Jimi Plays Sacramento
26 April 1970
by Phil Carson
[WHERE’S WALDO? LOOK FOR A YOUNG CRAIG CHAQUICO ON THE CREW]
By the spring of 1970 Jimi Hendrix had arrived at a crossroads in his life and career. His circumstances required decisions, if not solutions.
Hendrix had not toured since June 1969 and had played only a handful of concerts since then. His ad hoc band, Gypsy Suns, Moons and Rainbows headlined Woodstock in August 1969 and performed at the United Block Association’s benefit concert in Harlem two weeks later. Although playing with this ensemble undoubtedly contributed to Jimi’s development as a musician and served his need to hang out with friends under relaxed conditions, its cumbersome numbers and level of talent didn’t promise a touring band. Nonetheless, with Mitch Mitchell on drums and Billy Cox on bass, this interim group held the seeds for a later, tighter band.
In fall and winter, 1969-1970, Hendrix’s experimental Band of Gypsys spent an inordinate amount of time jamming in the studio; then headlined at Bill Graham’s Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve and Day. But that band too burst apart from various pressures, and disintegrated onstage at the Winter Festival For Peace at New York City’s Madison Square Garden on 28 January 1970.
Jimi’s recording situation was no less troubled. He hadn’t finished more than a handful of tracks since producing Electric Ladyland nearly two years earlier. And Ed Chalpin’s contractual claims needed to be addressed… Eddie Kramer spent February 1970 mixing the Band Of Gypsys live LP. It would be released in the U.S. on 25 March 1970. But by that time Jimi had already moved on. He had to be free.
On the brighter side construction resumed on Hendrix’s dream studio in New York City, Electric Lady. That meant Jimi had to tour and generate cash. With his predatory manager, Michael Jeffery, undoubtedly applying pressure for a lucrative tour, Jimi flirted with re-forming the Experience. But his feeble attempt to convince Rolling Stone writer John Burks in a farcical interview on 4 February 1970 fell short of convincing and Jimi ultimately balked at Noel’s return. Instead Jimi asked old friend Billy Cox to take over on bass guitar, and Mitch Mitchell would resume his role as Jimi’s drummer.
At this stage Jimi managed to have his 1970 American tour scheduled for weekends to allow him weekdays to devote to studio work on his envisioned double album, tentatively titled, First Rays Of The New Rising Sun. Hendrix and his freshly christened Cry of Love band opened a thirty-date American tour in California with two back-to-back concerts on the last weekend in April 1970. Apparently the new trio established itself in Los Angeles in mid-month to prepare for the tour, though no tapes of those rehearsals have surfaced.
As Cox recalls in the book Jimi Hendrix: Sessions, “After the business at Madison Square Garden I was real suspect. I agreed to come back in February, but that fell apart as well. I didn’t hear from Jimi for about a month. Then I got a phone call from him… He promised and promised that I would have no hassles, so, like a fool, I came back for the third time,” Cox recalls. “Mitch was cool. He didn’t even talk about the Band of Gypsys. He just went about his business… There was a real respect between Mitch and Jimi. We just got down to playing….”
The band quickly caught fire. While less nimble and cerebral than Noel Redding, Billy Cox added a soulful thunder to Hendrix’s new band that the thin British bassist never mustered. Mitch Mitchell’s amazing technical skills and ability to read the guitarist’s mind made him the chosen drummer for any Hendrix group. Jimi could now blend Experience tunes with the Band of Gypsys’ more experimental music. More importantly, Jimi would debut fresh compositions with a new sound.
According to Mitch, though the new band could produce great music, there would be little show. Hendrix now largely disdained his earlier histrionics and of course Billy Cox didn’t go for flash. In Hendrix’s mind the music should speak for itself, though many fans never caught up with him and continued to demand a “show.” Behind the scenes, however, The Usual Scene commenced at high pitch. “For the Forum gig we were staying at Rodeo Drive again, at the hotel,” Mitch recalled in Inside The Experience. “I had a suite there; [Hendrix] had one with his own private elevator. Talk about hangers-on. I went up to see him once during the week we were there and stayed about two minutes. I thought, ‘I don’t want anything to do with this.’ He didn’t want all these people around but he didn’t know how to say no.”
