Jimi Hendrix Political Harassment, Kidnap and Murder Experience February 18, 2008 9:26 PM
I Don't Live Today: The Jimi Hendrix Political Harassment, Kidnap and Murder Experience
by Alex Constantine
Chapter seven from the book: "The Covert War Against Rock", Published by Feral House, 2000
"I don't believe for one minute that he killed himself. That was out of the question."
— Chas Chandler, Hendrix Producer
"I believe the circumstances surrounding his death are suspicious and I think he was murdered."
— Ed Chalpin, Proprietor of Studio 76
"I feel he was murdered, frankly. Somebody gave him something. Somebody gave him something they shouldn't have."
— John McLaughlin, Guitarist, Mahavishnu Orchestra
He didn't die from a drug overdose. He was not an out-of-control dope
fiend. Jimi Hendrix was not a junkie. And anyone who would use his
death as a warning to stay away from drugs should warn people against
the other things that killed Jimi—the stresses of dealing with the
music industry, the craziness of being on the road, and especially, the
dangers of involving oneself in a radical, or even unpopular, political
movements. COINTELPRO was out to do more than prevent a Communist
menace from overtaking the United States, or keep the Black Power
movement from burning down cities. COINTELPRO was out to obliterate its
opposition and ruin the reputations of the people involved in the
antiwar movement, the civil rights movement, and the rock revolution.
Whenever Jimi Hendrix's death is blamed on drugs, it accomplishes the
goals of the FBI's program. It not only slanders Jimi's personal and
professional reputation, but the entire rock revolution in the 60's.
—John Holmstrom. "Who Killed Jimi?"(1)
As the music of youth and resistance fell under the cross-hairs of
the CIA's CHAOS war, it was probable that Jimi Hendrix—the tripping,
peacenik "Black Elvis" of the '60s—should find himself a target.
Agents of the pathologically nationalistic FBI opened a file on
Hendrix in 1969 after his appearance at several benefits for
"subversive" causes. His most cutting insult to the state was
participation in a concert for Jerry Rubin, Abbie Hoffman, Tom Hayden,
Bobby Seale and the other defendants of the Chicago Seven conspiracy
trial,(2) "Get [the] Black Panthers," he told a reporter for a teen
magazine, "not to kill anybody, but to scare [federal officials]....I
know it sounds like war, but that's what's gonna have to happen. It has
to be a war....You come back to reality and there are some evil folks
around and they want you to be passive and weak and peaceful so that
they can just overtake you like jelly on bread....You have to fight
fire with fire."(3)
On tour in Liesburg, Sweden, Hendrix was interviewed by Tommy
Rander, a reporter for the Gotesborgs-Tidningen. " In the USA, you have
to decide which side you're on," Hendrix explained. "You are either a
rebel or like Frank Sinatra."(4)
In 1979, college students at the campus newspaper of Santa Barbara
University (US filed for release of FBI files on Hendrix. Six heavily
inked-out pages were released to the student reporters. (The deletions
nixed information "currently and properly classified pursuant to
Executive Order 11652, in the interest of national defense of foreign
policy.") On appeal, seven more pages were reluctantly turned over to
the UCSB students. The file revealed that Hendrix had been placed on
the federal "Security Index," a list of "subversives" to be rounded up
and placed in detainment camps in the event of a national emergency.
If the intelligence agencies had their reasons to keep tabs on
Hendrix, they couldn't have picked a better man for the job than
Hendrix's manager, Mike Jeffrey. Jeffrey, by his own admission an
intelligence agent,(5) was born in South London in 1933, the sole child
of postal workers. He completed his education in 1949, took a job as a
clerk for Mobil Oil, was drafted to the National Service two years
later. Jeffrey's scores in science took him to the Educational Corps.
He signed on as a professional soldier, joined the Intelligence Corps
and at this point his career enters an obscure phase.
Hendrix biographers Shapiro & Glebeek report that Jeffrey often
boasted of "undercover work against the Russians, of murder, mayhem and
torture in foreign cities....His father says Mike rarely spoke about
what he did—itself perhaps indicative of the sensitive nature of his
work—but confirms that much of Mike's military career was spent in
'civvies,' that he was stationed in Egypt and that he could speak
There was, however, another, equally intriguing side of Mike
Jeffrey: He frequently hinted that he had powerful underworld
connections. It was common knowledge that he had had an abiding
professional relationship with Steve Weiss, the attorney for both the
Hendrix Experience and the Mafia-managed Vanilla Fudge, hailing from
the law firm of Seingarten, Wedeen & Weiss. On one occasion, when
drummer Mitch Mitchell found himself in a fix with police over a boat
he'd rented and wrecked, mobsters from the Fudge management office
intervened and pried him loose.(7)
Organized crime has had fingers in the recording industry since the
jukebox wars. Mafioso Michael Franzene testified in open court in the
late 1980s that "Sonny" Franzene, his stepfather, was a silent investor
in Buddah Records. At this industry oddity, the inane, nasal,
apolitical '60s "Bubblegum" song was blown from the goo of adolescent
mating fantasies. The most popular of Buddah's acts were the 1910
Fruitgum Company and Ohio Express. These bands shared a lead singer,
Joey Levine. Some cultural contributions from the Buddha label: "Yummy,
Yummy, Yummy," "Simon Says," and "1-2-3 Red Light."
