THE HENDRIX YEARS
Mid way through 1966, Mike Jeffery and Eric Burdon had decided to wind down the original Animals. In the final months of the band, Chas Chandler discovered a talented black American guitarist called Jimmy James at the Cafe Wha? in New York who he wanted to take back to London and promote. Jimmy James would subsequently be repackaged as Jimi Hendrix, arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.
Chas Chandler knew that he didn’t have the finances to fund Jimmy James in the UK nor the resources to secure a recording contract for him. Chas Chandler felt that he needed a partner to help with the funds and the know-how to launch the career of his new protégé. In spite of the way Mike Jeffery had apparently ripped off The Animals, Chandler thought that he would be a good person to have on his side. In addition, Chandler knew he was still under contract to Mike Jeffery, which meant that Jeffery would have a claim to part of any money he earned should his new venture be successful. Mike Jeffery agreed to the partnership and offered to throw the New Animals and Alan Price into the pool of artists that the pair would manage.
Chas returned to New York towards the end of The Animals tour and went to the Café A’GoGo to see Jimmy James and talk business. He introduced him to Mike Jeffery who just wanted to check out the look of the unusual character that Chas had praised. Mike Jeffery commented to Chas Chandler “He could be the black Elvis!”
Jimmy James, better known as Hendrix, was keen to get to London and was not deterred by the fact that his band, the Blue Flames were not part of the deal. Nor was he bothered about a name change to Jimi Hendrix. However, there was something that did concern him. A year earlier he had signed a recording contract with Ed Chalpin of PPX International. He also had a recording agreement with Sue Records. In fact, these contracts had been signed when Hendrix had been backing other people as a session musician.
Mike Jeffery told Hendrix that the contract with Chalpin was not legal and that he would negotiate a settlement with Sue Records. Sue Records was subsequently paid off but the issue with Ed Chalpin would have repercussions throughout the lifetimes of Hendrix and Mike Jeffery and beyond. Arrangements were made to obtain a passport and visa for Hendrix and to get him to the UK as soon as possible.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Once Jimi Hendrix had been flown to London, Noel Redding (bass) and Mitch Mitchell (drums) were recruited as his backing band and the trio was named the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Mike Jeffery and Chas Chandler needed instant high profile exposure for the Jimi Hendrix Experience and arranged for them to perform at a daytime reception at the Bag O’Nails Club, London on 25th November 1966. Well known musicians, press and showbiz dignitaries were invited. The band wowed the crowd and received many accolades from those present including John Lennon and Paul McCartney. Their performance at the Bag O’Nails established the Jimi Hendrix Experience as a force to be reckoned with.
On 1st December, a week after the Bag O’Nails gig, Mike Jeffery took Jimi Hendrix to the Mayfair office of solicitor John Hillman, the architect of Yameta. John Hillman and Mike Jeffery presented Jimi with another legal agreement, this one exclusively to do with him as a performer in all mediums. It gave Mike Jeffery 40% of Jimi’s gross performance earnings, a huge figure by any show business standard. Mike Jeffery explained that part of that percentage could pay for possible tour expenses. John Hillman told Hendrix about the Yameta tax shelter and tried to impress him by mentioning the name of Yameta director Sir Guy Henderson who he said was a very important person in the Bahamas. He told Hendrix that Sir Guy had helped start Yameta. Mike Jeffery and John Hillman convinced Hendrix that if he did well in America, the various Bahamas accounts would save him paying too much in taxes and would eventually support him for the rest of his life. Mike Jeffery didn’t offer Hendrix the opportunity to seek independent legal advice or to discuss the meeting and contract with Chas Chandler who hadn’t been present at the meeting. Hendrix raised the subject of the Ed Chalpin contract, and once again Mike Jeffery assured him that the paper he’d signed with Chalpin could be dealt with. The agreement that Hendrix signed that day would seriously affect him for years to come.
With no money forthcoming from Mike Jeffery, Chas Chandler approached Mick Jagger about co-sponsoring Hendrix but Jagger wasn’t interested. In the end Chas Chandler had to sell some of his basses to provide the money for better amplifiers for the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
After the Jimmy Hendrix Experience toured in Europe, Mike Jeffery and Chas Chandler were beginning to worry about expenses. They claimed they had spent £10,000 so far but had received nothing back in income. Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell were already unhappy about the small amounts they were receiving in wages and were complaining to Mike Jeffery. Neither Redding nor Mitchell had signed any contracts. Theirs was a verbal agreement and Mike Jeffery treated them as employees of Yameta.
Mike Jeffery and Chas Chandler needed money quickly, if only to recoup some of the money they had invested in Hendrix so far. Only a small sum of money could be expected from a record company as an advance against future royalties but even a small amount would help. Mike Jeffery visited Decca’s A & R man Dick Rowe to try and get a record deal. Dick Rowe, the same man who had once turned down the Beatles, took the same approach with Mike Jeffery telling him that he thought Hendrix was lacking in long term potential.
