Noel Redding: His Letter About the Jimi Hendrix Experience

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    Noel_ReddingFrom 1966 through 1969, Noel Redding played bass in the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Twenty years later, he wrote me this long, bittersweet account about his time with the band and what happened to him afterwards.

    The back story: Soon after Jimi Hendrix arrived in London in 1966, Noel Redding became the first recruit for his as-yet-unnamed band. Until then, Noel had been a lead guitarist; he’d just auditioned for the Animals. Jimi’s benefactor in England, Chas Chandler, was the bassist in the Animals. Redding agreed to give bass a try, and on September 29, 1966, after jamming on “Hey Joe” and “Have Mercy on Me Baby,” Jimi offered Noel the gig as bassist in his band. Chandler tutored Noel on his new instrument, and on occasion Jimi showed him parts he wanted to hear. When Mitch Mitchell came in on drums, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was complete. (For more about this period: Jimi Hendrix in London, 1966.)

    Noel Redding played bass on the Experience’s first three studio albums – Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland – and composed and sang the songs “Little Miss Strange” and “She’s So Fine.” He’s also heard on many albums that came out after Jimi’s death, including the Experience’s live recordings. On the side, Noel had a band called Fat Mattress, which opened several shows during the Experience’s 1969 U.S. tour. Tension flared between Jimi and Noel, and on June 1, 1969, Noel Redding left the Experience and returned to Great Britain. Billy Cox, Jimi’s Army buddy, took his place on bass. Little was heard from Noel after that.

    Fast forward twenty years. In 1989, while I was an editor for Guitar Player magazine, we scored an unreleased recording of the Jimi Hendrix Experience playing “Red House.” In those days, we often included a flexi-disc “Soundpage” in the issue, which readers could tear out and play on their turntables. Jim Marshall provided us with a stunning cover photo, and I volunteered to write the copy.

    I invited Billy Cox, Joe Satriani, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Noel Redding to participate in the issue. The first three were easy to find, and they all agreed to sit down for interviews. My only contact for Noel was an address in rural Ireland. So I crossed my fingers and sent him a letter with some questions and my fax number. A couple of weeks later, a large brown envelope arrived with my name and address written in his large, beautiful penmanship. The return address was a house in Ardfield, a small coastal town near Clonakily in southwest Ireland. Inside were six hand-annotated pages from a dot-matrix printer. Noel, bless his heart, not only answered my questions, but had formulated them into an essay. His insights into his life at the time, and his experiences in the Experience, were quite telling. I used portions of the document for my cover story, but here, for the first time, are the document’s complete contents.

    Noel began his cover letter “Thanks for the offer. Much appreciated.” Next he wrote, “One thing I want to say is that if you plan on putting me on the same page with Alan Douglas, Chip or Leo Branton, you can leave me out. I won’t appear beside them.” Douglas was then the producer and overseer of Jimi Hendrix’s posthumous recordings, while Leo Branton, I later learned, was Al Hendrix’s lawyer. Leo Branton, Jr., also an attorney, was nicknamed Chip. The letter also yielded a clue about Noel’s finances at the time. “This is the first time I’ve used the FAX system,” he’d typed in the printout. “The local travel agency has given me permission to use their machine.” But then at the side of this paragraph he hand-wrote, “Changed mind! Too expensive!!” and so he mailed it. His having played in a world-famous rock band had brought him no guarantee of future financial security.

    Noel opened his essay by addressing Jimi Hendrix’s blues roots, the original studio recording of “Red House,” and how they performed the song in concert. His final paragraph gives insight into the Live at Winterland CD and the tensions during the Experience’s final tour, which sometimes left them feeling “like death warmed up.”

     

    Noel Redding letter 2

    On the next page, Noel described his feelings about his records with Jimi finding new listeners, being in the record charts again, and being re-issued on CD. He praised Warner Bros. for sending him gold and platinum awards, noting that this “goes a small way towards making up for the lack of royalty checks.”

    Noel Redding letter 3

    On page three, Redding addressed some of the changes in the music business since the breakup of the Experience, including the use of false packaging to lure the collectors. “If you’re lucky,” he continued, “you’re dead and can become a cult figure.” He bemoaned the spate of new releases and bootlegs, adding, “I wouldn’t be surprised to see an lp of burps and farts come out.”

    Noel Redding letter 4

    Redding went on to describe unreleased Hendrix material still in the possession of the Experience’s first producer, Chas Chandler. He ended his essay by pointing out that Experience music endures because they played a “good variety of music.” He concluded the document with a five-paragraph bio detailing his post-Hendrix musical experiences, his lawsuits with the Hendrix estate, a dark period when he “gave up, got depressed, stopped playing, tried to do other things,” and his subsequent happy return to live music – this time, acoustic music played on guitar.