In 1971, Buddha Records' Bobby Bloom was killed in a shooting
sometimes described as "accidental," sometimes "suicide," at the age of
28. Bloom made a number of solo records, including "Love Don't Let Me
Down," and "Count On Me." He formed a partnership with composer Jeff
Barry and they wrote songs for the Monkees in their late period. Bloom
made the Top 10 with the effervescent "Montego Bay" in 1970. Other
Mafia-managed acts of the late 1960s were equally apolitical: Vanilla
Fudge ("You Keep Me Hangin' On," "Bang, Bang"),(9) Motown's Gladys
Knight and the Pips, and Curtis Mayfield.(10) In the '60s and beyond,
organized crime wrenched unto itself control of industry workers via
the Teamsters Union. Trucking was Mob controlled. So were stadium
concessions. No rock bands toured unless money exchanged hands to see
that a band's instruments weren't delivered to the wrong airport.(11)
Intelligence agent or representative of the mob? Whether Jeffrey
was either or both—and the evidence is clear that a CIA/Mafia
combination has exercised considerable influence in the music industry
for decades—at a certain point, Hendrix must have seen something that
made him desperately want out of his management contract with Jeffrey.
Monika Dannemann, Hendrix's fiancé at the time of his death,
describes Mike Jeffrey's control tactics, his attempts to isolate and
manipulate Hendrix, with observations of his evolving awareness that
Jeffrey was a covert operator bent on dominating his life and mind:
Jimi felt more and more unsafe in New York, the city where he used
to feel so much at home. It had begun to serve as a prison to him, and
a place where he had to watch his back all the time.
In May 1969 Jimi was arrested at Toronto for possession of drugs.
He later told me he believed Jeffrey had used a third person to plant
the drugs on him—as a warning, to teach him a lesson.
Jeffrey had realized not only that Jimi was looking for ways of
breaking out of their contract, but also that Jimi might have
calculated that the Toronto arrest would be an easy way to silence
Jimi.... Jeffrey did not like Jimi to have friends who would put ideas
in his dead and give him strength. He preferred Jimi to be more
isolated, or to mix with certain people whom Jeffrey could use to
influence and try to manipulate him.
So in New York, Jimi felt at times that he was under surveillance,
and others around him noticed the same. He tried desperately to get out
of his management contract, and asked several people for advice on the
best way to do it. Jimi started to understand the people around him
could not be trusted, as things he had told them in confidence now
filtered through to Jeffrey. Obviously some people informed his manager
of Jimi's plans, possibly having been bought or promised advantages by
Jeffrey. Jimi had always been a trusting and open person, but now he
had reason to become suspicious of people he didn't know well, becoming
quite secretive and keeping very much to himself.(12)
Five years after the death of the virtuoso, Crawdaddy reported that
friends of Hendrix felt "he was very unhappy and confused before his
death. Buddy Miles recalled 'numerous times he complained about his
managers." His chief roadie, Gerry Stickells, told Welch, "he became
frustrated...by a lot of people around him."(13)
Hendrix was obsessed with the troubles that Jeffrey and company
brought to his life and career. The band's finances were entirely
controlled by management and were depleted by a tax haven in the
Bahamas founded in 1965 by Michael Jeffrey called Yameta Co., a
subsidiary of the Bank of New Providence, with accounts at the Naussau
branch of the Bank of Nova Scotia and the Chemical Bank in New
York.(14) A substantial share of the band's earnings had been quietly
drained by Yameta. The banks where Jeffrey opened accounts have been
officially charged with the laundering of drug proceeds, a universal
theme of CIA/Mafia activity. (The Chemical Bank was forced to plead
guilty to 445 misdemeanors in 1980 when a federal investigation found
that bank officials had failed to report transactions they knew to
derive from drug trafficking.(15) The Bank of Nova Scotia was a key
investor in the Bank of Commerce and Credit International, BCCI, once
described by Time magazine as "the most pervasive money-laundering
operation and financial supermarket ever create," with ties to the
upper echelons of several governments, the CIA, the Pentagon and the
BCCI maintained warm relationships with international terrorists, and
investigators turned up accounts for Libya, Syria and the PLO at BCCI's
London branch, recalling Mike Jeffrey's military intelligence interest
in the Middle East. And then there were bank records from Panama City
relating to General Noriega. These "disappeared'' en route to the
District of Columbia under heavy DEA guard. An internal investigation
later, DEA officials admitted they were at a loss to explain the
Friends of Hendrix, according to Electric Gypsy, confiscated
financial documents from his New York office and turned them over to
Jimi: "One showed that what was supposed to be a $10,000 gig was in
fact grossing $50,000."