Meanwhile Chas Chandler was talking to The Who’s co-managers – Kit Lambert and Chris Stamp who were very interested in Hendrix. Although The Who was signed with Polydor, Lambert and Stamp were in the process of setting up their own record label called Track Records. Mike Jeffery and Chas Chandler decided to go with Track Records and Mike Jeffery managed to prise an advance of £1000 out of the pair. As part of the deal, Lambert and Stamp promised to get the Jimi Hendrix Experience on the television program Ready Steady Go, which was run by a couple of their friends – Vicki Wickham and Michael Linsay-Hogg. Unfortunately Track Records wasn’t up and running by December 1966 so ‘Hey Joe’ was released on 16th Dec 1966 on the Polydor label.
Once ‘Hey Joe’ had been released, Mike Jeffery used his armoury of dirty tricks to get the record noticed. In order to try and get ‘Hey Joe’ into the UK charts, he employed the usual chart-rigging method of paying someone to buy records from the record shops that the UK chart compilers sampled to calculate record sales. This was called seed money. Trixie Sullivan, Mike Jeffery’s assistant has said: “There was a guy that used to come around, all the business used him. He knew all the record shops, so he would go around and buy records to make the numbers up.”
Mike Jeffery also did a deal with the pirate radio stations to ensure that ‘Hey Joe’ would get plenty of air plays. He traded a part of Hendrix’s future publishing royalties in exchange for exposure.
At the start of 1967 Mike Jeffery travelled to the States in search of an American recording contract for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He also wanted to extract Jimi Hendrix from the contracts he’d got into before coming to England. Once in America, Mike Jeffery employed a firm of lawyers to sort out the messy contracts and to try and secure a US record deal. The lawyers managed to resolve some of the contractual issues by ‘buying off’ various individuals and by obtaining the rights to seven songs that Hendrix had recorded as a backing musician in 1965 while under contract.
One of the lawyers working on behalf of Mike Jeffery also secured a record deal for the Jimi Hendrix Experience with Warner Brothers. The contract by-passed the band and was actually between Reprise Records and Yameta. Yameta was required to provide recordings “embodying the performance of Jimi Hendrix or the Jimi Hendrix Experience.” Hendrix, Redding and Mitchell were not obliged to sign anything because they, themselves were already exclusively tied to Yameta. As part of the agreement, Yameta and not Warner Brothers was to retain the ownership of the master recordings. With a $150,000 deal, a royalty advance of $40,000 and a promotional budget of $20,000 this was an excellent outcome – well, for Mike Jeffery and Chas Chandler at least.
Meanwhile back in the UK, the success of ‘Hey Joe’ convinced Polydor to finance Track Records. On 11th January Mike Jeffery and Chas Chandler signed a contract with Lambert and Stamp’s production company ‘New Action’. Jimi Hendrix was obliged to provide four singles and two albums for every year of the contract. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was not signed directly to Track Records and, in fact, none of the band actually signed the New Action contract. The terms of the October contract that Mike Jeffery and Chas Chandler had agreed with the musicians left the pair free to arrange any production or publishing deals they saw fit. The production company contracts put even more distance between the artist and the money. In this case, New Action paid Mike Jeffery and Chandler an 8% royalty on record sales but nothing to the band. Mike Jeffery did a side deal with Polydor whereby all the rights to the Jimi Hendrix Experience work would revert back to him and Chas Chandler once the Track deal had lapsed.
The band members were far from happy with the meager amounts of money coming their way. The Jimi Hendrix Experience had a heavy gigging schedule between February and May 1967 and the musicians were being paid very poorly. Noel Redding wrote a letter to Mike Jeffery and Chas Chandler, which the others signed. Mike Jeffery temporarily bought them off with some instant cash in hand. Around this time there was an oral agreement between Hendrix, Redding and Mitchell on a 50-25-25 basis.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience was booked to make their American debut at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 18th. Mike Jeffery saw this not only as a great opportunity for the band but to boost his own esteem as a manager.
The band’s performance at Monterey was a resounding success giving Hendrix celebrity status amongst Los Angeles’ elite musicians. Following Monterey, the Jimi Hendrix Experience appeared at the Fillmore West, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park and the Whiskey A’Gogo in Los Angeles.
Then Mike Jeffery made another of his dubious management decisions. He booked the Jimi Hendrix Experience on an American tour supporting the US pop group, The Monkees. Chas Chandler, Jimi Hendrix and the band’s new publicist, Michael Goldstein all impressed on Mike Jeffery that pairing the band with the Monkees would be a disaster but Jeffery chose to ignore the warnings. He was convinced he’d pulled off a coup. In the US, the Monkees were just as popular as the Beatles and Mike Jeffery thought that any publicity at all would be worth it, even if the Jimi Hendrix Experience didn’t go down too well with the Monkees followers who were predominantly young teenage and pre-teen girls.
The tour started on 8th July and, as predicted by everyone except Mike Jeffery, was a complete failure for Hendrix. The band died a death; for the first two shows they were booed by the audience of mainly under twelves. The band were pulled off the show after six performances amidst complaints by the parents of Monkees fans that their children had been exposed to obscene stage antics by Jimi Hendrix.
