My Experience With the Experience, 1968

AUGUST 24, 1968

We (myself and two high school friends, Dave Farmin and Larry LeGrand – 15/16 years old) were already big fans, but missed Jimi on the first U.S. tour.

In the summer of 1968, he is out again. Jimi was touring his second album, Axis: Bold As Love. This time he was headlining and we were not gonna pass up the chance to see him perform. We bought tickets for his show at the Bushnell Memorial Hall, Hartford, Connecticut.

We were all living in western Massachusetts and so we decided to make a day of it. We took the 40-minute ride to Hartford, CT and parked near the theatre. We could see that some local bands were doing a ‘love-in’ type of gig in a park a few blocks away and so we ‘hang out’ for a while. We get antsy for the Hendrix show and decide to head over to the Bushnell just to see if we can watch them load in the gear. We were THAT excited…

SOUND CHECK 5:30:

We arrived at the back of theatre and saw a British guy with a butt hanging out of his mouth carrying a couple of mike stands. It is none other than Jimi’s road manager, Eric Barrette. The three of us respectfully chat with Eric for a few minutes.

Suddenly he asks, “Hey, can you kids do me a favor?”

We respond, “Sure!”

He handed ME two twenty-dollar bills (a lot of money in 1968) and asked, “Can you find a music store and purchase a couple of pairs of drum sticks and a ‘Vox wah-wah’ pedal? I need them as backups.”

Again our response is an enthusiastic, “Sure”.

We head out to find a music store in this foreign city. We found a phone booth, grabbed a phone book and discovered that LaSalle Music (which we’ve actually heard of) is just a few blocks away. We walked over and… Damn! It’s 6 p.m. and they have JUST CLOSED. Arrgghhh! So we headed back over to the ‘love in’ freak fest at the park and hit up some of the musicians for help.

“We’re doing an errand for Hendrix’s road manager and wondered if you could sell us some drum sticks and/or a wah -wah pedal?” They are hammered on weed and other refreshments of the day. They didn’t believe us and basically said, “Sorry… No…”

We walked back to the theatre and pounded on the stage door. To our surprise, Eric himself opened it, leaned out and asked…

“How did you guys do?”

“We failed,” I responded and briefly we told him of our venture.

Without warning he asks, “Do you guys wanna meet Jimi?”

Stunned, I managed to choke out, “Seriously?”

He welcomed us in. We followed him down a short hall and then directly onto the stage. Just plugging in and adjusting their gear are Jimi Hendrix, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding.

Amazing! We are standing onstage with the Jimi Hendrix Experience at sound check!

(Tech note: This is 1968, so there are no road crews, monitors, or elaborate p.a. systems to deal with. Eric Barrette is simply setting up a small p.a. head with a couple of mikes for vocals and a speaker cab on each side of the stage.)

I quickly realized as I stared out to the empty theatre that the ONLY people in the building are Eric, Jimi, Mitch, Noel, two girl friends (Noel’s and Jimi’s, I believe) and the three of us.

But we’re 15 and we are trying to be cool…

We approached each member of the band to say hi as they were fiddling with their gear. Noel (the bass player) was polite, smiled and said, “Hi”. I don’t recall what we said to him.

Since two of us are drummers, we approached Mitch who was sitting behind a maple set of drums. I asked, “How long have you been playing Ludwig’s?” Without looking up he responded (with his English accent), “Not now boys; I’m tunin’ me drums.” We get it: Mitch is ‘focusing’… We move on.

Jimi Hendrix was standing in front of the opening act’s gear with his back to us but plugged into a Marshall stack. He is riffing on a 1968 white Fender Strat. We do indeed realize that we are approaching a GOD… One of us (I don’t remember who) blurts out, “Hi, Jimi!” He quickly turns around, looks right at us and sez, “How’s it going guys?”

(“How is it going?” Are you freaking kidding me?)

We thank him for his muse, shake his hand, and asked him about his gear and other stuff. He was kind and generous with his time (about 10 minutes). I asked him if I could take a few pictures and he said “sure”.

I took three photos. I was too nervous, shy, and apparently too stupid to get one with him and I. I did however get a shot with my two friends, Larry and Dave, as he was signing their autographs.

In setting up one of the shots — the one in which he is simply resting his left hand on the bottom of the guitar —

I remember that I asked, “Could you pose for me, Mr. Hendrix?” (I didn’t feel comfortable calling him Jimi.) I also took a picture of Noel’s (maybe) girl friend.

Eric then reminded us that they needed to get ready for the gig. We thanked him and respectfully exited stage right (Sorry no, we didn’t get to hear them play a tune backstage together). Still in shock, we found a place to eat where we rambled endlessly on about what just had happened.

THE CONCERT:

After dinner, we arrived back the theatre for the show. While in line, we heard someone say that last year Jimi had technical troubles at this same venue and that after about 40-minutes threw his guitar down and walked off. We were fervently hoping our show would be better and reminded ourselves that, no matter what else happened that night, we just DID see them testing the gear.

Around 8:30 p.m., the Jimi Hendrix Experience took the stage and quickly blew the room away with a set of tunes from their first two albums, Are You Experienced and Axis: Bold as Love. As a treat, Jimi introduced two new tunes from an album they were working on.

I think one of them was “Cross Town Traffic”… I am sure the other one was “Voodoo Child” (They do it as an encore and jam out for 20 minutes on it.)

Near the end of the set, Jimi walked over to the p.a. cab on his side of the stage, took the Confederate flag that was draped in front of it and used it to wipe the sweat off of his face – The crowd cheered the beauty of this irony.

All-in-all we got a two hour show laced with pop tunes and extended jams. It climaxed with Jimi smashing his white Strat into one of his Marshall Amp Stacks…

BACK IN GRANBY, MASS.

We immediately submitted the photos for development at John’s Center Pharmacy in our small New England town (Granby, Mass). We went crazy waiting the three days required for ‘rush development’ – Wow! Some of the photos are pretty good. We are thrilled! We put in orders for a few dozen 8×10 copies of the ‘good ones’.

When school started back up, we were high for another two weeks from ‘our experience’, re-telling the stories…. and selling lots of the pictures!


Note: This is one of ‘those’ moments. We all have some wonderful times — and I have been blessed with many — that are forever etched in memory. I will never forget, and always treasure, my personal Jimi Hendrix “Experience”. If anyone should happen to run into Larry LeGrand or Dave Farmin, please send them to this page. I’d love to hear what THEY remember from this magical day.

Postscript: I just found a web page detailing this very show – with some nice pictures of Jimi… http://www.earlyhendrix.com/6743/gall/hart.htm

Thanks for listening,

Fritz Jung

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