Jimi Hendrix "is considered one of the greatest guitarists in rock music history." (Encarta) He was born Johnny Allen Hendrix on November 27, 1942 in Seattle, Washington, but after his parents divorced, his father changed his name to James Marshall Hendrix. He picked up his first guitar at age 11. It was a right handed guitar and because Jimi was left handed he switched the strings and flipped it upside down and taught himself how to play. At age 17, Jimi enlisted in the army as a paratrooper. A year later he was granted an honorable discharge because he broke his ankle. (Sigdolch).
After leaving the army Jimi toured with numerous groups and played backup on various artists' albums; including the Isley Brothers, Little Richard and King Curtis. In 1965 Jimmy James, as he was calling him self at that time, and soul singer Curtis Knight teamed up to form a group initially dubbed the Rainflowers, then Jimmy James And The Blue Flames. After playing with the Blue Flames for a year in New York City, Jimi traveled to London in search of better talent to back him. Along with his managers Chas Chandler and Mike Jeffries, Jimi held auditions for a backup band, eventually choosing Noel Redding on bass and John "Mitch" Mitchell on drums. The group called themselves the Jimi Hendrix Experience and debuted October 6, 1966 in Paris, France.(VH1).
The group put out their first single, "Hey Joe" in December of that year, and it immediately became a top ten hit in the UK. "Purple Haze" and "The Wind Cries Mary" also rose to the top of the UK charts that first year. Returning to the United States, the Experience appeared at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. Hendrix's dramatic performance of the song "Wild Thing" is documented in the film Monterey Pop.(Encarta) Over the next three years, the Experience released three major albums. The last, Electric Ladyland, was initially deemed "self-indulgent", but is now recognized as a major work.