Towards the end of August the band’s second single ‘Purple Haze’ and their first album ‘Are You Experienced’ were released in the USA. However, at the time the Jimi Hendrix Experience was touring Europe so it wasn’t possible to fully publicise the new releases in America. This was yet another bad management decision by Mike Jeffery that would have a negative impact on the band. Following several disagreements with Chas Chandler, Mike Jeffery flew off to Mallorca to concentrate on his nightclubs, leaving Hendrix in the care of Chandler for a while.
On 1st December 1967 Hendrix’s second studio album ‘Axis, Bold As Love’ was released in the UK. The contractual issues with Ed Chalpin of PPX International were now beginning to manifest themselves in a big way. Michael Jeffery had to break it to Jimi Hendrix that, because of Chalpin, the album wouldn’t be released in the USA for another couple of months. Hendrix was despondent and became ill.
At the beginning of 1968 Mike Jeffery and Chas Chandler resolved to plan Hendrix’s career a bit more carefully. They were determined not to repeat previous year’s mistake of Hendrix touring elsewhere on the eve of a record release. The pair planned a media blitz in Britain and the USA with the publicists; Leslie Perrin for the UK and Michael Goldstein in the States.
Jimi Hendrix was not the only artist being managed by Chandler and Jeffery. As well as the New Animals and Alan Price, other artists in the Chandler-Jeffery stable were Eire Apparent, Soft Machine and American girl band Goldie and the Gingerbreads.
Michael Jeffery was gearing up for a big American operation to capitalise on Hendrix’s growing popularity there. He set up Jeffery and Chandler Inc. in New York, which was staffed by Trixie Sullivan and Bob Levine. Mike Jeffery also employed the services of Steven Weiss from the law firm of Steingarten, Wedeen and Weiss. The firm had a good track record of establishing UK bands in the States. With the help of Weiss, Mike figured he could handle concert promotion himself and save up to 15% of the gate receipts, which up to then had been paid to agencies.
In February 1968 things were going really well with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. The album ‘Axis, Bold As Love’ entered the Billboard album charts and within two weeks was in the top 20. Concerts at the Whiskey a’Gogo and Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles sold out. Mike Jeffery and Chas Chandler expected to make $7,000 from the performances but actually netted nearly $30,000. However, things weren’t going so well with Eric Burdon and the new Animals. The band members were not happy with the money that had been promised by Mike Jeffery and any brotherly love and harmony that had been present up to that point was quickly disintegrating. Although in theory the band was one of many acts being managed by Mike Jeffery and Chas Chandler, it was apparent that as far as The Animals was concerned Chandler was just a silent partner. Matters came to a head and The Animals decided to ditch Mike Jeffery and turn to Kevin Deverich to manage them. Although Jeffery was unhappy with the situation he chose not to take any legal action. In the book Animal Tracks’, Eric Burdon is quoted as saying: “That’s what stunk to high hell. I was able to walk away from the situation, continue using the name ‘The Animals’, sign a new contract with MGM without Mike Jefferies[sic] being involved and nobody said a dickey. So if nobody said anything, he must have been quite happy looting from somewhere else to have not jumped all over me and not taken me to court. I got an attorney and instigated a movement against Mike Jeffries[sic]. In order for that movement to take place, I needed to go up against MGM because they had all the books of records of sales etc. I couldn’t get past that for certain reasons so I couldn’t get to Jeffries[sic].”
Unfortunately the split from Mike Jeffery didn’t improve the lot of the Animals. Eric Burdon thought that switching from Jeffery to Deverich was a frying-pan-to-fire situation. Guitarist, Vic Briggs in the same book said of the change in management: “…with Jefferies[sic] it was black-and-white: he was just ripping off everybody. With Kevin it was just business deals going bad, there was mistrust.”
By April 1968 Mike Jeffery was worrying about cash flow. Jimi Hendrix had been in the studio for a couple of months and as a result of this the revenue from tours, which by this time was around $50,000 a night, had dried up. Chas Chandler was also losing control of Jimi Hendrix’s creative side. Hendrix was spending more and more time with people Chandler considered to be hangers-on. His increased use of drugs, especially LSD was also troubling Chandler.
After April 1968 things started getting busy again for the Jimmy Hendrix Experience. There was constant touring to and fro between Europe and the USA plus some time in between gigs to record the ‘Electric Ladyland’ album. Amidst the touring Michael Jeffery flew Jimi Hendrix to New York in June regarding the Ed Chalpin situation. There were important papers waiting for Hendrix. Hendrix’s lawyers had completed their negotiations with Ed Chalpin of PPX Enterprises. Chalpin had been cashing in on Hendrix’s current success by releasing material that he had recorded for PPX. Unfortunately, Hendrix’s lawyers lost their fight and had to tell him that the awful recordings from his earlier life would continue to haunt him. He was told that on top of that he actually owed Chalpin one more album.
The lawyers also negotiated a new recording contract. It eliminated the Bahamian trust company, Yameta, as a recipient of Jimi’s record royalties and increased the royalty rate from 3% to 5%. In return, Jimi promised to deliver two albums and four singles each year for four years. Yameta received an immediate payment of $250,000 from Reprise with a further $200,000 to be paid in installments over the next four years.