Nonetheless, Jimi Hendrix somehow managed to overcome the obstacles in his life and transform turmoil into productive energy. Though hardly the ultimate arrangement to fully develop his uncharted talents, Jimi’s Cry of Love band would produce some of his best live music to date. In the studio his new compositions and bright, clean sound reflected an artist who had attained a new level of maturity and sophistication. In April 1970 Hendrix headed out on tour with renewed purpose, mixing as much of his new material into his set as possible and exploring the dynamics of his trio. The first show of the tour took place at the L.A. Forum on Saturday, 25 April, and the next day Hendrix & Co. flew north to Sacramento to headline an afternoon, outdoor gig at Cal Expo at the state fairgrounds. California audiences had not seen Jimi since 20 and 22 June 1969, during an outdoor festival with mixed results at the Newport Pop Festival in Northridge.
The L.A. Forum show proved to be a blistering performance that lasted a full hour and a half. The set contained most of the songs that he played the next day at Cal Expo and, indeed, on the rest of his American tour. Seven songs came from the Experience songbook, four from the Band of Gypsys, and three were completely new. Photographs of Jimi at the Forum show capture him in a distinctive, red, white, and blue headband; a dark, ruffled shirt; floral vest; faux leopard skin belt; and black pants with leather patches. It’s likely that Jimi enjoyed partying after his show in L.A. Sunrise may have caught him by surprise.
Promoters for the next show at Cal Expo in Sacramento ignored Hendrix’s name for his new band and advertised “The Jimi Hendrix Experience in a beautiful afternoon concert.” Fans were invited to “bring a picnic lunch, a blanket & a smile.” Ironically, an entity known as “Strongwinds” presented the show. Music would begin at 3 p.m. The flyer said “other groups to be announced,” and by show time a group known as Blue Mountain Eagle and The Buddy Miles Express would open the event.
On 26 April Hendrix & Co. traveled to Sacramento, California’s capital, eighty miles northeast of San Francisco. The state fairgrounds just east of downtown included a large, oval racetrack with a grandstand along the straight-away on the west side. For the concert promoters erected a stage at the foot of the grandstand, facing up into the seats. About 8,000 tickets were sold.
Larry Hulst, 24-years-old and fresh from service as a medic in Vietnam, had been to a Joe Cocker concert the night before in San Francisco with friends and they were a tad burned out. But they weren’t going to miss a chance to see Hendrix. Hulst had begun to develop an affinity for photography and he took a camera to the show with a couple rolls of black-and-white film. He’d grown up in Sacramento and had already experienced Hendrix.
“In ’67 I bought his first album,” Hulst recalls today at his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado. “Then in ’68 I took the double album to Vietnam. I played it an awful lot there.”
Before packing for Vietnam Hulst had caught the Jimi Hendrix Experience at Balboa Stadium in San Diego on 3 September 1968, and a week and a half later at Memorial Auditorium in Sacramento on the 15th. “The first show of Hendrix was far more exciting – just to be in the building with him. He was the best in San Diego. I don’t have much of a memory of it, but I thought I’d seen what I needed to see.”
As for Cal Expo, Hulst recalls: “It was the largest show [ever] in Sacramento, which meant that everything was two or three times larger in scale – meaning more police, more hassle to get into the place, more area to figure out where you could stand and not be in front of somebody who’d yell at you. Back then there were two groups of people, those who sat down and those who stood up. If you stood up in front of people they would yell at you. That was their job, I guess.”
Buddy Miles’ opening set left no lasting impression on Hulst. As for the Cry of Love’s appearance, Hulst recalls: “I remember Hendrix came in a white limousine and drove into the staging area and walked right up. He didn’t have a sound-check.”
Steve Avis, now 43 and still living in Sacramento, also attended the Cal Expo show. He too had already seen Hendrix. “I caught Hendrix once with Soft Machine at the Men’s Gym at Sacramento State College on 8 February 1968. That was a revolutionary change in music, the best show I ever saw. We were 14 years old, went first through the door, and we got right in front of the stage. If he had reached down I could touch him. He had his Flying V leaning up against an amp. We could hear him talking to Noel and Mitch. The power went out early in the show and he said, ‘Aw shucks, just when it was gettin’ good.'”
“Every time I saw him I was just totally blown away,” Avis adds. “He would go off for a while and you could just totally relate to that. I could relate not just as a guitar player but in a spiritual way. Those major chords made you feel kind of happy, kind of mystical.”
