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Jimi Hendrix’s London (Part One)

Incredibly, it is almost fifty years since legendary musician, Jimi Hendrix’s sublime guitar skills became known to the world.

Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix

Born in Seattle, Washington on November 27th 1942, Jimi Hendrix obtained his first guitar- an acoustic model costing a mere $5- when he was fifteen years old.

In 1961 he enlisted in the army where he trained to be a paratrooper.

Jimi Hendrix during his army days

Jimi Hendrix during his army days

Military life wasn’t for Private Hendrix- perhaps most clearly demonstrated when he was caught dozing whilst on duty!

He was discharged in 1962 and, eager to forge a career in music, began touring clubs across the United States.

Over the next few years Jimi perfected his craft but despite his talent, he struggled to make a wage, remaining undiscovered and creatively stifled.

His luck changed in May 1966 whilst playing at the Cheetah club in New York.

Here he was spotted by Linda Keith– girlfriend of the Rolling Stones Keith Richards– who recommended the dazzling guitarist to Chas Chandler– former bassist for The Animals who was looking to establish himself as a manager.

Linda Keith and Chas Chandler who helped Jimi get his big break

Linda Keith and Chas Chandler

Like Linda, Chas Chandler could see that Jimi Hendrix was indeed a very rare talent… and so decided to whisk him to London which, during the swinging 60s, was the place where Jimi Hendrix would flourish and make his name.

Tragically, it was also the city in which he would lose his life.

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In tribute to Jimi Hendrix and to celebrate the exciting announcement that one of his former London homes will soon be opening to the public as a museum, I have compiled a list of some of the most notable London locations associated with the late, great performer…

The Jimi Hendrix Experience posing on Westminster Bridge

The Jimi Hendrix Experience posing on Westminster Bridge

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11 Gunterstone Road, W14

Gunterstone Road Map

Jimi Hendrix first arrived in London on 24th September 1966, flying into London Airport (which officially changed its name to ‘Heathrow’ that same year).

Jimi Hendrix pretending to thumb a lift at Heathrow, 1970

Jimi Hendrix pretending to thumb a lift at Heathrow, 1970

After several years as a struggling musician, Jimi Hendrix had very little to his name. When he boarded the plane in New York his only possessions were a change of clothes, a set of hair curlers, $40 (which he’d borrowed) and of course his beloved guitar.

Upon his arrival in London, Jimi was taken straight from the airport to 11 Gunterstone Road, West Kensington which was the home of British musician, Zoot Money, a major figure on the Soho scene at the time.

11 Gunterstone Road (inset: Zoot Money)

11 Gunterstone Road today (inset: Zoot Money)

Whilst at the house, Jimi took part in a jamming session with Zoot’s friend, Andy Summers– who would later go on to play with The Police.

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Scotch of St James Club, 13 Mason’s Yard W1

Scotch of St James Map

On the evening of 24th September 1966, Jimi Hendrix played his first ever UK solo gig at the exclusive Scotch of St James club in Mason’s Yard; a peaceful courtyard which is now dominated by the White Cube modern art gallery.

Mason's Yard today

Mason’s Yard today

A stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace, the club was popular with The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, both of whom enjoyed the luxury of their own private tables. The Who and Stevie Wonder also spent time here.

Immediately after his set, Jimi met Kathy Etchingham and the pair embarked upon a two year relationship.

Jimi Hendrix and Kathy Etchingham

Jimi Hendrix and Kathy Etchingham

The following month, Hendrix returned to Scotch of St James with musicians Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding, who together formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience and thus it was here that the trio performed their UK debut.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Jimi, Mitch and Noel…The Jimi Hendrix Experience

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Les Cousins Club (now Club 49), 49 Greek Street W1

Les Cousins Map

Originally opened in the 1950s as the ‘Skiffle Cellar’, Les Cousins (tucked away beneath the Soho Grill) was at the heart of London’s folk scene by the 1960s

The Soho Grill, beneath which Les Cousins was located (image: John Martyn.com)

The Soho Grill, beneath which Les Cousins was located (image: John Martyn.com)

After just a few days in London, Jimi Hendrix and Chas Chandler paid a visit to the club as regular guests, paying their own entry fee.

Blues musician, Alexis Korner was on stage that night and Chas Chandler asked if Jimi could join him on stage for a jamming session… needless to say the crowd were gobsmacked by the young American’s flair!

The site today- now known as Club 49

The site today- now known as Club 49 (image: Google)

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Westminster Polytechnic (now Westminster University, Regent Campus), Little Titchfield Street

Regent Campus map

On the evening of 1st October 1966, Cream were playing at this London Polytechnic campus when Jimi Hendrix rather audaciously asked if he could get up and jam with Eric Clapton, the UK’s undisputed guitar king.