On 7th April 1968 there was a gala opening of a new music club in Greenwich Village on the site of the old Generation Club. Mike Jeffery had just bought the club jointly with Jimi Hendrix, the original idea being that Hendrix could use part of the club for recording. Michael Jeffery’s publicist, Michael Goldstein sent out invitations to the press, who were entertained by B.B. King, Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Buddy Guy, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Richie Havens, Roy Buchanan and Jimi Hendrix. Also, as part of the expansion of his own business empire, Michael Jeffery bought another club in Palma, Mallorca which was to be named “Sgt. Peppers”.
On 28th June 1968 Mike Jeffery met with Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell and got them to sign fresh agreements. He told them that Warner Brother/Reprise had agreed to pay Ed Chalpin a percentage on the Experience albums and that he would no longer be a problem. Also from that point, Hendrix would no longer be signed to Jeffery and Chandler but directly to the Reprise label for production and recording. Hendrix would be responsible for royalty payments to all sub producers, vocalists and musicians. A few months later Mike Jeffery would get the musicians to sign other papers in which they agreed that all future money owed to them should be sent directly to Mike Jeffery and Chas Chandler, and not to Yameta. Mike Jeffery told them that the paperwork was needed to solidify the group’s new recording agreement.
After days of recording at the Record Plant in New York, the Jimmy Hendrix Experience returned to England for the Woburn Music Festival on 6th and 7th July 1968. This was followed by a trip to Palma, Mallorca for a gig on 15th July at Mike Jeffery new “Sgt Peppers” club, which was being run by Jeffery’s trusted employee, Myer Thomas who had previously managed the Club A’Gogo in Newcastle
A month after the Woburn date Mike Jeffery whisked the band back to America where he knew they would make most money.
Back in New York Chas Chandler was becoming increasingly disgruntled with Jimi Hendrix and to some extent Mike Jeffery. He didn’t like all the hangers-on around Jimi Hendrix and thought that Hendrix’s use of drugs was creating problems; not necessarily with performances or recording but with his general behavior and the type of people he was mixing with. Chas Chandler was also unhappy with Hendrix’s relationship with Mike Jeffery. Mike Jeffery was in the process of changing his image. He felt the need to be part of the ‘radical sixties’ and to fit in with the younger people who surrounded him in the business. He had replaced his businessman image of suits and ties with a more casual look – his hair was longer and he was wearing sporty jackets and open shirts. He’d also become partial to taking LSD and he and Hendrix had become “acid buddies”. Mike Jeffery was also proffering drugs to other musicians in the Chandler-Jeffery stable. Some were of the opinion that he did this to distract them from asking awkward questions about money. As well as ingesting LSD he was also smoking dope and snorting coke and was drifting toward astrology.
Chas Chandler’s patience finally ran out and arrangements were made for Mike Jeffery to buy out his share of the partnership for the sum of $300,000 with the promise of further considerations at a future date. Chas Chandler didn’t completely disassociate himself from Jeffery and Hendrix. He still came to gigs and because of these unspecified promises he retained financial interests in the affairs of the band well beyond the summer of ’68. Because Chandler was still on the scene, neither Noel Redding nor Mitch Mitchell knew of the split. However, Hendrix was aware of the situation but didn’t immediately see the departure of Chas Chandler as a problem. He thought that he alone could deal with the music side and Mike Jeffery would take care of the money. Although Hendrix knew that questions were being asked about Mike Jeffery’s handling of the bands finances, in particular by Noel Redding, Hendrix’s was, by and large, getting whatever he asked for. Whenever he wanted money, a new guitar or a car he just went to management and asked for it. The bills were taken care of by Mike Jeffery’s office.
The real problem for Jimi Hendrix in having Mike Jeffery as his sole manager was that Jeffery always put the money first. He needed a constant stream of money both for himself and the band. He had to fund the costs of studio time taken up in recording the band’s next album. He was also anticipating some costly litigation in respect of his split with Eric Burdon and The Animals. Mike Jeffery was desperate to have the Jimi Hendrix Experience out on the road as much as possible so he could keep the money coming in. Intensive tours and a quick turnover of commercial records was a sure fire way of bringing in the cash. Hendrix didn’t like the idea of either of these options, in particular the rigors of live gigs and all the aggravations that went with them. Apart from the joint acid experiences, Mike Jeffery wasn’t as involved with Hendrix on a personal level as Chas Chandler and, therefore, wasn’t the best person to look after Hendrix’s general health and well being. Mike Jeffery had other interests – he spent a lot of time abroad in Mallorca dealing with his Spanish clubs. With Chas Chandler gone, Jimi Hendrix lost a very important part of his direction and day-to-day care.
In the late summer and autumn of 1968, the Jimi Hendrix Experience toured America with Eire Apparent and Soft Machine, two other bands in the Chandler – Jeffery stable that weren’t living up to Mike Jeffery’s expectations. Mike Jeffery was also coerced by the Mafia into adding a band they controlled to the roster – Vanilla Fudge.
At the End of November 68 Jimi Hendrix met up with Chas Chandler in London. Hendrix’s original two-year contract with the Mike Jeffery and Chas Chandler was due to expire. At the meeting Chandler told Hendrix that he wanted to be his personal sole manager. Hendrix seemed keen on the idea. He liked Chandler and despite some musical differences he thought that Chas Chandler had an understanding of what he was trying to achieve whereas Mike Jeffery didn’t. Hendrix agreed to Chas Chandler’s proposal.
