Mitch Mitchell: The Hendrix Years

“I ended up playing one thing in New York with Joe Tex and his big band — and this ain’t Count Basie! Jimi woke me up in the hotel in New York and it was about 2:00 o’clock in the morning, ’Mitch, come on. You’ve got to come.’ ’Huh, what?’ I think it was something like a Black Panther reunion or whatever the deal was. I was in the middle of this huge situation in some ballroom, and it was like, ’Shit or get off the pot.’ I was very grateful to be around this situation.

“I also got invited up to Miles Davis’ house on a Sunday. John McLaughlin had just come in to New York and he was just starting to do some work with Miles with that old Gibson acoustic guitar and Miles at the piano. I was just sitting there taking it in. Suddenly there was this voice like, ’Hey, drummer!’ So I looked around. ’Hey drummer! You’re a drummer, right?’ What was I supposed to say? ’Yes sir, I’m a drummer.’ ’Come play.’ And there’s no drums. So I went to the kitchen and got a couple of pan scrubbers and just made noise. We played for a little bit and, ’Okay, can you be at CBS at 2:00?’ And that was it. I was at CBS at 2:00 the next day with a brand new Gretsch kit from Tony Williams. And I still have that kit to this day.”

Oh, if one could only have been a fly on the wall at that session, or, for that matter, at any session during the late ’60s and early ’70s where Mitchell played his heart out. Imagine watching him shape ideas emanating from Hendrix’s guitar, spontaneously interpreting material that would inspire generations of players to reach a bit further beyond their grasps.

Might as well face facts. The best we can expect is to hear him describe, in his own words, the relationship he shared with his friend and partner, Jimi Hendrix. “There are a lot of things that we never said,” Mitchell says. “I think what it comes down to is a kind of mutual respect for each other. Musically, I’d give him a hard time, he’d give me a hard time, though it was a very compatible situation from my side. It was very interesting to work with someone who would give you that ultimate freedom that seemed to have whatever time existed in your head. There were no boundaries, there were no limits at all. Jimi was irreplaceable, both as a friend and a musician. I miss him as much today.”

To see an exhaustive lesson on Mitch Mitchell’s drumming style with Jimi Hendrix Experience, go here

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