As for the Cal Expo show on 26 April 1970, Avis recalled three years ago for Straight Ahead: “It was a sunny afternoon, but patches of clouds scattered the sky. My friend Kent and I stayed in the trailer at my parents house the night before. The next day we headed to the race track at Cal Expo for the concert. We had already bought tickets in advance for $3.75 (those were the days!)… There were a lot of people sitting on blankets and a sweet smell filled the air. The stage was directly in front of us so we sat down with some friends. They had a camera that I had a chance to use….”
“There was a long intermission at which time the stage was being set for Hendrix… A black Stratocaster leaning against one of the three Marshall stacks… Although this was my third Hendrix concert, being a guitarist myself I was anxious to see what new “tricks” he had up his sleeve… Finally they were introduced….”
Photos of Hendrix reveal him with the same choker and medallion ’round his neck and in the same floral vest as the night before. It is hard to tell if he has the same or a very similar dark, ruffled shirt at Cal Expo as at the Forum show the night before. The same red-white-and-blue scarf appears ’round his head. As it is somewhat unusual to see Jimi wear the same outfit two days in a row, there is a possibility that Hendrix did not sleep between the two concerts, nor even changed his clothes. [Note: In color slides taken by James Hill at the Cal Expo gig, Jimi is also wearing an additional red jacket – Caesar Glebbeek.]
Those in charge of stage preparations had stayed up late as well. Aside from the stage construction itself, the Strongwinds promoter (whose identity eludes us) gathered a small crew of young men to create a large, painted backdrop for the stage. One young guy named Craig Chaquico (pronounced cha-kee-so) joined the crew. “I remember going through my brother’s albums and finding Are You Experienced,” Chaquico says today from his home near San Francisco. “I put the headphones on and, man, it changed my life. Up until then I had been listening to the Beach Boys. I didn’t know this stuff existed.”
As the Cal Expo date approached, artist Mark Hensen got hired to produce a promotional poster for the concert. Miniature posters served as tickets. “Hensen was also asked to paint the backdrop and asked me and other guys to help him,” Chaquico recalls. “He designed it, we helped him paint it. Ourpayment would be to keep any paint and canvas we didn’t use. For starving art students that was great. So the production company bought two six foot-wide rolls of canvas, forty feet long. The original backdrop was supposed to be three segments. One segment was to be an American flag. The next was to be a big, trippy peace sign. The other side was to be the English flag, because Jimi’s group had American and English musicians.”
“I was like 14 or 15 years old, I’m getting backstage the night before. Part of my payment was also supposed to be free tickets too. We stayed up all night painting this backdrop and the American flag goes pretty well. The peace sign went pretty smooth. It’s three in the morning. ‘Okay, let’s do the English flag. What does that look like again? Red with some crosses on it?’ We couldn’t remember exactly what it looked like. No one had an encyclopedia, it’s three or four in the morning, we got to get this thing done, we’re running out of time, it’s all got to be set-up and no one knows what the damn English flag looks like, at least closely enough to paint it. Logic is maybe not our best asset at that point. Someone says, ‘Let’s draw the Vietcong flag. It’s just a star with a blue and red background.’ It made sense to us at that point, but we got so much shit. People either loved it or hated it. But it went up.”
For Chaquico this proved to be only the first phase of his Hendrix adventure. “Back then things were not as well-organized as they are now so the promoter hadn’t gotten enough crew to handle the stage set-up,” he explains. “All of us kids with paint all over our hands and T-shirts got drafted at the last minute to help Hendrix’s road crew carry the amps out of the truck and onto the stage. I got to be one of Hendrix’s roadies for an afternoon!”
“I remember seeing a big road case with guitar cords, Wah-wah pedals, Fuzz-faces. I had never seen so many pieces of guitar equipment. I would save for months to buy just a guitar chord. Here everything was in this big box. I said something to a roadie like, ‘Hey man, can I have one of those Wah-wah pedals?’ He thought about it for a second, but said ‘No way man! I can’t give everybody one of Jimi Hendrix’s Wah-wah pedals!'”
“At one point a bunch of kids, who didn’t have tickets, were trying to get in over the fence. The promoter suddenly drafted us to become security and said, ‘Make sure those kids don’t jump over the fence.’ So I ran over there and I’m looking at these guys on the other side of the fence and I think, ‘What the fuck am I doing? I go to school with those guys! I’m not security, I’m outta here.” By some estimates the gate-crashers nearly doubled the paid audience of 8,000.