At this point in time things were going well as far as Mike Jeffery was concerned. Dozens of concerts lay ahead, each with a fee of up to $75,000. There were singles in the British and American charts and ‘Electric Ladyland’ was the number one album in the UK and the US. In spite of Hendrix’s heavy spending there was actually some money in the bank. Mike Jeffery was also being approached by producers keen to make a feature film about the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Mike Jeffery was actually in New York when Chas Chandler and Jimi Hendrix were hatching their new management arrangements. When he found out about them he was furious and sent one of his assistants to London to put a stop to the plan. Then the Jimi Hendrix Experience fell apart. The band members wanted to go their separate ways. What’s more, the press had got their teeth into the story that the Jimi Hendrix Experience was splitting
Michael Jeffery was not clear what was going on. He had gigs booked for the first half of 1969 and the Jimi Hendrix Experience was his main source of income. Mike Jeffery had watertight contracts, which Hendrix had signed in 1968 but if the band members were intent on breaking up it would be a financial disaster for him. During the 1968 Christmas period he flew from New York to London several times to talk to Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell trying to persuade them to honour their outstanding commitments of concerts and television appearances. The carrot approach didn’t work so he brought out the stick and threatened the trio with legal action, telling them they would never work again. Eventually they all agreed to honour existing contracts. Mike Jeffery allowed Fat Mattress, a side project of Noel Redding, to go on tour with the Experience and open for them at some concerts.
On 4th January 1969 the Jimi Hendrix Experience appeared on television in the Lulu show. This was followed by concerts at London’s Albert Hall on 18th February 1969. Hendrix was not happy about either of the Albert Hall gigs and reportedly had to be pushed on stage for the first date by Mike Jeffery’s assistant, Trixie Sullivan.
In New York the Hendrix management machine without Chas Chandler was running according to plan. Mike Jeffery was living in an apartment above the office, which was run by Bob Levin. He had also bought a house in Woodstock, New York, the town which became famous for giving its name to the 1969 Woodstock Festival. (The festival was actually held on a farm near Bethel, over forty miles from the town of Woodstock). The town had long been a mecca for artists, musicians, and writers, even before the music festival made the name of the place famous. Mike Jeffery built high fences around his property at 1 Wiley Lane, presumably to hide the activities that went with his showbiz lifestyle.
Mike Jeffery met and began dating a Canadian model called Lyn Baily who had originally come to the New York area from Toronto with Bob Dylan’s drummer Levon Helm. The pair became lovers and Lyn Baily gave up her career as a model and moved in with Mike Jeffery.
On 3rd May 1969 Jimi Hendrix was arrested at Toronto airport in possession of drugs. Mike Jeffery was on holiday in Hawaii at the time but when they spoke on the phone Hendrix told him that the drugs had been planted. Mike Jeffery told Hendrix not to worry about the drug charges, saying that he had everything well in hand. Publicist, Michael Goldstein managed to keep the news out of the press for the time being.
Mike Jeffery had calculated Jimi Hendrix’s recording costs for 1968 and was alarmed to find that they totalled $200,000 at the Record Plant alone plus another $20,000 to $30,000 at various studios in London and Los Angeles. Mike Jeffery was determined to get Hendrix’s studio project underway. The idea of a club-cum-studio was abandoned in favour of a bespoke studio, which had the potential to become a very lucrative business venture – all the top bands would want to record there. Mike Jeffery commissioned architect John Storyk to design the studio. Ultimately, the new studio, which Jimi Hendrix wanted to call Electric Lady, was supposed to be a cost saving for him. However, the budget allocation from his earnings was a hefty $350,000. By June 1969 Hendrix began to get cold feet and wanted to rent studio space at Phil Spector’s studio on the corner of Sunset Boulevard and Carol Street in Los Angeles. He told Mike Jeffery about this and was reminded that his management contract called for Jeffery to make those kinds of decisions. Mike Jeffery told Hendrix to concentrate on the main priority – to get the Electric Lady Studios finished.
On 29th June 1969 the Jimi Hendrix Experience performed at the Denver Pop Festival at Mile High Stadium. By this time Jimi Hendrix was at loggerheads with Noel Redding. It turned out to be Redding’s last gig with the Experience.
Mike Jeffery had found a rustic, spacious home for Hendrix in Shokan near Woodstock. Jimi Hendrix was rehearsing with Mitch Mitchell, Billy Cox on bass and various other musicians. The new band was to be known as ‘Gypsy Sun and The Rainbows’. Mike Jeffery was dismayed when he found out there were several black men in the new line-up. Neither was he happy with the hangers-on and freeloaders Hendrix was sharing his house with at Shokan. He thought they were distracting Hendrix and steering him away from being a high-earning rock star. Mike Jeffery, unlike Chas Chandler, had little appreciation of the creative process and was only interested when Hendrix was touring and generating large amounts of cash. The cash was essential at that time; the tax authorities had caught up with Mike Jeffery. Various investors were also chasing him for money that he had promised and was not forthcoming.
