The first guitar Jimi Hendrix played in London now on display
Jimi Hendrix fascinated the British public and revolutionised the British music scene almost as soon as he got off the plane at Heathrow airport. Jimi brought along with him from the US something entirely different to what was being played in Britain at the time.
Hendrix didn’t lose any time when he first arrived in London. Within his first few days in the capital he had already changed his stage name, captured the imagination of the British public, impressed musicians and their entourages, signed a new record contract, and found himself a girlfriend. London gave Jimi, with his huge talent and incredible showmanship something that was almost impossible to get in the US: acceptance and understanding in the local music scene. It was his manager Chas Chandler’s idea to bring Hendrix, and his sensational guitar playing, over to the other side of the Atlantic. So, with $40 in his pocket and the promise of meeting Eric Clapton, Jimi embarked on the London adventure that would change his life.
On September 24th 1966, Jimmy James (as he was then known) left New York and arrived in London as Jimi Hendrix. His first stop was in Fulham at 60s bandleader Zoot Money’s flat, where his soon-to-be girlfriend Kathy Etchingham was staying at the time. It was here where Hendrix picked up a guitar and played his first notes on British soil. This guitar – Zoot Money’s 1960’s Wandre electric guitar – is the first guitar that Jimi Hendrix played on British soil, and which is now exhibited here at Hendrix’s former home in Brook Street.
To continue the story of Hendrix’s first day in London, he went on to perform that evening at The Scotch of St James, the club that hosted everyone from The Beatles & The Animals to Eric Clapton and many more.
“People had never seen anything like it. It was haunting how good he was. You just stopped and watched.” Eric Burdon of The Animals
Then, still only a few days after he had arrived, Hendrix performed again at the Scotch, and among the audience were The Who’s managers, who quickly realised how good Jimi was. They were so impressed that apparently they agreed with Chas Chandler there and then to put Jimi out on their record label. Great news for the rock star as it also permitted him to extend his visa (initially only set to last 7 days). That night, still at the Scotch of St James, the contract was written up on the back of a napkin and the rest, as they say, is history.
“You never told me he was that good.” Eric Clapton to Chas Chandler