Monday, November 1, 2010

Jimi at McVan's. I just finishing reading the book Becoming Jimi Hendrix: From Southern Crossroads to Psychedelic London, the Untold Story of a Musical Genius by Steven Roby and Brad Schrieber. I love musical biographies and this is one of the best in recent memory. The authors devote the book to Jimi's life before he became a superstar – his life after Are You Experienced? is almost a coda to the main story: how a boy who grew up in very difficult circumstances learned how to play the guitar and scuffled his way to getting signed by Chas Chandler and then heading off to England. Jimi spent a lot of time backing up some real greats: Little Richard, Isley Brothers, and King Curtis to name but a few. He played the great guitar riff on Don Covay's Mercy, Mercy single on Atlantic (later covered by the Stones). He was a journeyman but on his way to something much bigger. Everyone knows the story of what happened after the Monterey Pop Festival. The story and insights into how he developed as an artist are far more fascinating than yet another rehashing of his relatively brief time in the spotlight. The book reinforced one of my beliefs about music today: one of the reasons why few artists of real note (when compared to the 1950s through mid-70s) have emerged in the past thirty years is there are few opportunities for a potential Hendrix to go out on the road with a number of greats and develop his or her craft. Everyone wants to be a headliner right out of the box. And therefore, we don't get many younger headliners who have any sort of staying power.

Along the way, Jimi did a stint with twister misters Joey Dee and the Starlighters. In my researching my book I came across some references to Jimi playing behind the Inkspots at McVan's in Buffalo. That apparently isn't true – this really well-researched book makes no reference to Jimi playing with the Inkspots. However, he did play at McVan's with Joey Dee for an entire week in November of 1965 and there's a picture of Jimi onstage with Joey where they're pretty much standing in the same spot of the picture of Alex and me onstage. I actually have some poorly shot photos of us playing taken from the same angle where you can see the audience alongside the stage. The 1965 photo shows men in sports jackets and ties. The 1979 photo shows my college friend and his brothers in t-shirts. A lot of musical legends passed through McVan's in its heyday. Alex was one of the last before it was torn down (before it collapsed) to make way for a convenience store.

1 comment:

Yazid Manou said...

I finished the book in the Thailand beach !! That was a wonderful reading and I learnt quite a lot. Steven did a really amazing job with all these new interesting details of the pre-Experience period.