Post 53: The Vancouver shrine
Christian Lloyd, one of the writers working on our Hendrix companion guide reports on a recent trip to Canada which inevitably included a link with Hendrix…
Today, I had time to follow up a lead my B&B hostess gave me about Hogan’s Alley, the African-Canadian neighbourhood of Vancouver where Jimi Hendrix went as a child to spend summers with his grandmother. Sadly the architectural and cultural heritage of this area of East Vancouver was destroyed in a misguided 1970s redevelopment scheme, but I visited the remaining part of the building formerly housing Vie’s Chicken and Steak House, in which Nora Hendrix worked as a cook. The restaurant was a focus of its community, visited for post-gig eats by touring stars such as Louis Armstrong and Nat King Cole. Local lore has it that Hendrix helped out in the restaurant, meeting these luminaries, and practised guitar in the back room. In the winter of 1962 after leaving the US army, he returned to Hogan’s Alley and played in nearby venues.
Certainly, Vie’s must have been comforting during his disrupted childhood, a refuge in a fugitive life. Hendrix famously said that Brook St was “the only home I ever had”, but he craved the soul food of his youth while in London, and was always pleased when Madeline Bell cooked it for him, Vie’s style, in the kitchen at the flat.
Today, volunteers run the Jimi Hendrix Shrine, an eccentric but touching tribute. In the main room is a display of info on the area and some reproduced Hendrix lyrics, while the garden has unfortunate murals featuring Jimi with Monica Danneman, the woman he was with when he died. Our guide told us that one (below) showed Jimi’s “castle in Nottingham,” but the image is clearly of the folly at Scotney Castle in Kent. (I think anyway he was confusing Nottingham with Notting Hill, where Jimi died). There is more on Hogan’s Alley online, but, if you are in Vancouver, it is worth dropping by this sliver of Hendrix history. Canadian Hendrix is a significantly underexplored topic, and this piece of the puzzle will no doubt soon be lost to gentrification.