Sometime during the break between The Buddy Miles Express and the Cry of Love someone threw out hundreds of coffee can lids, or small frisbees, which provided diversion until The Man plugged in.
A 50-minute tape of the Cal Expo show has made the rounds for many years. It possesses less than decent sound, affected by dubious acoustics and wind. (As with so many audience tapes of Jimi Hendrix, we are simply fortunate that someone even made a recording! If all we had were the handful of flawless, official soundboard tapes, the record of his career would be spotty indeed.) The vocals and guitar on the Cal Expo tape are relatively well-preserved and the bass is consistently audible. The drums, unfortunately, often disappear from the mix. The taper -Bruce Stein- seems to have been experienced, as the tape cuts out between complete songs. Some stage banter is preserved in truncated form, but is difficult to decipher.
The show is just starting when Stein cranks up his (cassette?) recorder and catches a bit of introductory stage rap by Jimi. Though somewhat garbled by Hendrix, the acoustics and the wind, it sounds like familiar patter: “… whole lot of blues… coming back from the war… old lady… a thing called, ‘Here Comes Your Lover Man.'”
Jimi had tried to record this lyrical variation on “Rock Me, Baby,” an old B.B. King standard, at no less than three studios since October 1968. As a crowd-pleasing, straightforward rock ‘n’ roll number, “Lover Man” frequently appeared in Jimi’s concert sets after March 1968. At Cal Expo “Lover Man” got things going on an upbeat note. Despite rushing the lyrics a bit, at 1:10 into the song Jimi opens up with a blistering solo for twenty seconds before whipping into his signature glissandos. Mitch and Billy thunder along right on the beat as Jimi sings the chorus over a rapid rhythm guitar, then kicks in the Wah-wah to close the song on a descending scale.
“It was the first time I’d ever seen him live,” Chaquico recalls of his position on stage, just a few feet away from Hendrix. “After listening to his albums what impressed me was that live, everything was noisy. The amps buzzed and hummed, things were out-of-tune and scratchy… I was so used to hearing his immaculate recordings, all that stereo and double-tracking and finesse… The impression was, ‘Wow! This stuff is really raw, live. I kind of dug it! It was super-loud. I remember thinking, ‘It doesn’t sound as tame and as clean as the records.'”
“As “Lover Man” dies out cries of “Sit down!” become audible. Many tapes from California in 1969 and 1970 are marred by this petulant demand. Despite the attempt at mass grooviness, many festivals after Woodstock simply did not possess a spirit of blissful comraderie. Undaunted, the trio on stage winds up for the signature chords to “Spanish Castle Magic,” a standard of Experience shows since late ’67.
With Billy and Mitch laying down a well-worn groove, Jimi takes a solo in the middle registers, producing some thoughtful, almost flamenco impressions. He breaks into aggressive Wah-wah work and without letting up descends into the lower registers for an unusual melodic excursion full of nuance and imagination. After five minutes of soloing Hendrix re-emerges onto the treble strings for a devastating lead that suddenly loses direction. He brings the pace down with a chucka-chucka rhythm on dampened strings. Someone in the audience shouts “I know! I know!” and the band segues almost seamlessly into “Freedom,” one of Jimi’s brand new songs.
The basic idea for “Freedom” is first heard on tape during a fruitful studio jam by the Band of Gypsys at the Record Plant in January. Hendrix must have fully developed the song by April, for the Cry of Love band performed it flawlessly in L.A. and here in Sacramento. At Cal Expo Jimi recites the lyrics and runs through the song’s rhythm and bass patterns, then the bridge that lent the strident song a benevolent tone. At exactly three minutes into the song Hendrix makes his guitar shriek like a cat dropped onto a hot tin roof. The band closes the song on a mellow note. “That’s a thing called ‘Freedom,'” Jimi tells his audience.
At some point Larry Hulst moved front and center and shot a roll of black-and-white film through a 200-millimetre lens from perhaps forty feet. “I was too close for good composition, but back then I was just trying to learn to focus and compose pictures,” he says. “Back then there was never a problem with moving around the audience [to get shots].”