The site today- now part of the University of Westminster

The site today- now part of the University of Westminster

Jimi’s skill and flamboyant style knocked Eric Clapton for six and, once back stage the Cream guitarist had to ask Chas Chandler if the American was ‘always that good?’!

Despite their guitar duel, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix became firm friends.

Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, 1967

Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton, 1967

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Cromwellian Club (now gone), 3 Cromwell Road, SW7

Cromwellian Map

Situated directly opposite the Natural History Museum, the Cromwellian Club was rumoured to have started life as an illegal gambling den.

The Cromwellian Club

The Cromwellian Club

By the 1960s, ‘The Crom’ as it was nicknamed had established itself as a popular casino and music venue, witnessing performances from the likes of Georgie Fame, Eric Clapton and a very young Elton John.

Jimi Hendrix played one of his earliest gigs here in October 1966.

Site of the Cromwellian Club today

Site of the Cromwellian Club today

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Bag O’ Nails Club, 9 Kingly Street W1

Bag O Nails Map

The Jimi Hendrix Experience played a gig at the Bag O’Nails club on 25th November 1966, after which, Jimi remarked, “Britain is really groovy”- not a surprising observation considering the club backs onto the ultra-hip Carnaby Street.

Bag O Nails Club

The Bag O’ Nails Club today

At another Bag O’Nails gig on 11th January 1967, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr were in the audience… it was the first time they’d seen Jimi play live and, naturally, they were entranced.

Later that year, Paul McCartney met his future wife, Linda at the club.

Plaque commemorating the Jimi Hendrix Experience's Bag O'Nails gig

Plaque commemorating the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Bag O’Nails gig

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Blaises Club (now gone) 121 Queen’s Gate SW7

Blaises Map

Located in the basement of the now demolished Imperial Hotel, Blaises (named after the cartoon character, Modesty Blaise) was a cramped, sweaty club which, according to Melody Maker journalist, Chris Welch, was a venue, “where musicians, agents, managers and writers allowed themselves to be deafened whilst imbibing quantities of alcohol.

The forlorn site of the former hotel and club in 2014

The forlorn site of the former hotel and club in 2014

Jimi Hendrix appeared here on 21st December 1966 which led to one of first rave reviews: “Jimi has great stage presence and an exceptional guitar technique which involved playing with teeth on occasions and no hands at all on others!” (tricks which he’d learnt from old timers whilst on the US circuit).

Jimi Hendrix playing with his teeth

Jimi Hendrix playing with his teeth

Pink Floyd were another big name to appear at Blaises and the club can be seen in the cult 1967 film, The Sorcerers (in which Boris Karloff uses hypnosis to seriously mess up one cool cat’s mind!)

Please click below to view a clip of the Blaises club in its heyday:

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34 Montague Square, W1

Montagu Map

During the 1960s, the basement of this rather grand address was leased by Ringo Starr.

34 Montagu Square today

34 Montagu Square today

Consequently, the home has numerous connections with The Beatles– the song, ‘Eleanor Rigby was developed here for example and in 1968 the racy cover for John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s, Two Virgins album was snapped on the premises.

Jimi Hendrix rented the basement from Ringo between December 1966 and March 1967, moving in with his girlfriend, Kathy Etchingham. Whilst at the address, Jimi composed ‘The Wind Cries Mary’.

Wind Cries Mary

Unfortunately Ringo had no option but to evict Jimi Hendrix when the guitarist, whilst under the influence of LSD, splashed paint all over the walls…

Jimi Hendrix on the steps of 34 Montagu Square

Jimi Hendrix on the steps of 34 Montagu Square

One of the most iconic photographs of Jimi was taken just across the road on Montagu Place outside the Swedish embassy. Sadly, the original street sign has since been removed.

Jimi Hendrix posing on Montagu Place

Jimi Hendrix posing on Montagu Place

Montagu Place today... with the sign sadly gone

The spot where Jimi stood. Montagu Place today… with Jimi’s sign sadly gone

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Lime Grove Studios (now gone), W12

Lime Grove Map

Between 1940 and 1991, Lime Grove in Shepherd’s bush was home to a BBC studio where many classic shows including Top of the Pops, Blue Peter, Doctor Who and a 1954 adaptation of George Orwell’s, 1984 (performed live and starring Peter Cushing) were filmed.

Lime Grove's studio floor (image: BBC)

Lime Grove’s studio floor (image: BBC)

The Jimi Hendrix Experience filmed their first appearance for Top of the Pops here on 29th December 1966 with a performance of ‘Hey Joe. Their next shoot took place on 30th March 1967– and can be viewed below.

Sadly, Lime Grove studios were demolished in 1993 and a modern housing development now occupies the site.

