrelevant to me) but that night is certainly one that has remained vivid in my memory. And I remember the barmaid in Langwith, who had delivered a bottle of whisky to Jimi, saying what a "nice young man he was".

    If my memory serves me correctly (it rarely does nowadays) the booking was for a dance, not a concert, but few if any danced. Certainly it was a standing-room only venue.

    Happy days!

  7. McHenry! How very good to hear from you. I thought you'd abandoned me when you offered no comment of any kind about my killing off bobdylanencyclopedia.blogspot.com. Hope all well with you, and thanks for your memories of that Hendrix night, especially the barmaid bit.

  8. Tell us about your Bob encounter Michael.. Finally bumped into him myself this year in a Dublin hotel car park. He walks as awkwardly in real life as he does on stage and was hiding under his hoody. Wished him luck with the Nobel which was due to be announced the following day and in respect of which there was a breaking story online that he was favourite. Told him I had heard rumours and hoped it would work out well for him (it didn't!) Our eyes locked as I was speaking and he didn't utter a word but instead jerked his umbrella in the air in acknowledgement. I waved back, took my leave and immediately got very drunk. A brief encounter but a huge thrill to be that close and more than a little surreal.


    Judas Priest

  9. Good stuff, Judas. Thank you. The payoff after "I took my leave" made me laugh. But I only tell my own story of meeting him - way back in 1978 - at occasional gigs of mine, when audiences have been especially warm. I've always avoided putting it in print. It just doesn't seem right somehow - just a personal decision.

  10. The Hendrix Concert was a Langwith Junior Common Room affair - organised by College Social Secretary Pete Clarke, who had heard Hendrix in London over the Christmas holiday 1966-67 and booked him to appear at Langwith in about May 66 - Hey Joe was big in the charts when he turned up in York and his fee was then £600 although we only paid him £60.
    Not surprisingly the show sold out quickly - in fact we had an audience of around 1,250 with a fire limit of 900 - so God knows what would have happened if he'd failed to show up. He was famously late because their van broke down in Nottingham and he put them all in Taxis to get to York and he wouldn't let us pay for the taxis - very relieved when he made it. Splendid fellow I thought.