This Month in Music History – December 16, 1966: Jimi Hendrix Releases First Single ‘Hey Joe’

The creative flame that Jimi Hendrix ignited, burned brightly, far brighter and greater than anyone else’s. It would, on the other hand, burn out quickly, ending in the early death of a promising young musical voice. It was on this month of December, the 16th, 1966 when a little-known guitar player from Seattle would add his name to the book of music history. It was this month Jimi Hendrix released his first single ‘Hey Joe and the whole world would first be able to experience the phenomena that was “The Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Jimi had been around awhile before ‘Hey Joe’ was ever put to record, touring in one backing band after the other. He was a familiar face in the south as a part of the Chitlin’ circuit,  a well-traveled circuit in the era by black entertainers of all ilk, actors, musicians etc.

Hendrix traveled the circuit and soaked up all learning there was to find, from fellow musicians who had been around the block. knew the game and it’s more famous players. Already fronting his own band, Hendrix, eventually, soaked up everything he felt he could learn on the circuit and struck out on his own. His guitar prowess was already getting him plenty of notice and, despite the huge mythos that had risen up around said guitar dexterity, Hendrix would have gotten exposure to the blues structure that birthed rock and roll.

Jimi Hendrix, 1960s

That coupled with Hendrix’s natural love of sound experimentation,via his love of amplifier modification gave Jimi the sonic mindfuck that was the Jimi Hendrix Experience sound. 

Hendrix was an explosion waiting to happen and recording ‘Hey Joe’ was the fire that lit the fuse. Written by a Greenwich Village folk singer, Billy Roberts, the song would be covered by many but only mastered by Jimi and his unruly guitar. The website Song Facts notes about the song –

The song is structured as a conversation between two men, with “Joe” explaining to the other that he caught his woman cheating and plans to kill her. They talk again, and Joe explains that he did indeed shoot her, and is headed to Mexico.

It would serve Jimi and light the world on fire. Those who heard knew what would become of the Seattle guitar player who unleashed its fury on the unsuspecting world. They were “Experienced.”

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