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The Last Days of Hendrix

Updated: May 16, 2022

It's no secret that Jimi Hendrix's rise began in London after Linda Keith, then girlfriend of Keith Richards, first saw him perform at The Cheetah Club in New York City. While she waited for The Rolling Stones to return to the city from their tour of America in 1966, she told her friend, Chas Chandler, he needed to check Jimi out since Chandler was looking to get out of The Animals and start managing acts. He heeded her advice and took in an afternoon gig Jimi was playing at Cafe Wha in the Village. (photo credit: ©RockTourLondon)

Jimi was initially reluctant to Chandler's suggestion of going to England with him but decided it might result in him meeting his idol, Eric Clapton. So, on 24 September 1966, Hendrix landed at Heathrow with an overnight bag and $40 he had borrowed from a drummer buddy.

(photo credit: theswingingsixties.tumblr)

Jimi's reputation as a guitar god skyrocketed as he sat in with bands in London's clubs since he had no work papers for the first few weeks. He met Clapton almost as soon as he arrived The Capital. He also met and started dating Kathy Etchington, (photo credit: mirrorpix) a woman who would be his longest ever relationship; he befriended Eric Clapton, Brian Jones, Eric Burdon and The Beatles; he played and frequented clubs like The Marquee, The Speakeasy, The Scotch of St James (to name a few); he was signed to Track Records; he formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience; he opened for The Who at a Sunday afternoon show at Brian Epstein's Saville Theatre; he moved into Ringo Starr's house on Montaqu Square; he toured as the opening act for The Monkees; he toured Europe; he bought clothes in Chelsea's King's Road shops like Granny Takes A Trip; oh, and he played this little show called Monterrey Pop Festival in California too.

Tiring of The Jimi Hendrix Experience the guitar virtuoso went back to America in 1969. He'd broken up with Kathy and toured with his new group, Band of Gypsies, and started to build Electric Ladyland Studios in New York's Greenwich Village. But his co-manager, Mike Jeffrey, decided the potential to make money in films, like 'Easy Rider' had done, was reason to force Hendrix to Hawaii to perform open air shows on Maui for two days before a scheduled show in Honolulu. These Maui shows were to be filmed to be included in the movie Rainbow Bridge. Spectators at the Maui shows were seated according to their astrological signs in true hippy fashion. When the Honolulu gig was done, an exhausted Hendrix headed back to the Village in NYC to work on his studio and recuperate.

The Foulk brothers, Ronnie and Ray, had moved to the Isle of Wight a decade before with their widowed mother. In 1968 the duo staged their first Isle of Wight Pop Festival but it was their 1969 festival that showcased Bob Dylan that was hugely successful. That event gave Dylan's career quite the boost. In 1970, with a need to top their Dylan success, the Foulk brothers were looking for a headliner. The Beatles were on the verge of breaking up and The Rolling Stones were heading to France as tax exiles so, Jimi became the obvious choice. Since he'd been out of the UK a while, the whole festival was built around him. Mike Jeffrey didn't give the exhausted Hendrix an option...he was doing Isle of Wight. Oh, and while he was there, concerts in Sweden, Denmark, West Germany, Holland and France were booked too. Jeffrey seeing the opportunity to line his pockets.

Knowing he'd be passing through London on his way to the festival, Jimi wanted to see Linda Keith again. Plans were made for them to meet at a (then) new club called Tramp in Mayfair. (photo credit: Evening News on Pinterest)

Hendrix's arrival in London sparked a lot of media interest as this would be his first appearance in the UK in over 18 months. The press came to the Londonderry Hotel to interview him one by one. The now married Kathy Etchington didn't know Hendrix was back in town until she got a frantic call from her friend Angie Burdon, former wife of Eric Burdon. Angie was asking Kathy for help as she and a friend were in Jimi's room at the Londonderry and he'd gone 'mad'. When Etchington arrived she found the living room area of the suite wrecked and the two girls sitting there in their underwear. Angie explained they'd run into Jimi at The Speakeasy the night before and came back to his room with him. When they woke in the morning Hendrix went crazy. He banged their heads together, trashed the room and proceeded to lock himself in the bedroom refusing to give them back their clothes. Kathy defused the situation and got the women clothed and out of the room but not before realizing Jimi was unrecognizable to how she remembered him and he was very much not well.

