Culture Re-View: The gig that started it all - when Hendrix was kicked out of the band

American singer and guitarist Jimi Hendrix performs on stage on May 24, 1967 at Grona Lund in Stockholm, Sweden.
American singer and guitarist Jimi Hendrix performs on stage on May 24, 1967 at Grona Lund in Stockholm, Sweden. Copyright AFP
Copyright AFP
By Jonny Walfisz
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In 1959, Jimi Hendrix took to the stage for the first ever time. By the end of the night, the band wouldn't want anything to do with him.


20 February 1959: Jimi Hendrix gets kicked out of the band

Some people are born to be stars. Whatever feverish energy that was coursing through Jimi Hendrix’s veins to propel him into music history was clearly already there when he hit the stage for the first time in 1959.

Born Johnny Allen Hendrix in Seattle in 1942, a young Hendrix grew up in the 50s adoring the new rock n’ roll sound of Elvis Presley and blues artists like Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson. As a kid, he’d imitate a guitar by strumming away on a broom. The affectation was noticed by his school's social worker who asked Hendrix’s father, Al, to buy him a guitar. Al refused.

Scouring some garbage with his father in 1957, he found a ukulele which he was allowed to keep. Despite only having one string, Hendrix learned to play Elvis’s ‘Hound Dog’. Finally, in 1958, Hendrix bought his first guitar, an acoustic purchased for $5.

Jimi Hendrix performs at the Monterey Pop Festival in Monterey, 1967AP/AP

Now he could play like his heroes, and he formed a band, The Velvetones. After three months of being drowned out by his bandmates, Hendrix was able to convince his father to buy him a white Supro Ozark electric guitar. Electric guitar in hand, the Hendrix of the future was born.

It was on this day in 1959 that a 16-year-old Hendrix took to the stage for the first time. His band was given two sets at the De Hirsch Synagogue in Seattle, but Hendrix only managed to play in the first one. His wild playing and “showing off” was too much for his bandmates, and the nascent guitar virtuoso was kicked out.

If only that band had known just what a genius they had in their midst. Hendrix would go on to join the army after being picked up by the police for joyriding, but was quickly honourably discharged for his lack of interest in war.

Out of the army, Hendrix focused on music, working with many music greats before forming The Jimi Hendrix Experience. A chance meeting with The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards would pave the way for Hendrix to move to London where he established the band. Together, Hendrix released three albums, ‘Are You Experienced’, ‘Axis: Bold as Love’ and ‘Electric Ladyland’. In the process, his playing - live and on-record - would change the course of guitar music forever.

His use of amplification, innovative fingerwork, and iconic left-handed playing will forever go down in history for the way it made the electric guitar shine as a completely different beast from just an amplified acoustic.

Tragically, Hendrix died of a drug overdose at just 27 years of age on 18 September 1970 in London.

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