Jimi Hendrix was due to appear at the Woodstock Music and Arts Fair on Sunday 17th July 1969, which was officially the last day of the festival. When he arrived at Bethel, where the festival was held, he was tired and stressed out because he didn’t think the band knew the songs well enough to be able to perform in front of such a big crowd. He was also not feeling too well. Mike Jeffery arranged with the organisers for his appearance to be delayed until the following morning, Monday 18th July. Early on the Monday, Jimi Hendrix with his new band performed to a dwindling crowd. Of the original 400,000 festival attendees there were only 25,000 left and many of those in the process of packing up or leaving the site during Hendrix’s set. Although the crowd responded well to the performance, Mike Jeffery wasn’t happy with the new band. He thought that the right band format for Hendrix was as part of a three piece with two white musicians backing him.
Mike Jeffery and Jimi Hendrix clashed again in September 1969 over a gig that Hendrix didn’t want to do in New York City. One of Jimi Hendrix’s regular haunts in New York was a disco club-cum-bar called Salvation once frequented by up market clients and showbiz celebrities. The club, which had mafia links, ran into trouble when it lost its drinks license and with it, its wealthy patronage. The owner, Bobby Woods decided to turn the club into a live music venue and wanted Hendrix to appear there on the opening night. Hendrix refused to do the gig; he thought that he and the band had moved on from the days of performing at small clubs. However, Mike Jeffery was keen not to get on the wrong side of the mafia. He was already having problems with the mob over the siting of the Electric Lady Studio, which was in mafia controlled territory. Some gentle persuasion was needed in order to get Hendrix to perform at Salvation. Mike Jeffery went to visit Hendrix at his Shokan home taking with him some tough looking associates. While Mike Jeffery was inside the house talking to Hendrix, his retinue were outside doing some target practice with the guns they were carrying. Jim Hendrix ended up playing at the Salvation Club on 10th September.
Shortly after, Jimi Hendrix was kidnapped by two men claiming to be the mafia. He was lured out of the Salvation Club with the promise of drugs, taken to an apartment in Manhattan and told to phone Mike Jeffery. He was to tell Jeffery that he would be killed unless his contract was handed over to the kidnappers. Bob Levine took the call and subsequently contacted Mike Jeffery and a Jeffery associate called Jerry Morrison. A few days later Jerry Morrison got a tip-off that the kidnappers weren’t, in fact, mafia people. The anonymous informant gave Morrison the address at which Hendrix was being held. Morrison went to the address with two heavies but found that Hendrix had been moved. Morrison “guessed” rightly that Hendrix had been taken to his own house at Shokan. Allegedly Mike Jeffery, Morrison and several others went to Shokan, overpowered the kidnappers and released Hendrix unharmed.
Trixie Sullivan said of the incident: “The music business in those days was like the Wild West. What it was, the ‘junior’ Mafia was always trying to move into the music business. The ‘older’ mafia wasn’t really interested. And Jimi was kidnapped by some guys that were holding him for ransom to get his contract. Mike had his contacts in the music business, which could be quite heavy too. Mike found, or was given introduction to, people who would go with him to sort it out. And that’s exactly what happened. Mike was teamed up with these guys in limousines; they were taken to where Jimi was being held. When they realised who Mike was with, they let him go.”
The anonymous tip-off to Jerry Morrison and the ‘guesswork’ leading to Hendrix’s release at Shokan gave rise to the suspicion that the whole thing was a set-up; either by Mike Jeffery to convince Jimi Hendrix that he was being looked after or by Morrison to impress upon Jeffery that he had important connections. Either way, the incident just added to Jimi Hendrix’s paranoia regarding whom he could trust and how badly Mike Jeffery was treating him. Hendrix thought that Jeffery didn’t understand or appreciate his music and was only interested him as a source for making money. He had once been to Mike Jeffery’s Woodstock house and browsed through his record collection, which occupied a whole wall of the room he was in. Jimi Hendrix couldn’t find a thing to play – it was all bad pop and rock ‘n roll records, nothing that Hendrix considered to be real music. Hendrix was dismayed with Mike Jeffery’s apparent taste in music.
Some people close to Hendrix had suggested that Mike Jeffery had been responsible for the planting of the drugs on Hendrix at Toronto. Hendrix thought that he was being overworked and made to tour all over the world without any regard to how he was feeling. He didn’t like the fact that the money he was earning was supposedly going to the Bahamas and not into his own account. He thought he was being treated like a kid who was incapable of handling the money he was making. He was also unhappy about being pressured into signing a release that exempted Mike Jeffery from any liability in the settlement with Ed Chalpin. Finally, he felt trapped by a situation that couldn’t legally escape from because he shared the same firm of lawyers with Mike Jeffery (Henry Steingarten).