The tape resumes as Jimi delivers a rap about “Machine Gun.” A few flamenco-inflected guitar trills set the mood. Suddenly Hendrix strikes dampened strings, Cox slides into a descending bass line, and Mitchell weaves his snare into the mix. An anguished, funereal sound collage pulses out across the fairgrounds. A minute later Jimi intones his dire lyrics, his guitar screams out in anguish. The moment is hypnotic. As Steve Avis recalls: “In ‘Machine Gun’ he was doing things with the guitar I’d never heard before. I remember it sounding so mystical. But that was just like him, after you thought you had heard everything, Jimi plays something completely different that blows you away. It seemed like every note he played had some special power behind it. I remember vividly hearing ‘Machine Gun.’ I was up front, close by Billy Cox, and he smiled at me.”
“Machine Gun” never had a great ending worked out and at Cal Expo it winds down to the guitar-and-bass hook after five minutes and ends withoutfanfare a few minutes later. Developed in New York during the summer of ’69, Hendrix first performed “Machine Gun” live on 5 September at the United Block Association Benefit in Harlem and on the Dick Cavett TV show four days later. Jimi recorded it that fall and played it in all four sets at the Fillmore with his Band of Gypsys. It too became a staple of the Cry of Love ’70 tour.
Back at Cal Expo, here the tape briefly drops-out. It then resumes with telltale feedback of “Foxy Lady,” a familiar, raging sound that rouses the crowd. A few all-too-familiar shrieks can be heard on the tape. Hardly a show went by since early 1967 that Jimi did not pull out this outrageous, erotic showcase. A minute or so into the track the tape crackles and threatens to drop-out – buckling, it would seem, from the frenzy created by Hendrix, his Marshall amps and up to 17,000 fans. Jimi brings the song to an end, yet takes another half-minute to milk the finale for the crowd.
Jimi’s stage rap is difficult even for the audience to make out, for as he introduces another song a male audience member asks, in effect, “What song is this?” Another man answers, “Something about mirrors.” The feeling is hurried as Jimi takes “Room Full Of Mirrors” swiftly, not bothering with a precise recitation of lyrics.
He’d tried out the piece as early as 14 February 1969 at London’s Olympic Studios shortly before his shows at the Royal Albert Hall. He’d made masterful recordings at the Record Plant in New York in fall 1969 with the Band of Gypsys. But of all this his California audience knew nothing. (This studio track was properly finished 20 August 1970 at Electric Lady Studios and released on Rainbow Bridge in 1971.)
“Mirrors,” like “Freedom,” also relied on a complex interplay between rhythm and bass, plus, in the studio, an overdubbed lead guitar – an approach difficult, under the best conditions, to replicate in concert. Despite the cool wind that blew across the Cal Expo stage and the possible handicap of a night’s partying, Jimi manages to deliver an exciting solo. But at exactly three minutes he brings the tune to an abrupt halt, as if sensing he might lose his audience with a loose number.
Picking up the pace, Mitch opens the next tune with a hard-rocking beat, another not yet heard by audiences in California. Jimi and Billy climb aboard a few bars into a new song Jimi called “Ezy Ryder.” At the two minutes point Jimi’s guitar raises holy hell in an abstract, almost distracted solo. A minute later Jimi, Billy, and Mitch build to a crescendo that culminates the song. “Ezy Ryder” was another tune developed by the Band of Gypsys during studio jams in November and December 1969 and debuted on 31 December 1969 at the Fillmore East, and it also joined the Cry of Love’s songbook for the 1970 American and European tours.
Having thrown his audience a good dose of new music Jimi turns, as he often did, to his set-ending routine of “Purple Haze” and the “Star Spangled Banner.” With the show’s energy clearly flagging, Hendrix turns in a satisfactory but unspectacular performance of these two songs.
To close his Cal Expo set Jimi turned to “Voodoo Child (slight return).” He rages into this incendiary song, then slows the tempo to chant:
I didn’t mean to take up all your sweet time
I’ll give it right back one of these days
But if I don’t see you no more in this world,
I’ll see you on the next one
And don’t be late
Don’t be late!
Cuz I’m a Voodoo Child, Voodoo Child
Lord don’t you know I’m a Voodoo Child
Jimi brings the driving beat back to full speed and wrings some tortured leads from his axe. Finally he gives the crowd an intimate demonstration of his Wah-wah skills complete with a final descending scale played, as it were, al dente. With the final screeching notes of “Voodoo Child” still soaring across the fairgrounds the audience tape ends.
“The wind was blowing,” remembers Steve Avis. “You know how it blows the sound around, and it made a flanging effect that reminded me of the record. A friend of mine let me take some pictures and I got to keep the ones that I took. It had a telephoto lens… I had a great time at Cal Expo. When I got home I could still hear him playing.”
