Just after Jimi arrived, when we were staying in the Hyde Park Towers Hotel, there were long conversations about what the Jimi Hendrix band should be like. Originally Chas was thinking along the lines of something like the Animals with five people – Jimi and a rhythm guitarist, a bass guitarist, keyboard and drums. Jimi wasn’t sure about the keyboard but was willing to go along with Chas’ expertise. He still thought that another guitar and a bass guitar were needed like his old band the Blue Flame.
The first audition was for the rhythm guitarist and it was held at Birdland in the daytime. Birdland was a small club in Duke Street, St. James. Noel Redding was being auditioned for rhythm guitar and there was a piano player and a drummer. I can’t remember the piano player but I think the drummer might have been Tommy Brown of Nero And The Gladiators. Chas played bass guitar and they all did a few numbers together.
It became obvious that Jimi didn’t really need another guitar. He was virtually a solo player. Chas asked Noel if he could play bass guitar instead, to which Noel said that he didn’t know bass but he’d give it a go. Noel could play nearly any sort of stringed instrument, even violin, and had been a professional musician since school. I don’t think he had ever played bass guitar before but he knew what was needed and just took Chas’ guitar and played an absolutely steady bass line. That was it – Jimi had a bass guitarist and the deal was made in the pub next door. I think it was that evening that we met Johnny Halliday and Chas agreed to a tour in France even though he hadn’t got a band together yet and didn’t even know what form it would take.
The next audition was arranged for a drummer the next week. Again there would be a keyboard player and Noel would play bass guitar this time. Chas knew that Aynsley Dunbar was free but he wanted to try another drummer as well. Tommy Brown had gone off with Johnny Halliday so he was out.
In the meantime we went to the Cream gig at the Polytechnic and gave Eric a nasty turn and then a few days after that there were the auditions for the drummer. Chas had offered the job to Hugh Flint of the Alexis Korner trio – “Free at Last” but Hugh turned it down because he was going to replace Mitch Mitchell in Georgie Fame’s group. That was how Chas heard that Georgie Fame’s drummer, Mitch Mitchell, was free so two drummers could be auditioned separately one after the other.
The auditions were at a small dark club in Soho. I think it was at Die Fledermaus up at the top end of Dean Street. Chas had arranged a keyboard player and I think Noel was using a six string which might have belonged to Chas. During the audition the penny dropped with Chas. Jimi didn’t need a keyboard player. They could form a power trio like Cream who we had seen just a couple of days previously. I think he also realised it would be cheaper to have just three people on tour.
In the taxi back to the hotel we debated which drummer to have. They were both very good. Chas wanted to know what Lotta and I thought and I suggested Aynsley because he was good looking and I’d seen him play with the Mojos. Chas didn’t know what to do so he decided to toss a coin. The first flip fell on the cab floor so he did it again and Mitch Mitchell won the toss. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed on the toss of a coin.
This has been based on my book.
To get a copy of my book click here