"Jimi Hendrix was upset that large amounts of his money were
missing," reports rock historian R. Gary Patterson. Hendrix had
discovered the financial diversions and took legal action to recover
But there was another factor also involving funds.
Some of Hendrix's friends have concluded that "Jeffrey stood to
make a greater sum of money from a dead Jimi Hendrix than a living one.
There was also mention of a one million dollar insurance policy
covering Hendrix's life made out with Jeffrey as the beneficiary." The
manager of the Experience constructed "a financial empire based on the
posthumous releases of Hendrix's previously unreleased recordings."(19)
Crushing musical voices of dissent was proving to be an immensely
profitable enterprise because a dead rocker leaves behind a fortune in
publishing rights and royalties.
Roadies couldn't help but notice that Mike Jeffrey, a seasoned
military intelligence officer, was capable of "subtle acts of sabotage
against them," reports Shapiro. Jeffrey booked the Experience for a
concert tour with the Monkees and Hendrix was forced to cancel when the
agony of playing to hordes of 12-year-old children, and fear of a
parental backlash, convinced him to bail out.
As for the arrest in Toronto, Hendrix confidantes blame Jeffrey for
the planted heroin. The charges were dropped after Hendrix argued that
the unopened container of dope had been dropped into his travel bag
upon departure by a girl who claimed that it was cold medicine.(20)
In July, 1970, one month before his death, at precisely the time
Hendrix stopped all communications with Jeffrey, he told Chuck Wein, a
film director at Andy Warhol's Factory: "The next time I go to Seattle
will be in a pine box."(21)
And he knew who would drop him in it. Producer Alan Douglas recalls that Hendrix "had a hang-up about the word
'manager.'" The guitarist had pled with Douglas, the proprietor of
his own jazz label, to handle the band's business affairs. One of the
most popular musicians in the world was desperate. He appealed to a
dozen business contacts to handle his bookings and finances, to no
Meanwhile, the sabotage continued in every possible form. Douglas:
"Regardless of whatever else Jimi wanted to do, Mike would keep pulling
him back or pushing him back....And the way the gigs were routed! I
mean, one nighters—he would do Ontario one night, Miami the next night,
California the next night. He used to waste [Hendrix] on a tour—and
never make too much money because the expenses were ridiculous."(23)
The obits were a jumbled lot of skewed, contradictory eulogies:
"DRUGS KILL JIMI HENDRIX AT 24," "ROCK STAR IS DEAD IN LONDON AT 27,"
"OVERDOSE." Many of the obituaries dwelt on the "wild man of rock"
image, but there were also many personal commentaries from reporters
who followed his career closely, and they dismissed as hype reports of
chronic drug abuse. Mike Ledgerwood, a writer for Disc and Music Echo,
offered a portrait that the closest friends of Jimi Hendrix confirm:
"Despite his fame and fortune—plus the inevitable hang-ups and hustles
which beset his incredible career—he remained a quiet and almost timid
individual. He was naturally helpful and honest." Sounds magazine
"found a man of quite remarkable charm, an almost old-world courtesy."