Chaquico also remembers his reaction: “I know he did a lot of my favorite songs, like ‘Foxy Lady,’ ‘Purple Haze,’ and ‘Voodoo Child.’ A lot of it seemed unfamiliar though. I think some of the unfamiliar songs were taking people by surprise. Half the show I was onstage. Then I went out into the audience with a guy who was a TV personality that I knew… I remember -it was either ‘Foxy Lady’ or ‘Purple Haze’- that my friend said, ‘Watch, Hendrix always jumps up in the air at this point.’ And Jimi jumped in the air. I realized, ‘Hey these guys do these things every night!’ I never realized that before then. I though each night was totally different and that the time I saw him was the first time he did any of that shit [laughs]. But he had a shtick. I never did get a chance to meet him. He was kind of whisked off stage.”
According to Dave Hatfield in the next day’s Sacramento Union: “It was cloudy, cold and windy in the grandstand, but the approximately 17,000 spectators mostly in their 20s kept warm clapping and dancing to the music.” Hatfield noted that “Hendrix kept the crowd moving to the sound of his amplified electric guitar music and when he did ‘Foxy Lady’ the audience burst into cheers.”
John V. Hurst, writing for the Sacramento Bee, pegged the crowd at only 8,000, perhaps relying on official ticket sales. “Part of the experience, it turned out,” he wrote later, “was chilling wind, a lot of poor vantage points and some freaky acoustics.”
“Added to that,” Hurst continued, “the music was a little like the progress of the Wright Brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk – taking wing now and then but always settling back to earth after a short hop… Right in front of the stage, the music was clear. But here and there in the reaches of the crowd, the acoustics made the music sound mushy and/or distorted, depending on the kind of echo you were getting.”
“Hendrix, bright band around his natural [afro]; wielding his guitar, left-handed, like an extra, loose-footed limb, sang and played his way through some sensual music. It mourned, it shouted, it bragged, it belted. And it ranged, in style and tempo, from turgid to hectic… But few heads moved, bobbing and swaying with the beat, as happens when a crowd really gets turned on. There was a lot of intent listening, though. Perhaps it is hard to get a current going between players and audience over all that open space.”
“Hendrix did get through to the crowd toward the end, though. He did it with a searing guitar rendition of the ‘Star Spangled Banner,’ complete with sound effects for the rockets and the bombs. That got the crowd excited, and it grooved with him as he closed out on a stately blues.”
Down The Road
As Chaquico recalls today: “I was still an aspiring guitarist, just a wanna-be. I didn’t get to go to a lot of concerts. In fact my folks were a little strict about that kind of thing. I got to go to Cal Expo because it was close to home and took place during the day.”
At that time Chaquico had his own group, Steelwind. He would wear a fake moustache to make him look older and get him into clubs. Grace Slick heard him play and that led to gigs with her, Paul Kantner, Jerry Garcia, David Crosby and Graham Nash. First he recorded with an agglomeration of musicians dubbed The Jefferson Starship, then toured as a regular member of the band in 1974.
“When I left the Starship I noticed the acoustic guitar. My wife got pregnant and the acoustic guitar became a lot more welcome around the house,” Chaquico says of his current work.” I started writing songs that way, recording ideas, and ended up doing some albums.” Guitar Player‘s Readers’ Poll just named him ‘Best Pop Instrumental Guitarist’ ahead of Larry Carlton and Pat Metheny.
“It’s still rock ‘n roll,” Chaquico says. “I get a lot of my ideas from listening to Hendrix. Even though I play acoustic guitar I do a lot of panning and stereo that I first learned by listening to Hendrix. He was onto something timeless. It spoke to a generation back then and it speaks to a whole new generation now. There’s something about his music, he was tapped in. Almost supernatural sometimes. I can see why he’s still popular and there’s still interest in him. All you have to do is put on a record and listen to the worlds he created with his music and his guitar. You can go places and travel. He would take you on these journeys of the imagination. That’s what got me. Up until then there were all these songs about cars, surfing, whatever. Now this guy’s writing songs about ‘Voodoo Child,’ ‘1983…’ It was like science fiction and fantasies – all this wild imagery set to this amazing music. I remember thinking, ‘Wow! I was this close to Hendrix and one day I’ll see him again. I have to see this guy again.’ And he died.”
