VINSON: Jimi Hendrix Was The Real ‘Hoochie Coochie Man’
MIKE VINSON, Guest Columnist
Sunday, April 15, 2012 5:23 am
“The gypsy woman told my mother/Before I was born/I got a boy child’s comin’/He’s gonna be a son of a gun/He gonna make pretty women’s/Jump and shout/Then the world wanna know/What this all about/ . . . /Well you know I’m the hoochie coochie man/ . . . “ (song “Hoochie Coochie Man,” lyrics by Muddy Waters).
Periodically, music-related magazines — Guitar Legends, Guitar World, Rolling Stone, etc. — will list the 25-50-100 (or any number) greatest guitarists of all time. Regarding these polls, a safe bet is Jimi Hendrix generally will be in the top five . . . if not number one, so great was his impact on the rock-blues scene.
Jimi Hendrix was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1942, and began playing guitar at an early age, drawing his inspirations from artists such as Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy, Lonnie Mack, and others.
Joining the army in spring 1961, Hendrix was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division and was stationed at Ft. Campbell, in Clarksville, Tenn.
After being discharged from the Service, Hendrix moved to North Nashville in the early ‘60s. In those days, early ‘60s, North Nashville, around the Jefferson Street area, was considered a “hub” for the blues/r&b scene, particularly in the South. Noted acts such as Ray Charles played the North Nashville circuit during this time frame.
Any true rock-blues disciple is well aware that Jimi Hendrix, with both his guitar prowess and stage antics, attained a near-godlike status as the front man for bands such as The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsies.
However, let’s fade back to the early ‘60s, when Hendrix was living in North Nashville and, like many other musicians, picking up any gig he could just to make ends meet.
Don’t hold me to the exact date, but I’m guessing it was around 1964; I would’ve been around ten-years-old. As written in a previous column, I already was into the British Invasion and other varieties of the new “amped-up sounds” being played on radio stations and stages across the country—the world.
On this particular day, around 1964, my friend and I were attending the annual fair, held the month of September each year, here, in Warren County, Tenn. Back then, during fair week, schools had a “fair day”: Those attending secondary schools in Warren County, grades 1-12, were dismissed from school for a day (maybe two days) to attend the fair.
So, my friend and I were at the fair, that day, doing the things expected of ten-year-olds: riding the Tilt-a-Whirl, eating candied apples, running up and down the midway . . . then, from nowhere, a “sound” caught our attention.
It was this rock-bluesy-slinky guitar sound, and, with our ears tuned in, we commenced following the music.
The music, ultimately, led us to the stage of a hoochie coochie show. What the hoochie coochie show amounted to was this: With a three-man band (guitar, bass, and drummer) providing back-up music, attractive, scantily-clad women were doing a “bump-and-grind” dance on stage, as a teaser. The band stopped, and the women disappeared inside a tent erected behind the stage. Those interested could pay a cover charge, go inside, and see MORE.
My friend and I didn’t go inside, and the only reason we didn’t was that we were too young—darn it!
The guitar player for the three-man band was this young, slender, black dude with wild, wiry hair, who played left-handed.
From more than one source, I’ve read that Jimi Hendrix, while living in North Nashville during the early ‘60s, traveled with a carnival/fair circuit to earn a living.
Though I’ll never be able to prove it, I’m convinced I did see the real “Hoochie Coochie Man” perform live.
(NOTE: Sept. 18, 1970, Jimi Hendrix, age 27, was found dead inside his apartment in London, England.) MP
Mike Vinson can be contacted at email@example.com.