Site of the former Lime Grove studios today (image: Google)

Site of the former Lime Grove studios today (image: Google)

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The Upper Cut Club (now gone), 1-39 Woodgrange Road, E7

Upper Cut Map

Out beyond Stratford and past the former 2012 Olympic Park, this is probably the furthest east Jimi Hendrix ever ventured whilst in London!

The former Upper Cut club as it appeared in 1991 (image: E7 Then and Now)

The former Upper Cut club as it appeared in 1991 (image: E7 Then and Now)

Based in Forest Gate, the Upper Cut Club was in business for just one year between 1966 and 1967. Despite its short span, the club shone bright playing host to such greats as The Who, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, Prince Buster, Ben. E. King and Nina Simone.

Otis Redding at the Upper Cut club, 1967

Otis Redding at the Upper Cut club, 1967

The Jimi Hendrix Experience appeared at the Upper Cut on Boxing Day, 1966…and it was here, whilst resting in the club’s dressing room, that Jimi penned Purple Haze, one of his most definitive hits.

Purple Haze cover

A simple plaque now marks the site.

Plaque installed by Newham Council (image: E7 Then and Now)

Plaque installed by Newham Council (image: E7 Then and Now)

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The Speakeasy Club (now gone), 48 Margaret Street, W1

Speakeasy Map

Opened in 1966 a short distance from the bustle of Oxford Circus, the Speakeasy modelled itself on the illegal drinking dens which flourished during the era of American prohibition.

Visitors entered and signed in via a fake undertaker’s parlour… and were then permitted to enter the main club through a false wardrobe door! Inside, a menacing portrait of Al Capone loomed over the patrons.

The Speakeasy's unique entrance... (images: New Musical Express)

Coffins and fake wardrobes… the Speakeasy’s unique entrance… (images: New Musical Express)

This was one of Jimi Hendrix’s favourite London clubs and he could often be spotted hanging out with friends here.

Site of the former Speakeasy club today

Site of the former Speakeasy club today

Jimi’s first Speakeasy gig took place in February 1967… and it was here that he cheekily tried to chat up Mick Jagger’s then girlfriend, Marianne Faithful!

Jimi Hendrix hanging out at the Speakeasy, 1967

Jimi Hendrix hanging out at the Speakeasy, 1967

To be continued

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20 responses

  1. John & Babs Bradbury | Reply

    Amazingly accurate, you must be older than what you look! John

    >

    1. If you remember the 60s you weren’t there 🙂

  2. Really interesting – thanks for posting!

  3. thanks for the memories and the incredibly detailed walkabout bio of the late, great JH

    1. You’re very welcome, Laura 🙂 Thanks for the comment

  4. I was very lucky to be at one of his first London performances when he played at The Brady Boys and Girls Club, Hanbury Street, Whitechapel. We had regular Sunday Socials with live music entertained by so many unknowns who went on to be famous.

    The Hendrix booking as told by another former club member…
    “The way we got Hendrix to come was an interesting story… The dad of one of the people on the social committee had a record stall on Whitechapel high street… He was very connected to the music scene and he told us of this guy coming over from the States.
    It was a whopping £500. to get him, and we really didn’t know if he was any good. But they told us he was amazing.
    By the time he was scheduled to come his first hit, Hey Joe, was rapidly climbing the charts… His manager tried to get out of the gig, but we had a contract.
    So he came… I recall he was stoned and barely there… But when he got on our small stage… It was jaw-droppingly amazing. What he did with a guitar and the sound they made…
    How lucky were we?”

    1. Hi Beryl, thank you so much for sharing that… it’s amazing, I had no idea Jimi Hendrix played Whitechapel! Can you remember the date roughly? I’d be very interested to know more if you can recall any other details.

      Thanks again 🙂

    2. I was also at Brady Boys & Girls Club and we had seen Jimi play before so took earplugs. Boy did we need them! But what date?

      1. 19th February 1967, only know as it was discussed a while ago on the Brady Facebook page.

      2. Richard, I was also at the gig, having found out about it via the JC. Please could you email me so we could talk about it as I am doing some research for a paper about Hendrix. Thank you.

    3. Beryl, I was also at this gig in the Brady youth club. Please could you email me as I would like to talk to you about it. Thank you.

  5. […] A tour of Jimi Hendrix’s London. […]

  6. […] our tour of Jimi Hendrix’s London (please click here to view part […]

  7. Not about Jimi Hendrix – but I lived in the flat on the 2nd Floor above the Cromwellian Club 1975 – 1989. What a place! When I first lived there it was allegedly still run by the Richardson Gang. The ‘doormen’ were straight out of Central Casting but Ive never felt safer.
    I also used to frequent Blaises which was just around the corner.
    Wonderful place to live back in the day.
    Thank you for your wonderful site!

    1. Many thanks, Ruth enjoyed your comment 🙂

  8. I’ve tweeted this…hope it brings you fame and fortune Mr. Cabbie. Loved it.

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