It was today in 1962 that Jimi Hendrix was honorably (barely) discharged from the United States Army. Jimi had been nailed twice by Seattle police for riding in stolen cars, and was given a choice of voluntary military enlistment or two years in prison. In former Seattle Rocket Magazine editor Charlie Cross’ excellent 2005 biography Room Full Of Mirrors, Jimi’s commanding officers paint him as a sub-par and unenthusiastic soldier who showed little regard for regulations, often fell asleep on duty, and required constant supervision. He even tried, as Max Klinger did in the M*A*S*H TV series, to feign homosexuality to get kicked out. His commanders were unconvinced. It was as a private in the famed 101st “Screaming Eagles” Airborne Division (that so distinguished itself in WWII as featured in the Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg mini-series “Band of Brothers“) that he met and became friends with future Band of Gypsys bass player Billy Cox. He was finally granted a medical discharge after breaking his ankle in his 26th parachute jump.
It was today in 1969 that a band created by Pete Townsend to showcase the songwriting talents of The Who’s chauffeur and roadie John “Speedy” Keen, who had written the opening song on The Who Sell Out album Armenia City In The Sky, had their first and only hit: the Townsend-produced Thunderclap Newman song Something In The Air would spend three weeks at number one in England.
It was today in 1969 that The Jimi Hendrix Experience officially disbanded, making good on Jimi’s promise three days earlier on stage at the Denver Pop Festival: “This is the last gig we’ll be playing together”. Bassist Noel Redding was replaced by Jimi’s old Army buddy Billy Cox, and a rhythm guitarist (Larry Lee), and conga players (Juma Sultan and Jerry Velez) joined drummer Mitch Mitchell in the short-lived line up that played Woodstock in August.
It was today in 1971 that Queen played it’s first show with its classic lineup of Freddie Mercury, Brian May, John Deacon, and Roger Taylor, at Surrey College in England.
It was today in 1979 that Sony introduced the device that would make rock and roll portable and personal: The Walkman would sell over 385 million copies in cassette, CD, Minidisc, and digital file formats (and it often included radio!) over the next 30 years before being eclipsed by Apple’s iPod.
Rock and Roll Birthdays
Original Temptations lead singer Paul Williams would be 73 today, he took his own life at age 34.
Guitar and saxophone player Johnny Colla is 60. A one-time member of Van Morrison’s band and Sly and the Family Stone, he was a founding member of Huey Lewis and the News, and co-wrote their hits The Power Of Love and The Heart of Rock and Roll, and once said of that band “Sure we’re the Tony Bennetts of our generation, but it’s not a bad way to go…I can think of worse jobs”.