Little Butter’s mind was blown by The Jimi Hendrix Experience. 50th Anniversary today. June 25, 1967–2017.
Legendary DJ Tom Donahue at KMPX-FM radio studio. Green Street, San Francisco.
Tom Donahue mentioned my request letter for Country Joe & the Fish and Purple Haze on KMPX airwaves, April 15, 1967. Donahue was the first DJ on the West Coast to play Purple Haze, the first Jimi Hendrix Experience single, released in US on Reprise. I heard that first play on the earphone of the transistor radio Caron Palese brought when she visited me at San Francisco County Jail. I was doing 30 days for “inciting a riot” and “failure to disperse” on Haight Street after the Human Be-In, January 15.
I was guilty of being high on the special edition Owsley LSD my friend, Jaime, handed out at the Golden Gate Park Human Be-In and guilty of being too high to realize all I needed to do was go inside the Psychedelic Shop to avoid the SFPD TAC Squad who arrived to break up the after Be-In party that filled Haight Street from Stanyan to Diviz.
Another tale for another post. Yesss…Purple Haze was the best thing that happened while I was down San Bruno way for a few weeks. I sent Tom Donahue a letter, which he very dearly acknowledged on the air and played Hendrix, Grateful Dead, Country Joe all night.
June 24, 1967. 844 Page Street, Frisco. Top floor, wood-paneled, gas-lit, 5 bedroom Victorian flat with hookah lounge on roof overlooking the city. A red-headed teen runaway, Mary, and I are lounging, clothing al fresco in my room listening to KMPX-FM. Tom Donahue has Jimi Hendrix in the studio for a live interview. Tom says “call in if you have any questions for Jimi.”
I had a phone. Got through on first dial. I had seen the Experience at the Fillmore the night before. I asked Jimi what the pedal thingy was onstage?
“That’s called a Vox Wah Wah.” It was, as far as I know, the only effect Jimi ever used, live. “and picking the (Strat) tremolo springs.” Gee thanks Jimi! He asked if we were coming to see the free show in Panhandle Park the next day. YEAH!
When I got off the phone, Mary said, “We should go down there to KMPX and see him.” One smart red-head. Jumped in the 1948 Ford woody and headed to the Embarcadero. When we were on Divisadero, Mary yelled STOP! Pulled over at Star-Ell Liquors and she ran inside, emerging with a big bouquet of flowers. Another smart move by Mary.
Entering the KMPX lobby, we were surprised nobody was there. Just the Donahue/Hendrix interview On Air speaker. Receptionist emerged and Mary handed her the flowers “For Jimi.”
The receptionist came back with a big smile and took Mary back to meet Hendrix in the studio. Jimi asked her name, she gurgled “Mary,” he thanked her for the pretties on the air which I heard in the lobby. When the interview was over, Mary, Jimi and Tom came out and I got to meet him and Tom Donahue, whom I reminded of the jail request letters months before, thanking him for the great radio he was pioneering where we stood.
Jimi sat on the couch between Mary and I and shot the shit with us for about 10 minutes. He was spectacular. His playful, even mischievous eyes mixed with a shy, quiet, genuine humility. I didn’t know he was only 19, just a year older, but already, yeah, experienced. Absolutely the kind of kid you’d bring home after school for a jam session in the garage.
We parted with Jimi asking if we were coming to the free show in the park, Yes we were going to be there. Funny about that day. No problem getting through on the live phone-in, no kids hanging around the station. We were exclusive!
June 25, 1967. Sebastian and I are hanging in the undefined backstage area at Panhandle Park, between Fell and Oak streets. The stage was a flat bed trailer by then standard for free park shows in SF. On it were the first Marshall amps I ever saw, waiting for the Jimi Hendrix Experience to plug in.
A yellow Ford Econoline van pulls into the space next to us backstage. The side door rolls open and out pops Jimi. “Hey man! You made it.” he says to me with a big smile. He remembered me from KMPX! That’s how groovy a cat he was. My room mate, Sebastian was impressed.
Wild Thing it was.
I was standing not far away from Jim Marshall when he took one of my favorites below, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding just before showtime. They had just emerged with Jimi from the Econoline Van behind, driven to the park by Bill Graham.
Jim Marshall’s greatness on display here. A great photoJOURNALIST. I met him a few times over the years. Looked at his contact sheets from the Hendrix Experience, 6/25/67, primarily to see if I, me, me, me was in any of his shots. Amazingly, no. I wish I’d bought a print of Mitch and Noel from him that day. It is, however, beautifully reproduced across two pages, double-truck in Marshall’s posthumous book, The Haight.
The Panhandle Park show is legendary for many reasons, most are obvious. Even though I’d seen the Experience at the Fillmore two days before, the free-in-the-park Experience was over the top special. Many Brit bands heard about this show and they all wanted to play for free in the Panhandle soon after. George Harrison and Patti Boyd visited the site a few weeks later. SF Police wouldn’t allow the Stones to play there in 1969, forcing them into the Altamont disaster.
Hope you enjoyed this 50th Anniversary memoir. I did, I was listening to Jimi throughout. Recommended: Live performance films: Monterey Pop, two weeks before Jimi hit Frisco; Electric Church:Atlanta Pop with Jimi’s best Experience–Billy Cox, Jimi’s 101st Airborne pal, Band of Gypsies, on bass, Mitch Mitchell back on drums. This is the best full concert of Jimi Hendrix you will find. Very entertaining start to finish.
Sebastian AKA Jerry Landis, Haight Street, a few weeks after Jimi in the park. Fellow Albuquerquean, my SF room mate at the time. Butterphoto ©1967 Made with Pre-war Rolleiflex purchased that day at Adolph Gasser Camera/ Gene Saunders, salesman. God bless the man, he sent me on my way to a life of photography. Showed me how to load the 2-1/4 Rollei with Perutz 120 Black and White (bulk box of 20 rolls), “Don’t be afraid to shoot a lot.” I took this later that day. Too bad I didn’t have a camera two weeks earlier.
The Wind Cries Mary, flip side of Purple Haze single. Not on the British Are You Experienced Track Records lp. My favorite early Hendrix masterpiece. First and only take.
My original Track LP. Only the two Reprise singles were available. Even The Gramophone Shop on Polk couldn’t get the album but a friendly clerk told me about an import store in Hollywood that had the British Are You Experienced Track Records lp. I called the place in Hollywood. They had two remaining copies. The only copies in the Western US! I asked them to hold a copy in my name. Had a friend drive me to SFO. Bought a $20 PSA round-trip to Burbank.
Palese Palace ©2017-1967 by DavidButterfield.com
Called Caron Palese (remember her? she gave me the transistor radio in SF County Jail. The magic radio that first played Purple Haze. ) Caron had moved back to her parents’ in Van Nuys. She happily agreed to pick me up at Burbank Airport, drive me to Hollywood to get the Hendrix record and returned me to airport. Her payment? Of course, the LAST Are You Experienced album in LA. And gas. And a smooch or two for old times….
When I got back to the squat, across Golden Gate Ave from the Pink Palace, I owned the only copy besides KMPX. Photo above taken today of that record, on Little Butter’s 50th Anniversary Jimi Hendrix Experience. 1967-2017. ©2017 ranchomantequilla.com/
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