By Chase Corley
Iconic, legendary, greatest, these are words that have surrounded Jimi Hendrix since the height of his fame in the late 1960s.
To me, he is much more than these comments. Hendrix would be turning 80 years old this month, on Nov. 27. I have loved classic rock and music ever since I can remember, but hearing Hendrix’s instrumentals and songs in high school such as “Bold as Love”, “Purple Haze”, and “Spanish Castle Magic,” ignited a fire in me, eventually leading to me founding The University of Tampa’s Guitar Club in 2016
Listening to his music just wasn’t enough. I yearned to learn how to engage with his music another way; to actually play it. He was a mentor to me, paving the way towards having a passion, something beautiful and meaningful for my soul.
Out of the 216 concerts Hendrix played from 1967-1970 with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, two of them were in Tampa on August 18 and Nov. 23, 1968, at what was once Curtis Hixon Hall, and is now Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.
Both concerts were near sellouts with over 7,000 fans attending each night.
Nearly 50 years later, there was a 2019 commemoration for Jimi Hendrix in downtown Tampa, where a marker was erected commemorating his performances in the city.
Two of the speakers were Michael Braun, Hendrix’s personal wardrobe designer from the 1960s, and Gerardo Velez, his original Woodstock drummer.
Many of Braun’s outfits are immortalized on album covers, posters and magazines and TV shows too numerous to mention.
Braun helped design and made many of the clothes Hendrix wore on stage and in his personal life. According to Braun, he was always getting letters from Hendrix asking for more and more clothes and new designs to be done. Braun later found out it was because the women Hendrix was with were taking his clothes so they could hold onto a part of him– showing that almost everyone that knew Hendrix wanted to be close with him, he was that special.
“I learned from being around him [Hendrix] that it was legal, alright and encouraging to be yourself,” said Braun at the event.
Seven time Grammy nominee, Velez was 20 and Hendrix was 24 when they were bandmates together and then played together on stage at Woodstock in 1969.
According to Velez, Hendrix had amazing technique, yet he didn’t think of him as being one of the greats at the time since they were close friends.
“You can ask Eric Clapton, ‘who was the best guitar player in contemporary music of all time?’, and that was Jimi Hendrix hands down,” said Velez.
The sentiments from Braun and Velez show that more than 50 years later, people who knew Hendrix personally remember him for his wild guitar antics, his ability to create sounds and music the world had not yet heard before and surprisingly his reservedness when not playing the guitar (which was seldom).
Hendrix at age 15 in 1957 in Seattle with his first electric guitar.
Hendrix’s life has had a lasting impact on the members of the UT Guitar Club, musicians of Tampa Bay, and is a part of the rich history of our city.