I saw Jimi Hendrix play Woolsey Hall on the Yale campus in New Haven, Connecticut, on November 17th, 1968. It was an early show.
I was there with a blonde girl whose name has been lost to time. It was cold and she wore an itchy wool sweater. Our seats were close to the stage, maybe the third row. We wondered if Jimi would smash or burn his guitar (he did neither).
There were two support bands, Cat Mother & The All Night Newsboys and Terry Reid. I became a true believer in Terry Reid from the first note. I left the show thinking more about Terry than Jimi. To this day I’m not sure who had a bigger influence on me as a musician.
It was a very long time before Jimi came out. The story was he didn’t know there was an early show. I kept wishing they would let Terry do another set. Jimi eventually took the stage and claimed he would make it up to us. He promised to play “Foxy Lady” like never before. He played the first few notes and the hall suddenly fell into complete darkness. It wasn’t for dramatic effect: the band had actually blown the main fuse. They needed a bit more time to run a power line from another building to continue the show. Jimi engaged the audience to help pass the time (as best he could) by telling jokes. The only one I remember was something like: “What’s green and hangs from the trees in Africa? Elephant snot.”
He said he was going to play the next song really loud. He turned it up and played an insane version of “Red House.” It was so loud I thought my ears would bleed.
Looking back, It was a great honor to see many of the guitarists who have influenced both my playing and my worldview. I learned from Jimi that you can never underestimate the power in your left hand, Fuzz and Wah can create magic in the right combination, and most of all, nothing in music is as important as a beautiful melody.
“I’m the one that’s going to have to die when it’s time for me to die, so let me live my life the way I want to, sing on brother, play on drummer….”