The Londonderry threw Hendrix out after discovering the damage and Jimi moved into The Cumberland, one of his favorite hotels in London. This hotel was very popular with rock musicians and tended to be a little less 'uptight' than other establishments. It became Jimi's last known address.

Hendrix made good on that plan to meet Linda Keith at Tramp. Linda, with her finance Lawrence, and Jimi with his newly acquired Danish model girlfriend, Kirsten Nefer.

(photo credit:jimiallenhendrix.tumblr).

At that meeting he gave Linda one of his guitars and told her he'd drafted his will leaving his possessions to Kathy Etchington, his royalties to friend Fayne Pridgon and his publishing to her. That will has yet to surface.

The Isle of Wight Festival was a five day event that showcased the New Jimi Hendrix Experience with co-headliners The Doors. The Who, Joni Mitchell, Emerson Lake & Palmer, The Moody Blues and Jethro Tull, among others, performed as well. It is estimated that 400,000 people attended the event. The year Hendrix had arrived in London a North London wall was painted with the words 'Clapton Is God.' The fence around the Isle of Wight festival read, 'Hendrix for Pope.' Hendrix didn't disappoint. His performance was stellar. But the event creator, Ray Foulk, remembered noticing Jimi had an "undeniable fragility about him. He was clearly physically and mentally exhausted."

Now that Isle of Wight was over that Europe tour Jeffrey planned began. Things went downhill quickly. Swedish hotels were reluctant to let Jimi stay because of his reputation; Scandinavian journalist bombarded him for interviews which he gave freely while slurring his words and consuming whisky like water. Chas Chandler, who by now had been fired by Jimi, attended the show in Gothenburg where Hendrix continually forgot what song he was playing and would break into another tune in the middle of a solo. Chandler didn't mince words after the show telling Hendrix he looked awful and was awful to watch. Jimi knew it was true but still took it badly. They didn't speak again.

In Denmark on 2 September 1970, one of the notorious colds Jimi was always plagued with morphed into a fever which had his booking agent afraid for his health. Kirsten Nefer arrived from London to find Jimi in such a state he couldn't even tune his guitar, his condition so bad she had to help walk him to the stage. Even then he only managed two songs before cutting the show short.

In Copenhagen his condition had grown worse so Kirsten made the decision to take him home to her parents house. Jimi was warmly welcomed and got his first real good night's sleep in months. But that act threw the Danish media into a frenzy with rumors of the couple having made serious future plans. In a subsequent magazine interview, the couple admitted they were 'seriously considering marriage'. Kirsten arranged to take some time off from filming her movie to accompany Jimi on the rest of the Europe dates. Well, until he completely cooled to the whole idea of marriage infuriating the actress to the point she headed back to the movie set in England.

The tour continued. The next stop was a three day event that the New Jimi Hendrix Experience would headline called Festival of Love and Peace on the Baltic island of Fehmarn. It would turn out to be the opposite of Love and Peace. On the evening of 5 September, torrential rain prevented Jimi and the band from getting on stage. Tensions began to rise among performers, their management and worse yet, those hired to perform security detail, the German Hell's Angels. Jimi finally got on stage on 6 September around 1pm but was met with an unhappy crowd. Unhappy for having been kept waiting so long and that the Hell's Angels were employing their own security measures such as beating up hippies, looting the box office and burning down the press tent. The band got off stage just before the Angels set fire to it. This sent Billy Cox, the group's bass player, into further panic. He had been victim to an unwanted acid trip a few weeks earlier having unknowingly ingested a spiked drink. He didn't recover from that really bad trip and was now over the edge of paranoia.

