I sit patiently and enjoy the air conditioning under the low light of my Harley Davidson neon sign. The studio is dark and cool compared to the sweltering heat and sun just outside on the streets of Toronto. Without warning, I hear his Beatles boots clap against the wooden floor boards located upstairs and above my head. I look up. As if a can see through the floor, I follow the sounds of his footsteps. He shuffles along. He’s getting closer. I can feel his presence now. He rambles down the hall, down my staircase, and into my basement studio. It’s a small space filled with albums, books and guitars scattered perfectly around the room. He’s dressed in tight crimson pants, purple shirt slit to his navel. He’s the embodiment of a 1969 sex god. Smelling like Nag Champa incense oil, he slips through the door, and ducks under the one beam that’s oddly lower than the rest. He’s right on time. Jimi Hendrix has arrived, and is in my studio!
Today, Electric Mud has been granted an interview with the late great James Marshall Hendrix. Most of you may know him from his work as the ground breaking guitar player from The Jimi Hendrix Experience in the 1960’s, but he is here today to set the record straight about his connection to Canada. I can’t believe he has arrived. In the flesh. He has a slight Aurora Borealis floating around his skin. This must be the side effects from time travel. After all these years, he still looks incredible.
Jimi sits down on the bar stool and asks if he can light a smoke. Before I can answer, he strikes a wooden match and lights a Marlboro…off we go!
EM: Good afternoon Jimi. You look marvelous! Your skin looks glowing. You look timeless and youthful for someone your age. Anyways… thanks for taking the time (or should I say rewinding the time ) to answer a few questions for people who may not remember anything from that dimension.
JMH: It’s my pleasure man. I love Electric Mud…I read it all the time. But I must say, this place is weird looking, and I feel a little muddled. The wormholes have potholes. And the space trip over here was a little uneven.
EM: I know man. The Jet lag, or in your case, time warp lag – can play tricks on the head. Zappa complained about the same thing. But down to business: “Is it true that you have Canadian blood”?
JMH: Yes I do. Ross and Nora Hendrix, my grandparents, immigrated to Vancouver Canada from the USA, and lived at 1343 Richards St in Vancouver. My grandma Nora was involved with the local church and became a Canadian citizen in 1921. My Granddad worked in Vancouver at the Quilchena Golf and Country Club as a washroom attendant. It was one of a few jobs for blacks back then, ya know. He was lucky to get one. Can I ask you for a beer? I haven’t had one in years. My grandad worked there until his death in 1934. They were both Canadian. Then my father, James Allen Ross Hendrix (also known as AL) was born in Vancouver Canada. His birthday is June 10, 1919.
EM: As I pass Jimi a Molson Golden I ask, “Was your father musical too?”
JMH: (Jimi pops the cap, and takes a sip …ahhh) Canada still makes the best beer in the world. My father was in the dance scene around town. He would dance the Jitterbug and try to win competitions, ya know. I think there is a picture of him at the PNE Forum in the Vancouver Sun newspaper. But Dad always chased the ladies, and eventually moved back to Seattle. My Grandparents stayed in Canada. He met my mother in Seattle, and that’s where I was born… in Seattle, Washington. But my mother Lucille Jeter, died when I was young in 1958
EM: So was as your Grandma Nora an influence on you up in Canada?
JMH: Most defiantly. She was my safety net. I would visit her, and at one point, I did go to school in Vancouver for a short time as a kid. After my very last concert in Vancouver before I died, I stayed over night at her house. We talked all night until the sun came up over the horizon. You know, talking about the good ol’ days. Grandma Nora lived to be 100 years old. My grandma was a beautiful woman.
(Jimi turns to look at the picture of my Grandmother and Grandad on a shelf. I suddenly get flashbacks from my life. Like a movie reel running in my mind. This is really weird. It’s like Jimi is injecting these images into my mind. Then it stops)
EM: Did she ever get to witness any of your performances?
JMH: (Jimi’s gaze returns to the conversation) After I left the US Army you know, I headed back to stay with my Grandma Nora in Vancouver. But that last show I played, the one in Vancouver; I brought my Grandma, and the rest of my Canadian family into the second row of the concert. They all watched the concert. It was a great memory ya know. But I must have been too loud because I saw her get up out her seat, and walk to the back of the PNE. She watched the rest of the gig from there. Mitch was really loud in those days too.
