The one Jimi Hendrix lineup that Mitch Mitchell hated

Jimi Hendrix

When the Jimi Hendrix Experience first appeared in London clubs in the late 1960s, it was clear who everyone was paying attention to. From the first notes of ‘Purple Haze,’ Hendrix had become everyone’s new favorite guitar hero. He blended elements of rock, soul, and blues to create an extension of his musical personality. The rest of the band deserves recognition. But Mitch Mitchell claimed that one member of Hendrix’s band was far from perfect.

Mitchell, however, was more than just a passing drummer. Together with bassist Noel Redding, the sound of Experience was born from everyone working off each other. It provided Hendrix with the necessary foundation to transcend the limitations of rock and roll.

From the outside, Hendrix appeared to work in a style similar to Eric Clapton’s Cream. Both Redding and Mitchell were known for playing a variety of genres. Jimi Hendrix was able to push himself far beyond the limits of traditional guitar playing. Either it was expanding the blues standard ‘Hey Joe‘ or creating his masterpieces such as ‘The Wind Cries Mary‘.

As the 1960s progressed, Hendrix fell out of sync with the other band members. While putting together the tracks for his double album Electric Ladyland, Hendrix began to collaborate with other musicians. He worked with musicians who had a different perspective on what he was looking for.

All-new members of his band would fill the stage by the time he delivered his legendary performance at Woodstock. Hendrix would enlist artists such as Billy Cox on bass and Larry Lee on rhythm guitar. He enlists jazz musicians such as Juma Sultan and Gerardo ‘Jerry‘ Velez, to highlight various black musicians.

The lineup, christened Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, would go through their first few rehearsals with Mitchell, who added his jazzy flair to the backbeat while Hendrix worked his magic up front. The band performed flawlessly. But Mitchell was dissatisfied with the results.

In the book Jimi and Me, screenwriter Jonathan Stathakis recalls how Mitchell did not believe the band was evolving properly. He stated, “Mitch thought the band was terrible, that it lacked cohesion and direction. He was accustomed to The Experience’s tight pop, three- and four-minute rock ‘n’ roll structures. The new band emphasized improvisation and exploration. Mitch noticed Jimi was struggling in his new role as an improvisatory band leader.”

Hendrix may not have been able to assemble a six-piece band as easily as he once did. But he would eventually find his groove in a few months. Hendrix stripped down his sound for the Band of Gypsys live album. It featured Cox and drummer Buddy Miles playing through the greatest 1960s jams such as ‘Machine Gun‘. Hendrix wasn’t always able to get his band to do what he wanted. But it’s no surprise that his growing talent led to artists like Miles Davis taking notes from him.

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