Hendrix biographer Tony Brown has, since the mid-'70s, collected
all the testimony he could find relating to Hendrix's death, and finds
it "tragic" but "predictable":
"The official cause of death was asphyxiation caused by inhaling
his own vomit, but in the days and weeks leading up to the tragedy
anyone with an ounce of common sense could see that Hendrix was heading
for a terrible fall. Unfortunately, no one close to him managed to
steer him clear of the maelstrom that was closing in. Brown sent a
report based on his own investigation to the Attorney General's office
in February, 1992, "in the hope that they would reopen the inquest into
Jimi's death. The evidence was so strong that they ordered Scotland
Yard detectives to conduct their own investigation." Months later,
detectives at the Yard responded to Sir Nicholas Lyle at the Attorney
General's office, rejecting the proposal to revive the inquest.(24)
The pathologist's report left the cause of death "open." Monika
Dannemann had long insisted that Hendrix was murdered. At the time of
her death, she had brought media attention to the case in a bitter and
highly-publicized court battle with former Hendrix girlfriend Kathy
Etchningham. On April 5, 1996, her body was discovered in a fume-filled
car near her home in Seaford, Sussex, south England. Police dismissed
the death as a "suicide" and the corporate press took dictation. But
the Eastern Daily Press, a newspaper that circulates in the East
Anglian region of the UK, raised another possibility: "Musician Uli Jon
Roth, speaking at the thatched cottage where Miss Dannemann lived, said
last night: 'The thing looks suspicious. She had a lot of death threats
against her over the years....I always felt that she was really being
crucified in front of everybody, and there was nothing anyone could do
about it.' Mr Roth, formerly with the group The Scorpions, said Miss
Danneman 'is not a person to do something to herself.'" Roth threw one
more inconsistency on the lot: "She didn't believe in the concept of
Devon Wilson, another Hendrix paramour, in Experience drummer Mitch
Mitchell's view, "died under mysterious circumstances herself a few
Red, Red Wine
Was Hendrix murdered while under the influence? Stanton Steele, an
authority on addiction, offers a seemingly plausible explanation:
"Extremely intoxicated people while asleep often lose the reflexive
tendency to clear one's throat of mucus, or they may strangle in their
vomit. This appeared to have happened to Jimi Hendrix, who had taken
both alcohol and prescription barbiturates the night of his death."(26)
Evidence has recently come to light clarifying the cause of
death—extreme alcohol consumption aggravated by the barbiturates in
Hendrix's bloodstream—drowning. Hendrix is said to have choked to death
after swallowing nine Vesperax sleeping tablets. This is not the lethal
dose he'd have taken if suicide was the intent—he surely would have
swallowed the remaining 40 or so pills in the packets Dannemann gave
him if this was the idea—as Eric Burdon, the Animals' vocalist and a
friend of Hendrix, has suggested over the years.
Hendrix was not felled by a drug overdose, as many news reports
claimed. The pills were a sleeping aid, and not a very effective one at
that. The two Vesperax that Dannemann saw him take before she fell
asleep at 3 am failed to put him under. He had taken a Durophet 20
amphetamine capsule at a dinner party the evening before. And then
Hendrix, a chronic insomniac with an escalated tolerance level for
barbiturates, had tried the Vesperax before and they proved
ineffective. He apparently believed nine tablets would do him no harm.
At 10 am, Dannemann awoke and went out for a pack of cigarettes,
according to her inquest testimony. When she returned, he was sick. She
phoned Eric Bridges, a friend, and informed him that Hendrix wasn't
well. "Half asleep," Bridges reported in his autobiography, "I
suggested she give him hot coffee and slap his face. If she needed any
more help to call me back." Dannemann called the ambulance at 18
minutes past eleven. The ambulance arrived nine minutes later. Hendrix
was not, she claimed, in critical condition. She said the paramedics
checked his pulse and breathing, and stated there was "nothing to worry
But a direct contradiction came in an interview with Reg Jones, one
of the attendants, who insisted that Dannemann wasn't at the flat when
they arrived, and that Hendrix was already dead. "It was horrific,"
Jones said. "We arrived at the flat and the door was flung wide
open...."I knew he was dead as soon as I walked into the room."
Ambulance attendant John Suau confirmed, "we knew it was hopeless.
There was no pulse, no respiration."(27)
The testimonies of Dannemann and medical personnel at the 1970
inquest are disturbingly contradictory. Hendrix, the medical personnel
stated, had been dead for at least seven hours by the time the
ambulance arrived. Dr. Rufus Compson at the Department of Forensic
Medicine at St. George's Medical School undertook his own
investigation. He referred to the original medical examiner's report
and discovered that there were rice remains in Hendrix's stomach. It
takes three-four hours for the stomach to empty, he reasoned, and the
deceased ate Chinese food at a dinner party hosted by Pete Cameron
between the hours of 11 pm and midnight, placing the time of death no
later than 4 am.(28) This is consistent with the report of Dr.
Bannister, the surgical registrar, that "the inside of his mouth and
mucous membranes were black because he had been dead for some time."
Dr. Bannister told the London Times, "Hendrix had been dead for hours
rather than minutes when he was admitted to the hospital."(29)
The inquest itself was "unusual," Tony Brown notes, because "none
of the other witnesses involved were called to give their evidence, nor
was any attempt made to ascertain the exact time of death," as if the
subject was to be avoided. The result was that the public record on
this basic fact in the case may have been incorrectly cited by scores
of reporters and biographers. Tony Brown: "Even [medical examiner]
Professor Teare made no attempt to ascertain the exact time of death.