    Noel Redding letter 5

    Noel Redding letter 6

    Five years later Noel Redding and Carol Appleby co-authored a book, Are You Experienced?: The Inside Story of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He carried on his fight for royalties until his final days. On May 11, 2003, Noel Redding passed away at home in Ardfield, Ireland.

    For more on Jimi Hendrix:

    Jimi Hendrix in London, 1966

    Jimi Hendrix: The Complete January 1967 Interview With Steve Barker

    Jimi Hendrix: An Unpublished November 1967 Interview With Steve Barker

    Jimi Hendrix’s Personal Record Collection

    Jimi Hendrix: From Toronto to Woodstock

    Jimi’s Woodstock Setup: Guitar, Amps, Effects

    Stevie Ray Vaughan Interview: Jimi Hendrix and the Blues

    Joe Satriani on Jimi Hendrix’s “Red House” and Electric Ladyland Album

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    © 2013 Jas Obrecht. All rights reserved. This article may not be reposted or reprinted without the author’s permission.

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      7 comments on “Noel Redding: His Letter About the Jimi Hendrix Experience

      1. I met Noel in the early ’90s in a NYC studio. He was a nice guy but very bitter about the music industry and his Hendrix tenure. I did not ask him anything about his past yet in the course of conversation he started espousing his hatred of the industry, the record labels and all of the so-called professionals surrounding himself and Jimi at the time. He kept referring to Hendrix as “henpecked” and it took me a minute to realize who he was referring to within the context of the conversation. I thought this was odd yet funny, in a snide British humor way, and sad all at the same time. Noel proceeded to whip out a big bag of high grade bud and asked if I had any rollers? I did and we commenced to combust. A cherished, odd memory of a true legend.

        As i grew older I began seriously collecting vinyl form many genres and I happened to stumble across several of Noel’s fat mattress lps wherein he finally got to play guitar.
        These are cool lps in the “psych” rock canon and I reckon largely unknown to the general public albeit hoarded by Hendrix collectors.
        Noels albums are “psychedelic” and trippy,the remnants of a time when artists were able to stretch out for a few releases before their contracts were terminated for low sales.

      2. Madman Sam on said:

        That’s a great article Jas – thanks for posting it in the BBF!

      3. Rod Welles on said:

        Thanks for putting this letter out there, Jas. There are many of us musicians from the Boston area that ended up as victims of the record industry. It’s a shame that this happened on such a large scale to Noel, Mitch and Chas….
        On a brighter note, they certainly put out some wonderful music with Jimi which no one can take away….RIP Noel Redding….we miss you

      4. Randolph Roeder on said:

        As always, thanks Jas !

      5. dandor on said:

        According to what I’ve read, Noel (and probably Mitch too) took a single (large, hopefully) buy-out payment in the 1970s, as he thought that the Hendrix LP reissues had kind of run their course and he really needed the money at the time. No one could predict the development of the CD which lead to HUGE new sales from all the reissues issued on CD (and ‘new’ albums on CD too). So basically, what I’ve read is that Noel (and probably Mitch too) received NO royalties from any CD sales, as they had signed away their rights for any future royalties for a buy-out settlement before the CD era, unfortunately.

      6. Bob Wyman on said:

        I just wanted to note that Noel walked off the stage and left for England on June 29, 1969 not June 1. I was there, The Denver Pop Festival, standing just below Jimi stage right. “Voodoo Child” was winding down by Jimi winding it up, if that makes sense. Noel suddenly took the bass off and walked out through the curtain behind Jimi. Jimi was intensely into his guitar and did not notice Noel. A short time passed then Mitch left and three guys came out. One took Jimi’s guitar while the other two picked him up and carried him off-stage. I followed along the side of the stage as they physically tossed Jimi up into the back of a rental truck. Two people inside caught him and the door was pulled shut then padlocked… I was interviewed by Phil Carson a few years ago about the Festival and Jimi Hendrix Experience. It being the last show the three of them did made it a truly historic event in music, The gig Jimi played was Woodstock. The article is on my web site and has been borrowed by other sites as well. The article first appeared in Uni-Vibes magazine then later showed up in Experience Hendrix magazine in1999. There were people filming the show but footage has never surfaced. Personally I would kill to have one image- if there were any images that Jimi and myself appeared in. Yes, that is totally selfish on my part!
        That show changed me forever and I am grateful to my friend Marque Coy for taking me. We were young teenagers and that night were propelled into a new world, never looking back. Marque and I lost touch during high school. A few years ago I discovered him again. He had been working for Frank Zappa since 1980 doing stage/studio monitor sound. I loved Zappa and wish I had known but such is life.
        Thank you for sharing with all of us. bobwyman is my site where the article I referred to resides.

      7. Barry Levene on said:

        There is so much more material on Jimi, Noel and Mitch, that has yet to be seen?

        Barry Levene

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