(Jimi lights up another smoke and takes a deep drag)
Ya know, she was also one of the first Black leaders in the community in Vancouver. She like, died in 1986 in Vancouver, like 16 years after me. After staying the night in her house, I left to join up with the band in the morning for the rest of the tour. Now that I think of it…it was the last time I saw her – in this dimension.
EM: So Jimi, can you tell us what happened in Toronto? Some of the younger people may not know the story.
JMH: Well if you are talking about the bust man, then all I can say is, like that, a groupie put some dope in my bag or something. I had no idea it was there, so when I crossed over the border from Detroit to Toronto in May 1969 to do the show, the RCMP had found a stash of Heroin at the airport. I’ve smoked marijuana, hashish and taken LSD and cocaine, but never heroin ya know. I wasn’t taking Heroin. People were constantly giving me gifts. I was at a party in a Los Angeles hotel room. I had an upset stomach and a girl had handed me a bottle, with what I thought was Bromo-Seltzer. You know that stuff on TV that cures the tummy? So I threw it in my bag. I don’t know how the tube with drugs got in my bag. I was looking at 20 years in jail. Do you think I would carry Heroin through customs? Never.
EM: Do you think it was a set up? Maybe an attempt to plant drugs to take you down?
JMH: Well the boys in the Experience always said they would hear rumors of a pending bust. You know, drugs getting planted on us, that kind of thing. The road crew would hear this too, the day before the Toronto bust. Now that’s odd. I think it was Noel who started to wear clothes without pockets. He was so paranoid that the fuzz would possibly plant something on him. Anything.
EM: Where was your manager Mike Jeffery while you were getting charged for drugs?
JMH: Hawaii…in the sun…why wasn’t I in Hiwaii in the sun? (Jimi laughs) But Canada has given me the best Christmas present I ever had. I was acquitted on both charges and didn’t go to jail.
EM: Not too many people know about the second arrest in Toronto. Can you tell me what happened on December 7 of 1969?
JMH: Well that was all a misunderstanding, ya know. I remember I was in New York on my way to the Airport for the trail date in Toronto. My lawyer Bob Levine was worried I had drugs in my guitar case and would get searched. “Trust me Bob, no one is going to recognize me, I have nothing.” – I kept telling him. When we landed in Toronto, we went through customs and I was arrested again. Agents found a capsule in my guitar case. As they were testing the bottle to see what was in it, I sat in jail all night long thinking…this is it. It’s over. The frame job worked man.
EM: So what happened? Did they ever find out what was in the bottle?
JMH: It was a pill. The pill was a legal medication ya know. I had said this to the cops and to Bob too. But no one believed me. So later that day, the Toronto police department dropped the charges and off to court I went for the trail on the first Heroin charge. In the end the truth set me free. But the crazy thing is. I sometimes wonder if the Canadians had sent me to jail, maybe I would be alive in this dimension today. I wouldn’t have gone to London because I would have been in the slammer. Think about that mind trip.
EM: Well it’s kind of cool knowing that one of the best guitar players in the world, has Canadian blood.
JMH: Yeah I got Canadian blood I guess. There you have it. I think Eric Clapton’s dad was Canadian too and he’s not bad on guitar either (Jimi laughs).
EM: Well… I know your tired so I wont keep you any longer. I’m sure you have a long road ahead of you. So finally… last question… “Any plans?”
JMH: I have a gig tonight at the Stardust Lounge with my new band. We’re called Electric Church. John Henry Bonham on drums. Eddie Cochran has offered to play Bass and I have Amy Winehouse with David Bowie singing back up vocals… I’m in talks with John Candy to manage us. We need one Canadian in the project. (Jimi smirks) It’s going to be a smash baby!
Suddenly, there was a quick white flash.
Jimi slowly fades out to a rainbow of chaotic particles, and abruptly, there is nothing but silence. He’s gone. The only evidence in the room is the cigarette smoke. The vapor is caught under the lamp shade in the corner beside the stool where he sat. I break the silence and put on a song from a record. It’s called, “ Third Stone from the Sun”. The song shimmers through my mind, as I sit back and take in all in.
Jimi Hendrix died at the age of 27 and would have been 76 years old this year.