The inquest appeared to be conducted merely as a formality and had not
been treated by the coroner as a serious investigation."(30)
In 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky (1996), Bill Henderson describes the
inquest and its aftermath: "Those who followed his death....noticed
many inconsistencies in the official inquest. It has been an open and
shut affair that managed to hide its racist intent behind the public
perceptual hoax of Hendrix as a substance abuser....As a result,
millions of people all over the world thought that Hendrix had died
that typical rock star's death: drug OD amid fame, opulence, decadence.
But it seems that Hendrix could very well have been the victim not of
decadence, but of foul play."(31)
Forensic tests submitted at the inquest have been supplemented over
the years by new evidence that makes a reconstruction of the murder
possible. In October, 1991, Steve Roby, publisher of Straight Ahead, a
Hendrix fanzine, asked, "What Really Happened?": "Kathy Etchingham, a
close friend/lover of Jimi's, and Dee Mitchell, Mitch Mitchell's wife,
spent many months tracking down former friends and associates of
Hendrix, and are convinced they have solved the mystery of the final
hours." Central to reconstructing Hendrix's death is red wine. Dr.
Bannister reports that after the esophagus had been cleared, "masses"
of red wine were "coming out of his nose and out of his mouth." The
wine gushing up in great volume from Hendrix's lungs "is very vivid
because you don't often see people who have drowned in their own red
wine. He had something around him—whether it was a towel or a
jumper—around his neck and that was saturated with red wine. His hair
was matted. He was completely cold. I personally think he probably died
a long time before....He was cold and he was blue."(32)
The abstract morbidity of Hendrix's body upon discovery may
indicate a more complex scenario than has been commonly held. Hendrix
was not a red wine guzzler, especially in the amounts found in and
around his body. He was known to be moderate in his consumption. If he
was 'sleeping normally,' then why was he fully clothed? And how could
the ambulance attendants have missed seeing someone who was supposed to
be there? The garment, or towel, around his neck is totally mysterious
given the scenario so widely distributed. But it is consistent with the
doctor's statement that he drowned. Was he drowned by force? In a radio
interview broadcast out of Holland in the early '70s, an unnamed
girlfriend answered 'yes' to the question, 'Was Hendrix killed by the
Tony Brown, in Hendrix: The Final Days (1997), correlates the
consumption of the wine to the approximate time of death: "It's
unlikely that he drank the quantity of red wine found by Dr.
Bannister.... Therefore, Jimi must have drunk a large quantity of red
wine just prior to his death," suggesting that the quantity of alcohol
in his lungs was the direct cause.(34)
The revised time of death, 3-4 am, contradicts the gap in the
official record, and so does the revelation that Jimi Hendrix drowned
in red wine. While it is common knowledge that Hendrix choked to death,
it has only recently come to light that the wine—not the Verparex—was
the primary catalyst of death. Hendrix was, the evidence suggests,
forced to drink a quantity of wine. The barbiturates, as Brown notes,
"seriously inhibited Jimi's normal cough reflex." Unable to cough the
wine back up, "it went straight down into his lungs....It is quite
possible that he thrashed about for some time, fighting unsuccessfully
to gain his breath."(35) It is doubtful that Hendrix would have
continued to swallow the wine in "massive" volumes had it begun to fill
One explanation that explains the forensic evidence is that Jimi
Hendrix was restrained, wine forced down his throat until his
thrashings ceased. All of this must have taken place quickly, before
the alcohol had time to enter his bloodstream. The post mortem report
states that the blood alcohol level was not excessive, about 20mg over
the legal drinking limit. He died before his stomach absorbed much of
the wine. Jimi Hendrix choked to death. That much of the general
understanding of his demise is correct, and little else.
[ send green star]
The kidnapping, embezzling and numerous shady
deceptions would make Jeffrey the leading suspect in any proper police
investigation. And his reaction at the news of Hendrix's death did
little to dispel any suspicions that associates may have harbored. Jim
Marron, a nightclub owner from Manhattan, was vacationing with Jeffrey
in Spain when word of the musician's death reached him. "We were
supposed to have dinner that night in Majorca," Marron recalls.
Jeffrey "called me from his club in Palma saying that we would have
to cancel....I've just got word from London. Jimi's dead." The manager
of the Hendrix Experience took the news completely in stride. "I always
knew that son of a bitch would pull a quickie," Jeffrey told Marron.
