Eric Clapton was to Meet Up with Jimi Hendrix on the Night Hendrix Died; He was Also With Stevie Ray Vaughan On the Night He Died

Eric Clapton Performing with the Allman Brothers Band

Today I found out Eric Clapton was to meet up with Jimi Hendrix on the night Hendrix died.  He was also with Stevie Ray Vaughan on the night he died.

Clapton was good friends with Jimi Hendrix and was supposed to meet him on the night of Hendrix’ death at a Sly and the Family Stone concert.  Clapton had bought him a guitar which was made for a lefty (Hendrix usually just played right handed guitars upside down).  However, Hendrix never got that guitar, having not show up to meet Clapton that night. Clapton later stated:

The next day, I heard that he had died. He had passed out, stoned on a mixture of booze and drugs, and choked on his own vomit. It was the first time the death of another musician really affected me. We had all felt obliterated when Buddy Holly died, but this was much more personal. I was incredibly upset and very angry, and was filled with a feeling of terrible loneliness… I went out in the garden and cried all day because he’d left me behind. Not because he’d gone, but because he hadn’t taken me with him. It just made me so fucking angry. I wasn’t sad, I was just pissed off.”

Clapton was also among the last people ever to be with Stevie Ray Vaughan.  On the night of Vaughan’s untimely death in 1990, Vaughan and his band had opened for Eric Clapton at the Alpine Valley Music Theatre.  His last performance was a jam session finale to the show that also included Clapton, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy, and Jimmie Vaughan.

After the show when Vaughan, Jimmy, and Jimmy’s wife Connie tried to catch one of the four helicopters waiting to depart back to Chicago, they discovered their seats had been taken by Bobby Brooks, Nigel Browne, and Colin Smythe, members of Eric Clapton’s crew.  Vaughan was anxious to get back to Chicago as soon as possible, so took the last seat and left Jimmy and Connie behind.  The helicopter crashed shortly after takeoff when the pilot, Jeff Brown, accidentally ran it into a ski slope at a high speed.

At the time, the helicopter was at an altitude of around 850 feet, with the mountain being around 1000 feet tall.  It is thought the pilot had been attempting to take the helicopter around the mountain, rather than over it, but misjudged his position due to thick fog and darkness (it was about 1:00am).  Thus, he couldn’t see the mountain and was relying solely on instruments to navigate.  The helicopter did bank sharply just before crashing, so it is thought at the last moment he realized his mistake.

The crash went unnoticed until a few hours later when the helicopter failed to arrive at its destination.  Getting to the crash sooner wouldn’t have helped, though, as autopsies revealed everyone died on impact.  Vaughan himself had multiple injuries that would have been individually fatal, including transection and dissection of the aorta, skull fractures, and a ruptured spleen and liver.

Amazingly, (crappily for Clapton), he was also supposedly one of the last people to see another of his good friends and famed guitarists, Duane Allman, before he died in a motorcycle crash in 1971 after swerving to avoid a truck and having his Harley land on top of him, crushing some of his internal organs.

Bonus Facts:

