Voodoo Child veteran: The story of Private Jimi Hendrix

Phil Briggs
February 08, 2018 - 3:01 pm
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At the intersection of Black History Month and Military Veterans, stands one of the greatest guitarists of all time- Jimi Hendrix. 

Although his legacy is essentially being the guitarist who re-invented the sound of rock music, it’s interesting to note that Hendrix was once with 101st Airborne Division. (His bio states that he enlisted after a judge offered an alternative to jail, for riding around in stolen cars.)

My favorite part of his service story is envisioning a young Johnny Allen Hendrix reporting for duty to the 101st Airborne Division at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in 1961. Imagining his laid back swagger, trying to be contained by an Army Drill Sergeant. 

 

Luckily, his desire to play guitar was not discouraged by the regimented life of a soldier, and in November 1961, fellow serviceman Billy Cox, heard Hendrix playing guitar.  According to his biography, Cox described Hendrix as "a combination of John Lee Hooker and Beethoven". The two jammed and performed at local clubs as a band called "The Casuals."

While he was a visionary and a brilliant guitarist, he wasn't the most sqaured away soldier.  There are some reports that state he lacked motivation and "required excessive supervision". 

As we enter a year where Jimi would be 76 years old, the modern news cycle has circled stories of celebrity sexual misconduct. One can only imagine if Jimi Hendrix's time in Army may have made headlines too- as there’s an old story about how he was once disciplined by his commanding officer for indecent self-gratification while on duty.

He was discharged in May of 1962 for "behavioral problems".

Although he may not be remembered as the greatest soldier- by putting down the rifle and picking up an axe, he started a revolution that changed rock and roll riffs forever.

Rock on Jimi ... rock on.