Giving Thanks — For Jimi Hendrix

Since the late 1960s it has been a Thanksgiving tradition in NYC to celebrate the guitar genius


James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington, on November 27, 1942, the day after Thanksgiving. He went on to become the gold standard of rock guitarists. The English musician/singer/songwriter Terry Reid once told an interviewer about seeing one of Hendrix’s early performances in a London club, in 1966, with the likes of the Rolling Stones, Jeff Beck, Paul McCartney, and other British rock luminaries in the crowd: “He breaks into ‘Wild Thing,’ and it was all over. There were guitar players weeping. They had to mop the floor up. He was piling it on, solo after solo. I could see everyone’s fillings falling out. When he finished, it was silence. Nobody knew what to do. Everybody was dumbstruck, completely in shock.”

Perhaps it’s no surprise that Hendrix had an equal impact on the Big Apple. In the November 21, 1968, issue of the Village Voice, concert promoter Ron Delsener placed an ad for “An Electronic Thanksgiving,” which featured the Jimi Hendrix Experience and, somewhat incongruously, the harpsichordist Fernando Valenti, who was better known for his recordings of Bach compositions.

Two weeks later, reviewer Annie Fisher wrote, “[Hendrix] is a born entertainer as well as musician, very much at home on stage, but as the innovator he is, he is at his best exploring, experimenting, or even just noodling around in the freedom and challenge a jam provides.”

Hendrix died tragically young, in 1970, but his legacy lived on in New York City.

In 1976, the musician and songwriter Earl Solomon Burroughs appeared at Town Hall under the stage name Jack Hammer, presenting “Electric God — The most earth shattering new musical event inspired by Jimi Hendrix.”

Burroughs (1925–2016) is probably most well-known as co-writer of the classic rock ’n’ roll tune “Great Balls of Fire.” Although seventeen years older than Hendrix, he touted a similarity in appearance to boost his credentials to carry on the guitar god’s legacy. As writer Jerry Hopkins reported in the December 2, 1976, issue of Rolling Stone, “Jack Hammer, a musician and composer (‘Great Balls of Fire’) Hendrix had known in his early days in Greenwich Village, was there. His rap is a doozy; it goes on and on until, by his count, there are 22 coincidences in their lives, including an astonishing physical resemblance. Hendrix, he says, told him: ‘There are such things as two people who are so identical it’s as if they were cloned one from the other.’ But Hammer believed it was nothing more than coincidence ‘until Hendrix died on my birthday, September 18th, two days after our conversation. The day we talked, the 16th, sitting at the same table at the Speakeasy with Jimi and me was Big Mama Cass, Janis Joplin and Jimi’s manager, Mike Jeffrey, all now dead except me.’”

The full-page ad in the November 22, 1976, issue of the Voice gives some credence to Hammer’s mirror-image claim; we are still checking our archives to see if any reviewers commented on his guitar-playing skills.

Twenty-one years later, Hendrix was still a Thanksgiving draw, featured in the Black Rock Coalition’s 7th Annual Jimi Hendrix Tribute.

The tradition continued into the aughts. For instance, the 19th Annual Jimi Hendrix Birthday Bash was held at Terra Blues on Bleecker Street, in 2009.

And for Thanksgiving 2018, you can once again get your fill of Hendrix. It’s nice to know that some things never change.