On 7 September, back in London and checked into The Cumberland, Hendrix reconnected with Kirsten Nefer the one stable influence in his life. Billy Cox was still in a horrible state so it was decided it would be best to send him home to the states to recover. Attempts to replace him failed and the remaining shows were cancelled. While Hendrix focused on some legal issues, the most pressing being his desire to untangle himself from manager Mike Jeffrey, Kirsten was summoned back to the film set as her co-star, George Lazenby (once James Bond) was annoyed at all her time away from filming. Although he protested, Kirsten promised Jimi she'd call him later; which she did but the Cumberland never passed on the message. Feeling alone and abandoned, as Jimi often did, he then connected with 25 year old Monika Dannerman, (photo credit: discogs) a former German ice skater, on 15 September. Dannerman was a woman with whom he had had a couple of trysts in Dusseldorf in January and April of 1969. Jimi's friends just assumed she was another of his groupies but were startled to hear Monika's claims they were engaged. She claimed he called her to London to help with the Billy Cox situation which, if true, would mean Hendrix had two fiancees at the same time.

Dannerman was staying in a basement flat at the Samarkand Hotel in Notthing Hill. Hendrix spent a lot of time there with her for three days but still used The Cumberland to make phone calls, use room service and leave things he'd purchased. Monika had rented a two seater Opel sports car which offered them mobility to get around town.

On the night of 15 September, with friend Eric Burdon having just begun a week-long set of shows with his new band War, Jimi showed up with Dannerman at Ronnie Scott's Jazz Club in Soho wanting to jam with the group. Hendrix was in such a state of drugged out stupor he didn't even recognize his close friends in the club. When the realization hit that he was standing next to someone he knew he mumbled; "I'm almost gone". The roadie for War refused to let Hendrix on stage in that state so he and Monika left.

On 16 September Jimi and Monika shopped and attended the birthday party of actress Judy Wong where he announced that he and Dannerman were getting married. That evening he went back to Ronnie Scott's and this time made it to the stage to jam with Eric Burdon and War. It would prove to be the last time Hendrix would ever perform in public. (photo credit: @veryoldpics on Pinterest)

On 17 September the couple awoke in the early afternoon and spent time in the garden at the Samarkand with Monika taking pictures of Jimi. Around 3pm they were shopping on High Street Kensington and also the Chelsea Antique Market. A conversation Hendrix had with Mitch Mitchell from The Cumberland, a call Jimi made when he stopped to drop off his latest purchases, resulted in plans for Mitchell and Cream's drummer, Ginger Baker, to meet Jimi at The Speakeasy later that night. Mitchell and Baker waited until 4am but Jimi never showed.

Monika Dannerman's accounts of what happened the night of 17 September 1970 and the next morning have changed no less than 14 times. She claims she dropped Hendrix at a party near The Cumberland hotel but he told her not to come in. When she came back to get him a few hours later his friends claim he asked them to stall her but then he abruptly left without saying goodbye. Something he never did. Monika says they went back to her Notting Hill flat and Jimi laid down on the bed fully dressed. He asked her for something to help him sleep. She offered him a Vesparax but told him they were strong and he should only take half of a tablet.

She awoke around 9am and walked the ten minutes to the nearest store for cigarettes leaving Hendrix still asleep. When she returned she noticed he'd changed his sleeping position but also saw something trickling from his mouth. When she approached him she stepped on a ten tablet blister pack of Veparax with all but one table gone. She couldn't wake him. In a panic, she called Eric Burdon for help who, having been woken from a deep sleep, took a bit of time to react but friend Alvina Bridges who had spent the night with Burdon had alarms bells going off in her head immediately. Bridges got in a cab after telling Dannerman to call an ambulance. Burdon followed soon after. Upon arriving at the Samarkand, the flat was empty and the door was open. Having told the cabbie to wait she took it to the nearest hospital, St Mary Abbot's. It was there Jimi Hendrix was pronounced dead at 1245pm on 18 September 1970. (photo credit: ©RockTourLondon)

While Dannerman's story changed often the truth was that Jimi Hendrix was gone. He was 27 years old.

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©RockTourLondon, 2022

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