Thanks to the internet I was able to track down the exact date of one of the greatest concerts of my life. There it was…staring back at me from the screen; Friday night March 22, 1968. That’s it! The night Jimi Hendrix and the Experience were in my hometown. They were touring the northeast and ended up in Hartford, Connecticut at the Bushnell Auditorium. I was a wreck all week in anticipation of the show. I politely sat through Boston’s Ultimate Spinach, the first of two opening acts. Then came the tour’s official opener; The Soft Machine (Robert Wyatt, Kevin Ayers and Mike Ratledge) from Canterbuy, England. I really liked them. Their set was progressive and left of center especially when you considered all the pop stuff that was released and on the air at that time. In fact, a few years later, I went on to play The Soft Machine on my FM radio programs. Drummer Robert Wyatt has always been a favorite.
Jimi, was frisky and engaging in between tunes as he blew the minds of this small town crowd. He played the hell out of his Strat with a mountain of Marshall amps towering behind him. You couldn’t have dialed up a better set that night. Axis Bold As Love was just a month old so it was one tune after another from that amazing, future classic. BTW, witnessing drummer Mitch Mitchell live with his jazzy touch was a real treat. Another drumming favorite (two in one night!).
As we floated around in front of the hall after the show reliving all the cool moments there came a bit of serendipity; a chance encounter with a rock writer. He said he’d earlier interviewed Jimi and that the band was over at the Statler Hilton Hotel on the the eleventh floor.
In a heartbeat we were over at the Hilton heading across the lobby towards the elevators. I remember the moment like it was yesterday. There I was in a flash trying to get up the courage to knock on the hotel room door. I finally did and in an instant the door to room 1136 swung open. And, there was the MAN staring me right in the eye, smiling and saying “hi”. Looking over Hendrix’s shoulder was manager Chas Chandler (formerly the bassist with The Animals) who was eyeing us with a protective glance. Wow, Chas Chandler (I was a bass player too) and Jimi standing there in front of me. I was speechless. Hendrix quickly surveyed this geeky little group in front of him. Meanwhile, his suite had one hipster after another partying it up with a bevy of the most beautiful young ladies hanging out with them. Jimi was cool and said “are you guys in a band?” A couple of us replied “yeah.” He asked for a minute with his party and then he’d be right back to BS with us.
We stood there in the quiet hall for a good five or ten minutes wondering if that door would ever again open. A couple of our guys were ready to split. I whispered (we didn’t need the hotel detectives kicking us out) “are you kidding, Jimi said he’d be back. I’m waiting!” Well, he did indeed return with a hotel night stand notepad for autographs (I got four!) and immediately asked “so, who’s the guitar player in this group?” He was the greatest. Gentle, funny, cool and completely down to earth. He spent the next few minutes with us, then wished us well, shaking hands with each one of us and finally, saying goodnight. I’ve relayed this tale many times over the years as I’ve repeated my cool little rock and roll moment. Jimi Hendrix was truly one of the warmest, most genuine music stars that I have ever had the privilege to meet.
Over the next few days I spent time in my darkroom developing these pictures and needless to say, I didn’t come down from that little encounter for quite some time.