Skip to main content

Did Jimi and Janis Have to "Use" to Be Successful?

Kenneth is a rural citizen of Hamilton, Ala., and has begun to observe life and certain things and people helping him to write about them.

 The Jimi Hendrix Experience. (from left), Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding (sitting) and Hendrix.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience. (from left), Mitch Mitchell, Noel Redding (sitting) and Hendrix.

Notice – just want to address those who might stumble over the ‘Net ending up with an hour or maybe two, and read my sincere thoughts in pieces like this one. And I want to address the people who are addicted to personal pieces such as this one, read them and then have a compulsion to call a distant relative in Zion, Ill., to help them figure the piece out. Personal gathering of wisdom has not become extinct. And if you want, I may write a series of narratives where I discuss a very outlandish-but-readable piece about “Dinosaurs Still Living in Fifth Dimension,” that I grew attached to several months ago. The story dealt with what modern-day scientists believe about a monster asteroid almost blowing up the world eons ago—killing our friends, the dinosaurs, but the explosion was not an asteroid, but a Rogue Time Wave that no one knows where it came from.

Notice (continued) – The story was very Rolling Stonish. I wondered if some of their most talented, mainstream writers got fired? But the writer of this dinosaur piece, some guy, “L.T.,” I guessed that these initials were fake for anyone who goes this far to get a story published in another magazine (not Rolling Stone) is really in bad shape for “L.T.” did not want to bring attention to his real name. A nasty tearing of the sheets? A nasty, violent tryst? I don’t know or care. But that was then. Now is what I am about now. This narrative, commentary, which ever you choose, makes no matter to me, is true. Very sad and true to be honest. This narrative is nothing you haven’t read before written by another struggling writer (like me) who would almost fast a month’s supply of coffee to get a check written to me for the staggering amount of: $45,000.00. If this were to happen, I could at last, find some love and respect for ME and get some sleep. Thanks. Kenneth. P.S. and I would share my windfall with you.

In 1968, times were (really) changing. Music was on shaky ground as the Popular Music, Big Bands, and Club Music were scared of going under. I remember watching The Lawrence Welk Show on ABC, with my dad who loved Welk and every Saturday night, no matter where he was or what he was working on, time stood still for my dad while he sat glued to our black and white Zenith TV. My mom and I knew to be quiet and anything less than a crazed burglar with a .45 automatic shooting at us through the living room window, my dad would simply ignore us. Even at 14, I found a respect for him feeling like that. He was the co-breadwinner. My mom was the other breadwinner. I just ate the bread.

One of the last Welk shows that we watched, I noticed something strange about Welk when the camera would pan across the studio with middle-aged folks Swing Dancing and smiling, and Welk had this furrowed-look on his face. Weary had found a home at last. His smile was easily detected as painted on. I felt so sad for him. And I knew then that I would never meet Welk and if I did, I would obey my parents and make him feel important. But the worried look made sense a few weeks later when his show was canceled. Now I was more sad. I thought that this show was his bread and butter. I was such an idiot. He and his buddy, Myron Floren, accordionist, Larry-uhh, Hoo-puhh, bass singer, and Joann Castle, ragtime pianist, (to name a few) made LPs by the truckloads and I deduced that Welk was thrifty and was ready to hit the road with his remaining orchestra. I also knew that Welk had saved his pennies over the years for every suit that he wore on his shows was cheap, man. Off-the-rack, to be blunt. He was nowhere near starving.

With my introduction and two opening paragraphs settled securely in your minds, I can go forward with talking about a very strange, sad, and yet, so prophetic talk I was part of during a school day in 1968, when I was doing time in the Eighth Grade, Hamilton (Al.) High School, and my now-famous friend, Randy Pearce just happened to walk by and just happen to start up a conversation with me.

You would have loved Randy. You can love Randy right now. He is on Facebook by his real name: Randy Pearce. If you haven’t heard about our high school’s first Rock Band, The Sounds of Time, where Pearce was the drummer, and his big bro, George was the lead singer and rhythm guitarist along with Lloyd Wiginton, lead guitar; Denny Vick, keyboards and Jerry Roby, bassist, made one heckuva great Rock band and one that our town, school, and those with open-minds might appreciate.

Oh, man. You should have walked with me during this two-hour space of time. Randy, George, Lloyd, and Jerry worked the Rock Band image—wearing those risky long hairstyles that the older teachers hated and I particularly appreciated how Roby wore his hair—in his eyes and he would swing back his bangs to just entice the pretty Sounds of Time groupies who followed them everywhere just like a pack of young Lab’s with Pedigree papers. I am serious. This is the entire truth about “that” talk Randy and I had and how the contents of that talk came to pass in a few short years. And if you were like me, 14, living in a small town, (much like the town in the film: The Last Picture Show), time flew by. Why? If you were Time, would you settle down for a long vacation in a small, hick town like mine?

I didn’t have to take a Crash Course in Knowing How to Spot a Rock Band because all that I had to do watch watch the Sounds of Time, whom you already know on a first-name basis now, because somehow, somewhere—maybe in a secret secluded, out-of-the-way location, these talented rebel musicians and singers made being a member of a Rock Band look easy as falling off of The Trump Towers. They all stuck together in school. They walked, talked, and acted cool—sometimes snapping out a few, “man, I know’s,” and “far out’s” when the girls were looking at them and possibly lusting for their company. Plus, these guys all smoked cigarettes. Well, to be honest, I don’t think that Denny smoked cigarettes, but at one time or the other, the entire band smoked things more powerful than Winston cigarettes and I won’t go past here.