"Basically, he had lost a major property. You had the feeling that he
had just lost a couple of million dollars—and was the first to realize
it. My first reaction was, Oh my God, my friend is dead."(36) But
Jeffrey reacted coldly, comparing the fatality to a fleeting sexual
romp in the afternoon.
His odd behavior continued in the days following the death of
Hendrix. He appeared to be consumed by guilt, and on one occasion
"confessed." On September 20, recording engineer Alan Douglas received
a call from Jeffrey, who wanted to see him. Douglas drove to the hotel
where Jeffrey was staying. "He was bent over, in misery from a recent
back injury. We started talking and he let it all out. It was like a
"In my opinion," Douglas observed, "Jeffrey hated Hendrix."
Bob Levine, the band's merchandising manager, was perplexed by
Jeffrey's response to the tragedy. First, Hendrix's manager dropped
completely out of sight. "We tried calling all of Jeffrey's
contacts....trying to reach him. We were getting frustrated because
Hendrix's body was going to be held up in London for two weeks and we
wanted Jeffrey's input on the funeral service.
A full week after Hendrix's death, he finally called. Hearing his
voice, I immediately asked what his plans were and would he be going to
Seattle. 'What plans?' he asked. I said, 'the funeral.' 'What funeral?'
I was exasperated: 'Jimi's!' The phone went quiet for a while and
then he hung up. The whole office was staring at me, unable to believe
that with all the coverage on radio, print and television, Jeffrey
didn't know that Jimi had died." As noted, Jeffrey had been notified
and almost grieved, in his fashion. "He called back in five minutes and
we talked quietly. He said, 'Bob, I didn't know,' and was asking about
what had happened. While I didn't confront him, I knew he was
It was reported that Michael Jeffrey "paid his respects" sitting in
a limousine parked outside Dunlap Baptist Church in Seattle. He refused
to go inside for the eulogy.(38) Hendrix was buried at the family plot
at Greenwood Cemetary in Renton.
Screenwriter Alan Greenberg was hired to write a screenplay for a
film on the life of Jimi Hendrix. He traveled to England and taped an
interview with Dannemann shortly before her death in April, 1996. In
that interview, Dannemann sketched in more details of Jeffrey's
skullduggery, which continued after Hendrix's death and has long been
concealed behind a wall of misconceptions. On the Greenberg tapes,
Dannemann denied allegations of heroin use, as do others close to
Hendrix: "You should put that into the right perspective since all of
the youngsters still think he was a drug addict.
The problem was, when he died, I was told by the coroner not to
talk until after the inquest, so that's why all these wild stories came
out that he overdosed from heroin." The coroner found no injection
tracks on Hendrix's body. That he snorted the opiate, a charge advanced
by biographer Chris Welch in Hendrix, is disputed by Jimi's closest
friends. He indulged primarily in marijuana and LSD. The popular
misconception that Hendrix was a heroin addict lingers on but should
have been buried with him. One of rock's greatest talents was
maliciously smeared by the press on this count.
At times, he public has been deliberately misled about Hendrix's drug
habits. Kathy Etchingham, a former girlfriend, was deceived into giving
an article about Jimi to a friend in the corporate media, and it was
snatched up by a newspaper, rewritten, and the story that emerged
depicted the guitarist as a violent and drug-infested lunatic. The
editor later apologized in writing to Kathy for falsifying the record,
but failed to retract in print.(39) Media swipes at Hendrix to this day
are often unreasonably vicious, as in this transparent attempt to shape
public opinion from London's Times on December 14, 1993:
Not only did [Hendrix] leave several memorable compositions behind
him; he left a good-looking corpse. Kathy Etchnigham, a middle-class
mother of two, who used to be one of Hendrix's lovers, still mourns his
passing and is seeking to persuade the police that there is something
suspicious about the circumstances in which he died. Quite why she
should bother is hard to say. Perhaps she is bored.
Hendrix, we are advised, "lived an absurdly self-indulgent life and died, in essence, of stupidity."
Close friends of Jimi Hendrix suggest that Jeffrey was the front
man for a surreptitious sponsor, the FBI, CIA or Mafia. In 1975,
Crawdaddy magazine launched its own investigation and concluded that a
death squad of some kind had targeted him: "Hendrix is not the only
artist to have had his career sabotaged by unscrupulous sharks and
leeches." The recent memory of the death of Average White Band drummer
Robby McIntosh from strychnine-laced heroin circulating at a party in
L.A. "only serves to update this fact of rock-and-roll life. But an
industry that accepts these tragedies in cold blood demonstrates its
true nature—and the Jimi Hendrix music machine cranks out, unencumbered
by the absence of Hendrix himself. One wonders who'll be the next in
On March 5, as if in reply, Michael Jeffrey, every musician's
nightmare, was blown out of the sky in an airplane collision over
France, enroute to a court appearance in London related to Hendrix.
