Interview: Richard Keith Wolff – 50 years since he met Jimi Hendrix at Brook Street
“Hendrix gave off himself, what more can a person give than that! I think everybody was happy, I know I was.”
In 1969, photographer Richard Keith Wolff was invited to 23 Brook Street to capture an interview between Jimi Hendrix and Hugh Curry, a reporter for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. Fifty years later, we asked Richard a few questions about his serendipitous afternoon with arguably the greatest rock musician of all time.
How is it you ended up taking photos of Jimi Hendrix in his Brook Street flat in 1969?
It was in many ways chance, or so it seemed, and living in London in those times when anything was possible. Some friends have since told me that it was incredible, but at the time, it felt normal.
In the late sixties, we seemed to be more open, more friendly. One time, when I was walking in Notting Hill Gate, I noticed a guy trying to hail a taxi without success. He noticed me noticing him and asked in a Canadian accent “how do you get a taxi to stop in this town?” I suggested he was standing too near a bus stop, so the taxis were probably assuming he was catching a bus. We got chatting, he was looking for a new place to stay, so I invited him to stay at my flat. It transpired his name was Hugh Curry, from Toronto, and he was conducting interviews of musicians in London, a city where it was all happening, for CBC TV. At the time I was a London Film School student, moonlighting as a photographer. We hung out and he asked me along to take photographs at a number of his interviews including Jimi Hendrix.
What do you remember of Hendrix’s flat at that time?
It was similar to the way it is now restored. Though, for example, you can see in my photograph on your website that the mirror on my picture is square or rectangular not the oval one you have now, as well as different objects: a possible Buddha figurine, and a picture of a bird on the mantelpiece. Though the way you have it now does tally with Barrie Wentzell photographs. And other details like that, things get changed and moved around.
Long term memory is a strange thing, I almost think I remember the shape of the room being a little bit wider, or orientated slightly differently, but I realise now that can’t have been so. The interior design, though it was of some interest, would not have been the main point of interest to me at the time, Jimi Hendrix was.
Had Curry interviewed Jimi before/did they have a good rapport?
As far as I know Hugh Curry had not interviewed Jimi Hendrix before this date, this was the first time I think, though he was to met up with Jimi again at an Albert Hall concert.
Hugh Curry did have a good rapport with Jimi, they sounded like they were on a similar wavelength. Jimi had a confidential way of talking like he was, maybe, gossiping with a friend. Curry was cool and was a good interviewer of musicians. He quickly absorbed information before the interview, most of what they were driving at in the interviews. Perhaps partly, because of his background as a radio disc jockey, he was knowledgeable about the musicians and their music.
Was Hendrix a good host or did his hospitality extend only to herbal cigarettes?
I think the herbal cigarette that was being passed around between Hugh, Jimi, me, may have originated from Hugh. I can’t say for sure. Hendrix gave off himself, what more can a person give than that! I think everybody was happy, I know I was.
In your original account of the shoot, you mention ominous looking men in dark suits waiting outside the flat. Did you ever get any more info on these figures?
No. Maybe I was being too imaginative, could have been something innocuous!
What was Hendrix like as a photography subject?
You cannot get better than Hendrix as a photography subject. Partly, because of his artistic colour sense and design are wonderful. But further because he is such a beautiful soul. The only thing is, I did get distracted by the experience from the photography.
We’d to extend a very warm thank you to Mr Wolff for answering our questions on what must have been an unforgettable experience.
You can read the photographer’s original article here.
Interview by Bobby Bertoli.