When Lloyd Met Jimi

In the spring of 1967, I got a call from British-born friend John Tregaskiss, who had just returned from the UK with Are You Experienced, first album of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. So thanks to John I got to hear Jimi, Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell before most people in North America, where the album was released that summer. We were fans of Mike Bloomfield and Elvin Bishop, guitarists with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, but we had never heard anybody quite like Jimi.

John and I saw Butterfield at the Grande Ballroom in Detroit. Bloomfield and Bishop were not on that gig, but for a sense of their guitar skills check out “East-West,” title track of the 1966 album. At the Grande, Paul featured Gene Dinwiddieon tenor saxophone and David Sanborn on alto. As Eric Burdon said, the band played down in Monterey in 1967, and at Woodstock in 1969, but we couldn’t make those shows.

John wasn’t with me on September 7, 1968, when I saw Jimi at the Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver, on a bill with the Eire Apparent, Soft Machine and Vanilla Fudge, who busted up “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” in fine style.  Jimi stretched out on “Red House,” from the first album, which included “Foxy Lady” and “Purple Haze,” with that great tri-tone interval up front.

Jimi Hendrix famously played at Woodstock but died the next year at the age of 27. Mike Bloomfield formed the Electric Flag – check out their take on “Killing Floor” – and passed away in 1981. Paul Butterfield kept on living, as he put it, “In My Own Dream,” and passed away in 1987.  Elvin Bishop, featured on Butterfield’s  The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw album, scored a hit with “Fooled Around and Fell in Love,” and at this writing Bishop is still performing.

On Easter Sunday, John Tregaskiss passed away from cancer, so let me pay tribute.

We were friends since the age of five and in sixth grade John won our school’s public speaking contest with a lecture on “Electricity, Our Friend,” complete with charts and graphs. John lost a leg in his teens but I never detected a trace of self-pity. He got around well, but as the years passed the loss of a limb took a heavy toll. Like Howlin’ Wolf, John’s health was failing, and he was going down slow.

John once journeyed to Chicago to see bluesman Junior Wells at the famous Theresa’s Lounge. After the show, Wells brought out a cigar box of harmonicas and proposed to trade them for John’s hardwood crutches. “Look man,” John said. “You can’t play my crutches, and I can’t walk on your harmonicas.” Wells pondered the statement and replied, “You a wise man!” He was indeed, and so much more.

Rest in peace, my lifelong friend who introduced me to Jimi Hendrix. And save place for me at that jam session in the great beyond.

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