Hendrix show was Experience never to be forgotten at club
Jimi Hendrix was eloquent, obviously intelligent and very polite, quite at odds with his appearance really, which was quite wild Mike Edwards
HEY Joe was in the top 10 best selling records chart for the third week in a row when Jimi Hendrix, with The Experience, arrived in Cheltenham to play a one-night stand this week in 1967.
The venue was the Blue Moon club and anyone who remembers the place will tell you it was found on the top floor of the building that then was home to Burton’s the tailors.
Cramped for space and in those days thick with cigarette smoke, the club had a small bar and an even smaller stage.
The ceiling was so low that when The Who played there, Roger Daltrey could not swing his microphone and Pete Townsend had to curb his windmilling right arm for fear of taking out the overhead lightbulbs with his plectrum hand.
Many performers on the brink of international superstardom played the Blue Moon.
Elton John, Rod Stewart, Long John Baldry, David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Fleetwood Mac, The Yardbirds and John Mayall all had to lug their equipment up the flights of stairs to reach the pokey little club, usually dripping with condensation and often aflame with excitement.
But there was a special buzz about Jimi Hendrix.
Innovative musicianship and flamboyant showmanship had brought the American guitarist to the public’s attention.
This was the third date of his first UK tour and there was certainly something special about the sound he coaxed from his white Fender Stratocaster, whether plucking the strings with his teeth or in the more conventional manner.
No tickets were sold in advance. So from 6pm onwards a queue of people determined to see and hear Mr Hendrix began to form.
By 7pm it stretched from the door of the Blue Moon, along High Street, past The Continental Bar and halfway down Regent Street.
The club’s capacity was 250 people, but health and safety had not been invented back then.
And, of course, the management did not want to disappoint fans as much as it did want to make a killing on ticket sales.
The upshot was that the Blue Moon was many times more crammed than usual.
Jimi Hendrix was paid £40 for the gig, a fee split three ways with Noel Redding, the bass player, and Mitch Mitchell, drummer of the Experience.
The photographs of Jimi Hendrix at the Blue Moon club you see here were taken by the late Mike Charity.
They appear in Mike’s book, Cheltenham People and Places 1960s to 1980s, published in 2001 by Tempus.
In the book Mike wrote: “I remember reading somewhere in the mid-1960s that the Beatles most-admired exponent of the guitar was a certain Jimi Hendrix, a musician relatively unknown in this country and to me, at the time.
“A little later in the What’s On columns in Cheltenham it was announced that he was appearing at the Blue Moon.
“Hendrix had suddenly become a big name but had been booked by the club in good time.
“Despite his growing fame he honoured the contract and turned up to play a storming performance in this tiny, crowded club in a former billiards hall above the gents’ outfitters. I was the only photographer there.”
Also present at the performance was Mike Edwards, who later told The Echo: “I was a friend of Bill Reid, one of the owners of the Blue Moon and after the gig he asked me if I’d drive Jimi Hendrix to Lansdown railway station as he had a train to catch.
“He was playing in Stockport the following night.
“Our ears were still ringing. It was much louder than anything we’d heard at the Blue Moon before and a type of music we weren’t prepared for. Something new and different.
“I carried Jimi’s bag and guitar case down the stairs and he got into the front passenger seat of my old Land Rover with a fabric roof that leaked and had hay and straw all over the place.
“At Lansdown station we learned the train was half an hour late, so we went onto the platform and sat chatting.
“Jimi Hendrix was eloquent, obviously intelligent and very polite, quite at odds with his appearance really, which was quite wild.
“The train came and he thanked us again for the lift, then as he waved goodbye he handed me all the change he had in his pocket, about £5 I think – and disappeared off into the night”.