From the very moment that Jimi Hendrix was handed a one-stringed ukulele as a child by his father, he knew what his calling was in life. Through grit, determination, and a sprinkling of magic dust in his veins, Hendrix would make that boy from Seattle’s dreams a reality, but he was no overnight success story.
Hendrix arrived in England in 1966, and within months his name was on everybody’s lips. However, his journey didn’t come without hardship or rejection. Despite his otherworldly talent, it was a bumpy road for Hendrix, but his perseverance would finally pay off. However, years before the fame and the money, he was already playing with Ray Charles.
Hendrix’s pursuit of stardom eventually took him to Nashville and New York’s Greenwich Village before London. Each location played a vital role in Hendrix’s development, but Seattle was his home and the place where the fairytale started.
These are the streets that made him and where he fell in love with music. After buying his first electric guitar in 1959, Hendrix stunned everyone who saw him, and there wasn’t a soul who didn’t want a piece of the mercurial talent. In a sliding doors moment, Ray Charles was the person to first allowed Hendrix the opportunity to perform a proper show.
Hendrix came armed with two things; his white Supro Ozark and his little brother Leon. He travelled everywhere with his older brother, they were inseparable, and every second of the time they shared he cherishes to this day.
“Jimi and I had a lot of fun when we were kids,” Leon told Mouth Magazine in 2018. “He was in charge of me. He had to babysit me while our Dad worked. My Dad said ‘Don’t let nuthin’ happen to him,’ to Jimi, and so I had to go everywhere with Jimi. I remember every moment.”
“I remember when he first got started on the guitar,” he continued. “And I remember his band practices and I remember his first gigs. And I used to go backstage. I went backstage when I was 12 and Jimi was playing for Ray Charles when Ray Charles lived in Seattle. That was Jimi’s first real gig.”
Leon Hendrix was born in 1948, and if his memory is correct, then this show with Ray Charles would have taken place when Hendrix was around 17 or 18 — a year before he was forced to join the Army in 1961 and put his musical ambitions on ice.
Charles had moved to Seattle a decade prior, and the city allowed him to meet Quincy Jones, who he created history alongside. By the time Charles performed with Hendrix, his stock was high, and he must have seen something in Jimi to offer him such a celestial opportunity.
This show inadvertently gave Hendrix a glimpse of what the future held. Following his discharge from the Army in 1962, Hendrix moved to Tennessee with a renewed focus, and he was hell-bent on not letting his dream slip away out of his grasp.
Not many teenagers perform with stars like Ray Charles, but Hendrix was sewn together from the most ravishing fabrics and wooed everybody who witnessed his magic in action. Although he had plenty more setbacks ahead, such as being fired from Little Richard’s band, it was written in the stars that one day Hendrix would one day be a guitar icon.