Leon Hendrix

Posted by: on Oct 27, 2014 | No Comments

2014 has been a massive years for concerts in Australia. From the likes of Bob Dylan, Queen, Alt- J and Glass Animals, we have been blessed with all of the major artists coming out to our shores. To cap off a great year however, Jimi Hendrix’s younger brother Leon is coming to town with an all-star cast of musicians backing him. Paying tribute to the legacy and the legend of Jimi, Leon is set to play a couple of massive shows in Geelong and Melbourne. Chatting all the way from LA, Hendrix is excited about the opportunity to come and play shows over here, having toured to all the other major parts of the world. Alongside Leon for the ride, is Micky Free and I recently had the honour of sitting down to chat with them.

With a documentary released about Jimi’s life last year, it’s fair to say that his legacy and legend isn’t too far away from the music scene at any given time. Reflecting on the documentary’s releases, Leon feels that this is the most in-depth look at his life and career thus far. “ I recently released a book entitled ‘Jimi Hendrix: A Brother’s Story’ in which I relate a lot of great stories from the years of our childhood. Over the years, there have been many stories about Jimi, yet all the good ones have been mine.”

The impact that Jimi has had on modern music and the electric guitar was both incredible and revolutionary. In the time that was dominated by guitarists such as Jimmy Page in the Yardbirds and Eric Clapton in the Bluesbreakers and later Cream, Hendrix began to make his mark with his trio.  As Leon relates though, Jimi’s love of music began with the ukulele. Last year in an interview with the website Subba-Culture, Leon had this to say about his humble beginnings.

“Jimi started out playing Ukulele yet, he was an artist even before that time. He would hear Little Richard or Chuck Berry on the radio and he would get up and start playing the broom. In those days, you would rarely ever see these older acts on TV and so when they did come on Jimi would copy them. He got the opportunity to play with Little Richard and I know that Richard had developed quite a fondness for Jimi.” Leon said.

From the early days of playing in bands in Seattle, Hendrix was building his skills as a guitarist and as a result had the opportunity to back Ray Charles as his first real gig . “When he first started playing in bands, everybody would continue to fire him because he couldn’t really practice with people. He would start to experiment with the song. His fancy guitar work wasn’t really appreciated and it was obvious at that stage that he was above them as musicians. I think it was beyond their imagination what he was doing.”

One of the most powerful lyrics to all of Hendrix’s work is 1967’s ‘Castles Made Of Sand’. The song in part relates about the last time that Jimi and Leon saw their mother Lucille. “That was a very tough time and the last time that we saw mum was in a wheelchair in a dark hospital. She was wearing a white gown and Jimi took that as inspiration and he penned ‘Castles Made of Sand’. To this day that is one of my favourites because it talks about the Hendrix family name.”

Having listened to Jimi’s music for many years and going back through the records after talking with Leon, I am in agreement that ‘Castles’ is among one of Hendrix’s masterpieces. At one with the electric guitar, Leon remembers the first time that Jimi played one.

“Jimi saw a guitar at one of our neighbours houses and begged her to give to him. She said she’d sell it to him for five dollars and eventually, My aunt bought it for him, and it was really raggedy. Jimi looked in a magazine and saw that they sold pick-ups and electronics. He got the pickups mounted on the guitar and drilled a hole into it. He put the jack into, yet it didn’t hold together so well he stuck it together with duct tape. It was a bit of a scratchy job, but it was awesome and it was the beginning of the next phase for him.”

Part of the all star band that is joining Leon Hendrix for this trip, is the legendary Micky Free who was discovered by Gene Simmons in the 80’s whilst supporting REO Speedwagon, Rush and Ted Nugent. In addition to playing with some of the biggest names around, Free has also won a Grammy for scoring the music for Beverley Hills Cop. Talking about his early musical beginnings, Free relates about how seeing Jimi Hendrix at an early age, changed his life.

“It couldn’t be anymore apro po, my father was in the service in Germany and his friend’s daughter couldn’t go to a concert, he took me, now dig that! I saw Jimi and that was it, I wanted to be a rock star. Having played alongside Billy Gibbons and Carlos Santana, then meeting Leon Hendrix. I was like forget it, holy sh*t, this was meant to be. This show is going to be called the Hendrix Free experience and Australia is the first stop. So it’s a very exciting time to be out on the road with this show.”

With such an extensive career and all the awards and accolades you could poke a stick at, Free feels fortunately and blessed at having the opportunity to play with some great musicians. “The water runs deep and I have had some great opportunities throughout my career. I think it was meant to be that I was to meet Leon Hendrix. He is his own man and he has his own style, I dig that about the man. We want to let everyone know though, through every interview that we do. We are not coming down there to copy what Jimi did. We are coming down to play and express the Hendrix songs, through us as musicians.” Free said.

With a new record out by the end of the year, make sure you catch the living legend of Leon Hendrix and band whilst they are in town.




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