  • Jimmy Hendrix was actually born John Hendrix.  After returning from WWII, his father, Al, took custody of him (after severe neglect from his mother), and renamed him from Johnny Allen Hendrix to James Marshal Hendrix, partially after his late brother, Leon Marshall Hendrix.  Jimi was three years old at the time.
  • Helicopter pilot Jeff Brown was not certified to fly by instruments only in dense fog in a helicopter (though he was certified for that in airplanes and was an accomplished helicopter pilot). However, due to this lack of certification, the wives of Clapton’s crew members received $2 million each in a settlement with the company that owned the helicopter.
  • Jimmy Hendrix died from choking on his own vomit after ingesting nine prescription Vesparax sleeping pills, with the recommended dose being just one pill.  It is thought Hendrix didn’t know how strong this particularly brand of sleeping pill was and his girlfriend, Monika Dannemann who the pills were for, claimed she didn’t know he took them.
  • Dannemann also claimed that Hendrix was still alive when the ambulance arrived.  Further, she claimed she was with him in the ambulance.  However, the medics stated she wasn’t there when they arrived and Hendrix had been dead for some time (probably around 3am-4am, and they arrived at 11:27am).  Many years later, in 1996, Dannemann committed suicide after running into legal troubles.
  • When John Hendrix (aka Jimi Hendrix) was born, Al Hendrix’ commanding officer locked up Al to prevent him from going AWOL to be there at the birth of his son.
  • Jimmy Hendrix’ great grandfather was a wealthy grain dealer from Ohio, Bertran Philander Ross, who got one of his slaves, Fanny Hendricks, pregnant.  She then gave birth to Ross Hendricks, Jimi Hendrix’ grandfather.
  • Jimi Hendrix’ great-great grandmother was a full blood Cherokee, hence why Hendrix is now in the Native American Music Hall of Fame, the first musician to have that honor.
  • One of Stevie Ray Vaughan’s first bands when he was 14 years old was Cast of Thousands.  This band’s lead singer was future actor Stephen Tobolowsky (19 years of age at the time), who has since appeared in Heroes, Glee, CSI, Miss Congeniality 2, Sneakers, Kingpin, and Groundhog Day, among many others (I stopped counting at 112 movies and TV shows he’s appeared in, usually with very minor roles. In reality, it’s estimated he’s been involved in around 300-400 movies and TV shows).
  • Tobolowsky passed up the role of Al on Home Improvement.  At the time, his wife was pregnant and he didn’t have much money.  They offered him $16,000 per episode to play that role, which he was excited to take until they told him the pilot might not be filmed for six months, but their contract had a stipulation that he’d have to be exclusive to the show while working for them, which meant he might only get paid $16,000 during a six month span for the one episode and maybe nothing after if the show wasn’t picked up.  Thus, with his child on the way, he turned down the role and took a few minor movie offers.  While this cost him millions of dollars in terms of what he would have earned on Home Improvement, it all worked out in the end, with some of the roles he took during the Home Improvement run launching his career as a staple “guest star” type actor, including his role in Groundhog Day, which really launched his career.  BING!!!!
  • Tobolowsky was once held at gunpoint at a supermarket.  He also claimed in an interview that he was kidnapped by monks in Thailand and beaten… Not sure if I believe that one. 😉
  • When he was quite young, Stevie Ray Vaughan took a job as a dish washer at a dairy mart, making 70 cents per hour.  This nearly cost him his life:  “When I was about twelve, I had been a dishwasher for a while, and part of my job was to clean out the trash bin. That involved standing on these big 55-gallon barrels with wooden lids on them, where they’d put all the hot grease.   One day I was out there cleaning out the bin, having a blast, and the top broke and I fell in. Just as I finally got out—I’d been up to my chest in grease—they came with two fresh hot vats of boiling grease and I got out just in time. If I’d taken a break later, I would have been a fried guy! The woman fired me because I broke the lids on the barrel, and right then and there I decided, ‘Wait a minute. This is not what I want to do. I want to play guitar like Albert King!’ And that’s the last job I’ve had other than playing guitar. So, thank you, Albert, for helping me there.”
  • Both Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimi Hendrix never finished high school.  Vaughan dropped out during his senior year to pursue music full time. Hendrix ended up getting expelled for poor grades and poor attendance from Garfield High School.  However, Hendrix contested this later, claiming he was expelled for holding hands with his white girlfriend while in study hall.  In either case, once he became famous, Hendrix was awarded an honorary diploma from Garfield and a statue of him was erected at the school.
  • Jimi Hendrix joined the army, not because he wanted to be a soldier, but because he didn’t want to go to jail.  He was arrested for riding around in stolen cars (twice) and the second time they told him he could spend two years in prison or join the army, he chose to enlist in the army and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division.  This didn’t last long though as he was constantly getting in trouble for sleeping while on duty and disregarding rules and regulations.  His commanding officers finally requested that he be discharged, which he was, after being a soldier only a year. Again, Hendrix contested this and stated he was discharged after breaking his ankle on his 26th parachute jump.
  • Before this discharge came through, Hendrix supposedly pretended to be gay to try to get out of the military (according to Charles Cross’ biography on Hendrix), but was unsuccessful in that attempt.
  • Hendrix was fired from his first official gig, at the Temple De Hirsch in Seattle.  He had been hired to play in the synagogue but was fired between sets due to “wild playing”.
  • In the song “Purple Haze”, Hendrix has a line “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.”  This gave rise to some people misinterpreting the lyrics “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.”  As a result of this, sometimes Hendrix would sing the latter line in his actual performances because he thought it was funny.
  • Jimi Hendrix toured with The Monkees, who were huge fans of his even though he wasn’t yet big in the U.S., but this didn’t go over very well with The Monkees’ fan base. His performances at these shows were often cut short with the audience booing or chanting for The Monkees until he got off the stage.  As a result of this, he asked to leave the tour.  In order to help him get more media attention from the break, The Monkees claimed he was forced to leave because his performances were “lewd and indecent.”
  • Hendrix was famous for being an extreme perfectionist with his music.  For instance, it took 43 takes for him to be satisfied with the song “Gypsy Eyes”.  As a result of this, his producer, Chas Chandler, cut ties with Hendrix during the recording of the Electric Ladyland album.  This also created tension with band mates.  For instance, bassist Noel Redding would get frustrated at how long it took to record things and take breaks to cool down, only to return and find Hendrix had played his own takes of Redding’s parts in his absence.
  • Hendrix disliked performing in front of large crowds.  Because of this, he requested to have his time slot at Woodstock moved to the end, on Monday morning, rather than on Sunday night, as he had been slotted before.  He hoped that many of the people would have left by that time, which indeed happened.  By the time he started playing at 8:30am on Monday morning only about 30,000 people of the estimated original 400,000 remained.  Many of those 30,000 remaining left during his iconic performance.
  • Hendrix’ rendition of the Star Spangled banner at Woodstock was actually something he’d been performing regularly for about a year up to that point.
  • According to two former girlfriends of Jimi Hendrix, they claim he told them he had been sexually abused by a man when he was a child, though who that man was isn’t known.
  • At the time of his death, Jimi Hendrix had lost an estimated 60% of his hearing.
  • Hendrix’ famous stunt of lighting his guitar on fire at the Monterey Pop Festival in response to the The Who’s post concert antics of destroying their instruments.  Hendrix followed The Who that night and decided to one up them by setting his guitar on fire, rather than smashing it.
  • Stevie Ray Vaughan was the first white person to win the Entertainer of the Year W.C. handy Award and the Instrumentalist of the Year W.C. Handy Award. (The W.C. Handy Awards are now known as The Blues Music Awards)
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