Band Of Gypsies
Hendrix had a lot of nearly completed songs and Mike Jeffery was putting further pressure on him for material. He was also passing on demands from Reprise and Ed Chalpin for material. In September 1969, Jimi Hendrix was recording at the Record Plant in New York and getting involved with jazz producer Alan Douglas. Hendrix was drawn to Douglas because, unlike Mike Jeffery, he knew a lot about music. Thinking Hendrix may be bored with rock music, Douglas wanted to draw him into jazz and team him up with jazz trumpeter Miles Davis. Hendrix found himself in the middle of a tussle between Mike Jeffery and Alan Douglas. As well as his musical direction, Alan Douglas began advising Hendrix about his business affairs. Not only was Mike Jeffery jealous he was also fearful that he was going to lose Hendrix to Douglas. When asked about the Douglas/Hendrix relationship by a record company representative, Mike Jeffery was quoted as saying: “Alan Douglas is scum! I will never let him get his hands on Hendrix.” Mike Jeffery, fed up with the long running battle with Ed Chalpin, had an idea to get him off their backs by giving him a live album. This would ultimately lead to the birth of The Band of Gypsies. Jimi Hendrix would record with Billy Cox on bass and his old buddy from way back – Buddy Miles on drums.
At his drugs trial in Toronto on 8th December 1969 Jimi Hendrix was found not guilty, mainly because the jury believed the evidence of his journalist friend Sharon Lawrence who testified that she had seen drugs being planted in Hendrix’s luggage.
On 12th December 1969 Mike Jeffery told Jimi Hendrix of his plans to give Ed Chalpin a ‘live’ album, which was to be recorded at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East auditorium in New York on 31st December and 1st January 1970 using a mobile recording unit. After the Band of Gypsies’ two day gig at the Fillmore East, Michael Jeffery gave the tapes of the performance to Ed Chalpin for release on the Capitol label. Hendrix became depressed about the recording going to Chalpin and the fact that Chalpin would be making more money out of the performance than Hendrix.
As far as Mike Jeffery was concerned the Band of Gypsies was just a means of paying off Ed Chalpin. His image of Jimi Hendrix had always been of a black “Elvis Presley” type figure backed by two white musicians. He thought that Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell were the right people to complete this image. In Mike Jeffery’s mind Hendrix had been going in the wrong direction since moving back to America. Jeffery thought that he was in danger of losing the fans who had secured his initial success. Mike Jeffery had been firmly against Jimi Hendrix appearing with black sidemen. In particular, he didn’t like the wild-haired black percussionist named Juma, nor the addition of his congas to Hendrix’s sound. He had made sure they were all as far to the back of the stage as possible at Woodstock. He wanted Hendrix to ditch both of his permanent black musicians, Billy Cox and Buddy Miles. Mike Jeffery told Hendrix that promoters and audiences really wanted Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding back in the band. Jeffery had even gone as far as contacting Noel Redding and offering him a place on Hendrix’s next tour. Redding was only too willing for the Experience to reform. But neither Jimi Hendrix nor Mitch Mitchell wanted to work with Noel Redding again. Redding was in bad shape. His marriage had collapsed and he had turned to drugs and booze. He’d also recently been kicked out of his own band – Fat Mattress.
Mike Jeffery’s met with Jimi Hendrix and presented him with a written agreement for US, European and Japanese tours. According to the agreement, the tours would gross up to a million dollars and the bands share would be split between Hendrix, Redding and Mitchell on a 50-25-25 basis. Hendrix told Mike Jeffery that he had no problems with Mitch Mitchell on drums but that he wanted Billy Cox and not Redding to play bass. Hendrix left the meeting without signing the contract.
The next day the press made a statement that Hendrix wasn’t happy with the Band of Gypsies, in particular Buddy Miles who he said had too much “earth” for his taste. Mike Jeffery was delighted and called Rolling Stone magazine, telling them that the Jimi Hendrix Experience was reforming. Mike Jeffery offered the magazine’s editor an exclusive interview. On 4th February 1970, experienced Rolling Stone reporter, John Burks turned up at Mike Jeffery’s apartment to find Jimi Hendrix, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell lounging on the floor in front of a fake fireplace with a gas burner. In spite of Mike Jeffery’s attempts to soften up the reporter with alcohol, the story didn’t turn out as he planned. On 19th March 1970, Rolling Stone published an article but implied it wasn’t going to keep the music business sweet by accepting exclusive interviews. Part of the article read: –
“The other two cats in the band are Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding from the original Experience. The Experience is back together again and everybody’s pals and no hard feelings. Considering the attrition rate among rock and roll bands during the past year, this has approximately the news value of a trial separation between Dick and Liz. But this was the big news that Hendrix’ press agent was eager to Get Across, so this is what we started on, as Michael Jeffery, Jimi’s manager, brought on wine and booze.” Mike Jeffery was unhappy with the Rolling Stone story and fired his publicist
The reformed Jimi Hendrix Experience
Because Jimi Hendrix didn’t want to work with Noel Redding again, Billy Cox became a member of the reformed Jimi Hendrix Experience. With the new band underway, Mike Jeffery once again began to exert his authority on Jimi Hendrix. He set up a meeting with Hendrix and showed him some financial statements. He told Hendrix that he owed Reprise four albums (two per year which hadn’t been forthcoming) plus a $250,000 cash advance paid by Reprise for the purpose of building the Electric Lady Studios. There were also other debts including a $15,000 bill for studio time at the Record Plant studio; accumulated bills of $5,000 per month for limousines plus outstanding lawyers’ bills in respect of the drugs trial. Furthermore, Mike Jeffery warned Hendrix that the matter of unpaid taxes was likely to raise its ugly head.