Jeffrey was returning from Palma aboard an Iberia DC-9 in the midst of
a French civil air traffic control strike. Military controllers were
called in as a contingency replacements for the controllers. Hendrix
biographer Bill Henderson considers the midair collision fuel for
The nature of military airline control "necessitated rigorous
planning, limited traffic on each sector and strict compliance with
regulations. The DC-9 however was assigned to the same flight over
Nantes as a Spantax Coronado, which 'created a source of conflict.' And
because of imprecise navigation, lack of complete radar coverage and
imperfect radio communications, the two planes collided. The Coronado
was damaged but remained airworthy; no one was injured. The DC-9
crashed, killing all 61 passengers and seven crew . . . ." There are
[theories] that Jeffrey was merely a tool, a mouthpiece for the real
villains lurking in the wings, that he was "the target of
A quarter-century after Hendrix died, his father finally won
control of the musical legacy. Under a settlement signed in 1995, the
rights to his son's music were granted to 76-year-old Al Hendrix, the
sole heir to the estate. The agreement, settled in court, forced
Hendrix to drop a fraud suit filed two years earlier against Leo
Branton Jr., the L.A. civil rights attorney who represented Angela
Davis and Nat King Cole. Hendrix accused his lawyer of selling the
rights to the late rock star's publishing catalogue without consent.
Hendrix, Sr. filed the suit on April 19, 1993, after learning that MCA
Music Entertainment—a company rife with Mafia connections—was readying
to snatch up his son's recording and publishing rights from two
international companies that claimed to own them. The MCA deal,
estimated to be worth $40 million, was put on hold after objections
were raised in a letter to the Hollywood firm from Hendrix. By this
time, Experience albums generated more than $3-million per a Ênnum in
royalties, and $1-million worth of garments, posters and paraphernalia
bearing his name and likeness are sold each year. All told, Al Hendrix
received $2-million over the next 20 years.(42)
2. John Raymond and Marv Glass, "The FBI Investigated Jimi Hendrix,"
Common Ground, University of Santa Barbara, CA student newspaper, vol.
iv, no. 9, June 7, 1979, P. 1.
3. "Jimi Hendrix, Black Power and Money," Teenset, January, 1969.
4. Tony Brown, Hendrix: The Final Days, London: Rogan House, 1997, p. 43.
5. On Mike Jeffrey's undefined politics, see: John McDermott with
Eddie Kramer, Hendrix: Setting the Record Straight, New York: Warner,
1992, p. 180.
6. Harry Shapiro and Ceasar Glebbeek, Jimi Hendrix, Electric Gypsy, New York: St. Martin's, 1990, p. 120.
7. Bill Henderson, "IT'S LIKE TRYING TO GET OUT OF A ROOM FULL OF MIRRORS," Jimi Hendrix web page, http://www.rockmine. music.co.uk/jimih. html.
8. Fredric Dannen, Hit Men: Power Brokers and Fast Money Inside the Music Industry, New York: Times Books, 1990, p. 164-5.
9. Shapiro and Glebbeek, Jimi Hendrix, Electric Gypsy, New York:
St. Martin's, 1990, p. 294. The Fudge once booked a tour with Jimi
Hendrixs, per arrangement between the band's mobbed-up management and
Michael Jeffrey, Hendrix's manager.
10. Dannen, p. 165.
11. Shapiro and Glebbeek, p. 295.
12. Monika Dannemann, The Inner World of Jimi Hendrix, New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995, pp. 76-8.
13, John Swenson, "The Last Days of Jimi Hendrix," Crawdaddy, January, 1975, p. 43.
14. Ibid., p. 488 ff.
15. "Banks and Narcotics Money Flow in Suth Florida," U.S. Senate
Banking Committee report, 96th Congress, June 5-6, 1980, p. 201.
16. Jonathon Kwitny, The Crimes of Patriots: A True Tale of Dope, Dirty Money, and the CIA, New York: Touchstone, 1987, p. 153.
17. Josh Rodin, "BANK OF CROOKS AND CRIMINALS?" Topic 105, Christic News, Aug 6, 1991.
18. R. Gary Patterson, Hellhounds on Their Trail: Tales from the
Rock-n'-Roll Graveyard, Nashville, Tennessee: Dowling Press, 1998, p.
20. Shapiro and Glebbeek, p. 473.
21. Shapiro and Glebbeek, p. 477.
22. Swenson. In Crosstown Traffic (1989), Charles Murray reports
that Hendrix "began consulting independent lawyers and accountants with
a view of sorting out his tangled finances and freeing himself from
Mike Jeffrey" (p. 55).
