Biographer of ’60s guitarist will share his ‘experience’

By Pat Sherman

Steve Roby, acclaimed biographer, archivist and historian of the late guitar virtuoso, Jimi “Voodoo Child” Hendrix, will be in town for a discussion and book signing, 7 p.m. Oct. 13 at D. G. Wills Books in La Jolla.

The author will discuss and sign his most recent book, “Hendrix on Hendrix: Interviews and Encounters with Jimi Hendrix,” which chronicles the psychedelic blues rocker’s brilliant but tragically brief career in his own words, as amassed from European and U.S. print and broadcast news interviews, as well as court transcripts of his trial for narcotics possession at Toronto International Airport.

The book even includes a slice of San Diego counterculture journalism from May 1969, when Hendrix allowed San Diego Free Press scribe Jim Brodey to interview him backstage at the Sports Arena, where Hendrix performed with his three-piece band, the Experience.

The interviews chronicle the height of the Seattle-born musician’s career, from his arrival in London in 1966 to his accidental death from asphyxiation on Sept. 18, 1970.

In his first British press interview, The Record Mirror’s Peter Jones dubbed the up-and-coming artist, “Mr. Phenomenon.” The last interview, conducted just a week before he died and shortly after his final performance in Germany, finds the artist in a “fragile state,” Roby said.

“He was in state of flux, kind of a bit uncertain about his future,” Roby said, noting that the Experience had just broken up and that Hendrix was under pressure from executives at Reprise Records to release a follow-up to his third and final album, 1968’s “Electric Ladyland.”

“One point he makes (during the interview) is that he wants to be known for not being just a guitar player or a singer,” Roby said. “He wanted to establish himself as a producer or getting into another form of music, like jazz.

“Jimi wanted to expand the band, (and his) manager wanted it to continue to be a three-piece, because it had been a successful outfit selling records, and selling out concerts,” Roby said.

“Jimi wanted to take it further and experiment with new sounds. He wanted to add horns and congas. He had been experimenting with people like Miles Davis and John McLaughlin. … His manager wasn’t going for it.”

Through the course of the interviews collected for the book, Hendrix expounds on his songwriting process, guitar technique, traumatic childhood, and myriad influences — from Bob Dylan to science fiction books.

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