For his part Steve Avis continues to play guitar, making demos to land a recording contract and jamming with various denizens of the Sacramento scene, including Frank Hannon of Tesla. “I’m looking for a label,” he says. Though he concentrates on original material, Avis can turn in credible covers of Jimi Hendrix compositions.
Larry Hulst became a professional photographer and currently works for the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. He listens to the Cal Expo tape with a degree of envy. “To me this sounds like it would have been a really great show to have been at!” he laughs. “Maybe a lot of that has to do with the excitement of the audience…” he says, reflecting on his own Cal Expo experience. “After all, when you’re really far from an artist you can’t pick up any of the energies he’s trying to put out. That seemed to be a factor at Cal Expo. It’s too large and it takes an awful large person to be able to cover all that.” Hulst also thinks Hendrix’s disdain for histrionics and the subdued stage dynamics of the Cry of Love band had a hand in his tepid impression of the show.
“It seemed that it wasn’t important at this time in his life to play Jimi Hendrix,” Hulst says. “If he had tried to do what I’d heard him do in ’68, he would have been just a puppet of his own sound. I think he was pursuing different areas of music and he was pursuing different areas of his personality. He wasn’t jumping around too much, he was just standing there. He’d left a lot of that flash behind him when he started playing with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles. The thing was, he had to be Jimi Hendrix on stage every time he played.”
Today Hulst has only five frames from his roll of Hendrix shots at Cal Expo. The rest were lost in the shuffle of 27 years. He handles the matter philosophically. “If you took a camera to these concerts you didn’t care if you shot a lot, or if you did it was just having fun. I never went on a mission to take photographs in the ’70s thinking that in the ’90s those negatives were going to be really important. I still have that attitude shooting in the ’90s. The most fun is taking the pictures and processing them.”
Since seeing Hendrix in 1970 Hulst has shot, by his own estimate, perhaps two thousand shows, mostly in California’s San Francisco Bay area. “I started shooting stuff at the Fillmore West in San Francisco, where I watched Jim Marshall shoot,” he says. “I made every mistake twice before I knew what I was doing. When some of the Hendrix pictures from Cal Expo didn’t come out I didn’t care. I could shoot them again next week. Well, there wasn’t a next week.”
Perhaps not for Hulst, but Hendrix & Co. went on to play seven more shows during the Cry of Love tour. The band grossed $96,000 for the L.A. Forum performance and $48,500 for Cal Expo. With the three dates that followed in Milwaukee (1 May), Madison (2 May) and St. Paul (3 May), the band racked up nearly a quarter million dollars for five dates.
Jimi Hendrix returned to California four times after Cal Expo. Only one date was officially taped: two sets at Berkeley on 30 May, when he delivered the goods indoors with 3,500 people. On 20 June Jimi played at the Swing Auditorium in San Bernadino and the next day took him to the Ventura County Fairgrounds. Two months later, on 25 July 1970 at San Diego’s Sports Arena, Hendrix performed in California for the last time.
As events unfolded on the Cry of Love’s tour of America that summer, Jimi would find uneven success onstage – sometimes riveting an auditorium with his hypnotic genius, occasionally sputtering with flashes of brilliance. In the studio, however, he would take his art to greater heights than ever before. In three months he produced enough polished tracks to nearly finish his projected double album. Then he boarded a plane for London.
The author wishes to thank those interviewed for this article, plus Jeff Mason, Jim Reed, and Matt Taylor.
Larry Hulst, 4 January 1997
Steve Avis, 4 January 1997
Craig Chaquico, 30 January 1997.
Anonymous, “5 ‘Jimi’ dates top $242G” – Amusement Business (16 May 1970)
Steve Avis, “Blasts From The Past” – Straight Ahead (August/September 1994)
Dave Hatfield, “17,000 at Expo: Hendrix Electrifies Windblown Audience” – Sacramento Union (27 April 1970)
John V. Hurst, “Jimi Hendrix Draws 8,000” – Sacramento Bee (27 April 1970).
Caesar Glebbeek & Harry Shapiro, Jimi Hendrix: Electric Gypsy (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1990)
Kees de Lange & Ben Valkhoff, Plug Your Ears (Netherlands: Up From the Skies Unlimited, 1993)
John McDermott, Jimi Hendrix: Sessions (New York: Little, Brown And Company, 1995)
Mitch Mitchell, Inside The Experience (New York: Harmony Books, 1990).
First published in UniVibes issue #25, April 1997
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