In spite of the resurrection of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and imminent opening of his long awaited Electric Lady Studio, Hendrix clearly wasn’t happy with his lot. In April 1970 he met with two young black lawyers to see if he could break his contract with Mike Jeffery with a view to having either Chas Chandler or Alan Douglas take over as his manager. Unfortunately Hendrix didn’t have copies of the paperwork relating to his own contracts and, in any case, he was told that Mike Jeffery had made them “iron clad”. With no chance of legally breaking the ties with Mike Jeffery and not wanting a face to face confrontation, Jimi Hendrix resorted to doing nothing except, perhaps, complaining to anyone who would listen to his moans and groans about Jeffery.
At the end of April 1970 Mike Jeffery and his girlfriend Lyn Baily began a vacation in Woodstock. At the same time the Jimi Hendrix Experience began an American tour which would include a filmed show at the Berkeley Community Theatre later to be released as ‘Jimi Plays Berkeley’. Mike Jeffery was not present at the show. He was back at Woodstock with Lyn Baily. The couple quarreled and broke up permanently on the night of the Berkeley show.
In July 1970 Mike Jeffery began a new phase of his life – as a film producer. In October 1968 and May 1969 he had fallen in love with Hawaii while touring there with the Jimi Hendrix Experience. He would fly out there as often as he could. Mike Jeffery’s assistant, Trixie Sullivan was said to have once had to reach him by field telephone while he was meditating on the side of a volcano on the island of Maui. Mike Jeffery wanted eventually to build a musician’s retreat and a studio on Maui. He spent large sums of money having plans drawn up by an American architect. His project in 1970 was to produce a film in Hawaii entitled Rainbow Bridge. Mike Jeffery contributed $500,000 to the project and Mo Ostin, the president of Reprise, a further $450,000.
Mike Jeffery established a company called Antah Kar Ana Incorporated, which he owned and controlled. The company was set up to produce ‘Rainbow Bridge’, which Warner Brothers would distribute. Jimi had already committed himself to Rainbow Bridge by signing a contract with Warner Brothers which also involved an advance of money for the completion of the Electric Lady Studio. No doubt Warner Brothers thought that the film would be successful on the strength of Jimi Hendrix’s soundtrack and his live performance in the film. The more Hendrix learned about the film, the less he wanted to be involved. He quarreled with Mike Jeffery about having to take part. In the end Mike Jeffery instructed Jerry Stickells, Hendrix’s tour manager to get Hendrix drugged up after a gig in Seattle on 28th July 1970 and bring him to Hawaii for filming. Once in Hawaii and after a lot of arguing, Hendrix reluctantly agreed to appear in the film and do a concert near the Rainbow Bridge Occult Centre.
Rainbow Bridge was directed by Chuck Wein, who’d had three previous movies produced by Andy Warhol’s Factory. The plot of Rainbow Bridge, a documentary-style film, involved a New York model who travels from California to an occult centre on the island of Maui, Hawaii. While there she encounters various devotees of surfing, clairvoyance, zen, yoga, meditation and Tai-Chi. The star of Rainbow Bridge, Pat Hartley and Jimi Hendrix argued with Chuck Wein and Michael Jeffery about how they were being asked to perform. The actors were supposed to improvise their lines but, in fact, were being told what to say. Hendrix eventually did what was asked of him and completed his acting part. The film also includes seventeen minutes of the Jimi Hendrix Experience playing at an open air concert in front of a crowd of hippies.
By the time Chuck Wein and his crew had returned to Hollywood, they had more than forty hours of film. Warners Brothers was nervous. The original budget had been set between $200,000 and $300,000 but it looked as if a further $500,000 would be needed to complete the film. Mike Jeffery went to Warner Brothers and suggested that more of Jimi’s future royalties be used. However, the record company objected, so Mike Jeffery pledged more of his own money. At this stage he thought the end result of the Rainbow Bridge project would be the means to rescue his own desperate financial situation.
On 13th August 1970 Jimi Hendrix cancelled a planned trip to London saying that he was suffering as the result of a surfing accident that he had sustained in Hawaii at the beginning of the month. Mike Jeffery was not happy. He thought that Hendrix needed the exposure in the UK. The Electric Lady Studio had cost a lot of money which could only be recouped by the Experience touring.
Mike Jeffery’s and Jimi Hendrix’s problems were further compounded when they found out that the perpetual thorn in their sides, Ed Chalpin, was suing Track Records and Polydor. In the opinion of Sharon Lawrence, Henrix’s journalist friend and confidant, Hendrix was frustrated with Mike Jeffery saying: “Michael Jeffery told me from the beginning that he’d handle it, but he’s selling me out. Five years later and that fucking Chalpin is still hounding me; I get sick every time I hear his name.”
Jimi Hendrix had been recording in his New York Electric Lady Studios since 15th June 1970. In spite of all the problems with lawsuits, personnel changes and the lack of communication between him and Mike Jeffery, a lavish party was held on 26th August 1970 to mark the official opening of the studio. The party was attended by rock stars, showbiz types, the press and hangers-on. The place was just about trashed by the party-goers. Hendrix was disgusted by the mess and left early. He had a lot on his mind.