23. Henderson Web site.
24. Brown, p. 7.
25. Mitch Mitchell with John Platt, Jimi Hendrix—Inside the Experience, New York: St. Martin's, 1990, p. 160.
26. Stanton Steele, "The Human Side Of Addiction: What caused John
Belushi's death?" U.S. Journal of Drug and Alcohol Dependence, April
1982, p. 7.
27. David Henderson, 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky, New York: Bantam, 1996, pp. 389-90.
33. Henderson, 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky, p. 393. If the Mafia did
indeed participate, Hendrix wasn't the first African-American musician
to have a contract on his head. In May 1955, jazz saxman Wardell Gray
was murdered, probably by Mafia hitmen. Gray had toured with Benny
Goodman and Count Basie in 1948. His remarkable recording sessions of
the late 1940s, especially with Dexter Gordon, brought him fame. Bill
Moody, a jazz drummer and disk jockey, published a novel in 1996, Death
of a Tenor Man, based on the life and death of Grey. "It's strange," a
publisher's press release comments, "that 1950s Las Vegas, a town in
which the Mob and corrupt police worked hand in glove, became the home
of the first integrated nightclub in the country. The Moulin Rouge was
owned by blacks and had the honor of being the only casino hotel in
Vegas that allowed African-Americans to mingle with white customers. On
opening night, Nat 'King' Cole and Frank Sinatra sat in with Benny
Carter's band. The second night, Wardell Gray, a black sax player in
the Carter band with a growing reputation, was beaten to death. The
police said he overdosed and 'fell out of bed,' dying later 'of
complications.' Some suspected Gray's death was the Mob's way of
telling the African-American businessmen who backed the Moulin Rouge
that 'this town isn't big enough for the both of us.' Gray's murder has
never been investigated. It "hung over the Moulin Rouge like a storm
cloud" and remains unsolved. The casino went out of business a few
And the 1961 attempt on the life of soul singer Jackie Wilson has
never been rationally explained. Wilson was shot in the stomach by a
fan supposedly trying to "prevent a fan from killing herself." He
recovered from the assault and went on to release "No Pity (In the
Naked City)," and "Higher and Higher."
The Halloween, 1975 murder of Al Jackson, percussionist for Booker
T. and the MGs, at the age of 39, also appeared to be a premeditated
hit. Barbara Jackson, his wife, was the sole eyewitness. She told
police, according to Rolling Stone, that she "arrived home on the night
of the shooting and was met by a gun-wielding burglar who tied her
hands behind her back with an ironing cord." Al Jackson, who'd been
taking in a closed circuit telecast of the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier
fight, arrived an hour later. Any burglar would have collected
valuables in the house and fled by this time, but he waited a full hour
for Jackson to return home. Babara Jackson was freed from the ropes and
the "burglar" ordered her at gunpoint to open the door for him. "After
confronting Jackson and asking him for money, the intruder forced him
to lie on the floor. He then shot Jackson five times in the back and
left." (Rolling Stone, November 1975)
34. Brown, p. 165.
35. Brown, pp. 165-66.
36. McDermott and Kramer, pp. 286-87.
39. Shapiro and Glebeek, p. 474.
40. Swenson, p. 45.
41. Henderson Web site.
42. Chuck Philips, "Father to Get Hendrix Song, Image Rights," Los
Angeles Times (home edition), July 26, 1995, p. 1. Also named as
defendants were producer Alan Douglas and several firms that have
profited from the Hendrix catalogue since 1974 under contracts
negotiated by Branton: New York-based Bella Godiva Music Inc;
Presentaciones Musicales SA (PMSA), a Panamanian corporation; Bureau
Voor Muzeikrechten Elber B. V. in the Netherlands; and Interlit, based
in the Virgin Islands.
Branton negotiated two contracts in early 1974—signed by Al
Hendrix—that relinquished all rights to his son's "unmastered" tapes
for $50,000 to PMSA and all his stock in Bella Godiva, his son's music
publishing company, for $50,000."PMSA and the other overseas companies
were later discovered to be part of a tax shelter system created by
Harry Margolis," reported the L.A. Times, "a Saratoga attorney whom
federal prosecutors charged but never convicted of tax fraud. The tax
shelter plan collapsed after Margolis' death in 1987, and also
[prompted] complaints from the estates of other entertainment clients,
including singer Nat King Cole, screenwriter Larry Hauben as well as
from followers of New Age philosopher Werner Erhard, who allegedly
stashed revenues from his EST enterprise in the foreign account."