In small towns like Hamilton, Ala., my hometown, every young girl (in 1968) wanted to attach herself with a successful male figure who knew what life was all about and how to be a great earner for her and her children’s future. All the more reason for the pretty girls ranging from age 16 through 18, to be potential life-long mates for the future. This had to be true. Each time these rockers would assemble at break, there the bevy of hot girls wearing something similar to mini-skirts and lots of beads would make the scene. A few of these girls even went on to date Randy, the youngest of the Sounds of Time for he had “that” secret ingredient that all males like Don “Miami Vice” Johnson, Teddy Pendergrass and Don Juan possessed at birth—the ability to charm a female just by the look in their eyes.

When Randy and I started talking, the students we both knew walked by and said little for they were not new to Randy. Actually he did not want anyone to kiss his butt for anything. He loved what he did and left the consequences alone.

“What’s happening?” I said quickly to just be first to start talking to Randy.

“Nothing much. Went with the guys to Tuscaloosa last night and man, did Hendrix blow out the place,” Randy shared with a stern lip. I think that he had a nervous tic that made his lower lip stiff.

“Hendrix? You mean . . .the left-handed . . .guitarist?” I said and I knew that I looked so stupid with that rube-like look on my face.

“Yep. That guy was so high on “grass,” that he played the strings with his teeth, behind the back and even laying on the floor,” Pearce went on to say. “he told us behind the stage when the concert was over that it was impossible for him to play his guitar unless he was high.” he added.

“Why, Randy, do you think that Hendrix, who was so talented, “had” to get high on “smoke” to just do a great job in a show?” I asked, but somehow Randy didn’t hear me—smiled and walked up the hallway.

Frankly, Randy was not much of a conversationalist. Neither was I. But I took something in our talk and when I got home, I got out my Hendrix LPs and put on one to hear him at full-volume on my floor-model stereo. I could use full-volume for my folks had not returned home from work. As I listened to Hendrix on one of his guitar solo’s, I had to agree with Randy, but at the same time, I wondered what might happen if some wealthy music mogul could have caught his act and buy his way back stage and offer him and his band, Mitch Mitchell, drums and Noel Redding, on drums, to perform for him at his secure mansion somewhere in the Hollywood Hills and give Hendrix $500,00.00 to only play without getting high. When Hendrix and his Experience were just growing popular in 1968 and even I, in eighth grade, not having any Economic background, knew that half a mil would look mighty good to Hendrix and his boys. I mean if I were Jimi, and the same thing were offered to me and two buddies, that half a million would be history.

From that afternoon on until I ran into Randy a week later, I was bursting with news about how Rockers were turning more and more onto “weed” so they could achieve “a” certain level of relaxation of mind so their Energy Flow would not be hindered. Of course, I didn’t just let these thoughts fly into my head, I had resorted to getting into the research about one basic question: Why do most Rock Bands use “grass” or other illegal substances in order to just succeed?

Yes, there were those pro’s and con’s that follow any group or solo act who may take a drink of whiskey before a show (Lynyrd Skynyrd is proof of this point) and maybe smoke a “J” and some liquor depending on the size of the crowd or mood of the singers. At the end of the time that I studied about the “why,” my mind only let my logic breed more and more “why’s.” And therein lies my problem. I could not just take something for the truth and let it go. No. I wanted more and more survey time and maybe discover that maybe there was some mystical secret that causes bands like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Doobie Brothers, Allman Brothers, Jefferson Airplane, Janis Joplin and of course, Jimi Hendrix, used drugs as a spring-board to get a higher boost to have a smoother, sounder sound and thus sell more tickets and rake in more bucks.

Of course, you all are are sadly reminded about the needless deaths of Hendrix, Joplin and Rolling Stone, Brian Jones who did succumb in some fashion or the other, to heroin, LSD, and other lethal chemicals. I said lethal for a reason. These higher and stronger of these drugs, aka, “The Cathedral of Dope,” were then, and still are . . .dangerous. They can kill you.

Then if an up and coming, say freelance writer who knows in his or her heart that they are chained to not using illegal dust or substances in order to achieve a higher creativity, writes and writes until they are completely burned out . . .does this justify (that) talented writer still not “using,” and I use “using” to convey DOPE, the same writer getting wiped-out and going wild on his or her keyboard—staying up for weeks until they reach an unconscious state of mind and produce a Best-Selling book about their Very First Use of Illegal Substances?

Me, I would have to answer no.

But as soon as I say, no, I have to ask, “what about the late Dr. Hunter S. Thompson?

Sometimes, “I” think that not knowing is an answer unto itself.

Personal note -- yes, I was then aware and fully-aware of Hendrix and Joplin's drug abuse and how it sadly cost them their lives. Their deaths caused a little of all of our young lives to die right along with them. I still miss and love Jimi and Janis. And as long as this side of life continues . . .I always will. (Kenneth.)

 Publicity photo of Janis Joplin.

Publicity photo of Janis Joplin.

© 2017 Kenneth Avery

Related Articles