Primary Instrument: Band/ensemble/orchestra
The Jimi Hendrix Experience were an English/American rock band famous for the guitar work, original songs, outrageous style and performance of its eponymous frontman Jimi Hendrix on songs such as Hey Joe, Purple Haze, Foxy Lady, Fire, Little Wing, Spanish Castle Magic, All Along the Watchtower and Voodoo Child (Slight Return).
The Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed with Noel Redding on bass and Mitch Mitchell behind the drums and suddenly there was this black guy on the scene doing things with his guitar that were just not possible. Respect from his peers and adoration from the crowds was instantaneous. They toured Europe, breaking attendance records at one club after another, and then signed a recording contract.
A series of singles that all gained top 10 rank, followed. 'Hey Joe', 'Purple Haze' and 'The Wind Cries Mary ' made Jimi a star in England, setting the stage for his Monterey appearance.
James Marshal Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington, on November 27, 1942; an American of African, European, Cherokee Indian and Mexican descent. An unsettled home environment made Jimi spend much of his early years staying with his grandmother, a full-blooded Cherokee Indian, in Canada.
Following four years were hard work touring the States playing back-up guitar for various R&B bands including Little Richard, Ike and Tina Turner, Wilson Pickett, the Isley Brothers and the late King Curtis among others. The conditions were not suited to his radical temperament and eventually he was drawn to New York 's Greenwich Village where he recorded with the Isley Brothers, Curtis Knight and various other artists.
Then in late 1965 he formed his first band - Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. They worked the Village clubs where he was seen by other musicians who immediately recognized his talent, and word of this young virtuoso reached ex-Animals bassist Chas Chandler. Chas was so impressed after hearing him play he offered to become his manager and persuaded Jimi to accompany him back to England.
England at this stage - late 1966 - was musically ruled by bands such as The Who, The Beatles and Cream with Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck standing alone as the three leading exponents of the electric guitar.
Though initially conceived as Hendrix's backing band, The Experience soon became much more than that. Following the lead of Cream, they were one of the first groups 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 extroverted playing from the band members, 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 guitar effects such as feedback and later the wah-wah pedal to an extent that had never been heard before. 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 set the trend in psychedelic clothes and, following the other two's Bob Dylan 1966 style hair-do's, Mitch (briefly) got himself a permed copy (as did most of the London trend-followers, including Eric Clapton).
The lineup only came to prominence in the USA after the Monterey Pop Festival, one of the first major rock music festivals. The band delivered a stellar performance, that ended with Hendrix famously setting his psychedelically-painted Fender Stratocaster on fire. The performance was not critically well-received, yet word-of-mouth by fans and attending bands would help Hendrix attain stardom. The only positive reviews in the USA music press were from small circulation papers The Berkeley Barb and Down Beat (aimed at musicians); most were along the lines of Robert Christgau's for Esquire magazine.
The Experience's appearance was also filmed for the documentary film Monterey Pop which premiered at Lincoln Center in New York on 26 December 1968 and was only seen by the general public starting in 1969.