Hannes Fricke: Jimi Hendrix – paternity suit and family

hannes fricke


english by thorsten Ramin

Paternity suit, bad experience with

and longing for the family

His mother Lucille Jetter is a cheerful girl and aged only 17, one who loves going out dancing and in the course of this she meets James Allen „Al“ Hendrix. It isn’t clear to this day if he really is the bodily Father of Jimi Hendrix. Al, who’s stationed in Alabama, does not get a leave from the army for the birth of his son, since he could not have been at home and be back again in time. He’s even precautionary imprisoned, preventing an AWOL (“absent without official leave”). It’s only after the Second World War that he comes back home in September 1945. Lucille has had the son baptized “John Allen” long since after her life mate at that time, John Parker, who wanted to be her pimp. After birth the mother directly paints the town red again. Johnny’s being passed to and fo between aunts and girlfriends. Neighbor Freddie Mae Gautier recounts, that Lucille turnes her baby immediately in to Freddie Mae’s mother, Minnie Gautier after hospital. “So my Mum took the baby, and his feet were stiff with cold. His diapers were soaking wet and unchanged. They were frozen stiff, because we had some cold winters back then … He was with us most of the time, until returned from army … a to and fro for the first five years in his life.” Minnie Gautier played the first blues albums to him, like Muddy Waters by whom the boy is simultaneously terrifies and fascinates.

Soon the boy is infected with pneumonia and has to attend the hospital: his first memory would be the colors and sounds of a firework for the 4th of July, when a nurse held him to the window of the sickroom: this was his first trip on LSD, he will joke later on.

Eventual he’s at a foster mother in Berkeley, California. When Al brings him back by train he says he wants to stay there. The father takes an airing with him between two wagons and out of sight of the fellow passengers and whoops him. The parents get it together, break up, get it together again. They have five kids, the younger are passed over to welfare. The mother calls in on her boys mostly by night, usually drunk. Father Al renames his oldest son after his own name “James Marshall”, “John” is not tolerable for him. James prefers the name “Buster” (“Boy”): He and his brothers love the early science-fiction films of the series Flash Gordon. There, small models of tiny spaceships hang on threads and wires, and flaming up matches are igniting engines. The chief character with a blonde pompadour is the white Buster Crabbe. So Johnny-Buster-James bounces with a bed sheet slipped over through the garden and yells: “I am Buster, savior of the universe!”

If both parents are at home on occasion, most commonly there is a party going on, which ends in violence. For the sons the cubby provides protection. Lucille will die in 1958, but not of hepatic cirrhosis, as is often read, but of a spleen rupture, thus a classical injury after a brawl. Father Al gets lost while driving plastered for six hours and can’t find the funeral. Others say he had forbidden the sons to attend the memorial ceremony. Anyhow: In the evening he chinks glasses with the sons with badass booze for the recently deceased woman, because that was how men deal with grief. Yet 1967 Buster-Jim will answer the New Musical Express asking for his personal ambitions: „To have my own style of music. To meet my mother again. (One of the sparsely good times Buster spends with his grandmother Zenora “Nora” Rose Moore in Vancouver, she’s half Cherokee.) Out of fear that the welfare takes away his sons, the father later coerces the sons to come home directly from school and to lock up themselves. Brother Leon calls this “Full lockdown mode”. Kids from the neighborhood don’t play with the Hendrix-brothers. Buster is sent home from church because of inappropriate clothes.

And later on? James doesn’t finish college, joins the army, because he was busted two times in three days with a car, he didn’t own, and so he avoids prison. The army is annoying, but parachuting is a stunning bodily experience. “Jesus, the first jump was incredible … First the plane starts to roar, this roaring and shaking, and you can see the rivets jolt. So much for: ‚What am I doing here?‘ […]And when it comes to the point, you are at the door and suddenly, you know, this flop, this plunge, and you are just – Ooooooooooohh – this feeling falling backwards from your dreams. It’s so intimate, when you are furstly outside, everything is so quiet. All you can hear is the Wind ‚SSSSssssccch‘, you know, or so. You are all alone with yourself and you can speak with a very chesty voice, you can scream or whatever, and I thought about how mad must I’ve been doing that, but I loved it. And then you should look up, you know, and you see if your parachute is open, and if it is open you can say: ‚Praise the Lord!’”

25 successful jumps, on the 26th he breaks his ankle. One should be careful to prejudge Hendrix as an extreme pacifist and radical objector of the army. There are to be found quite right-wing statements by him about fear of communism, China and the red danger. He shall have snarled at a Swedish journalist for asking about Vietnam, if he had criticized the American soldiers who were debarking in the Normandy likewise.

In the army Hendrix meets Billie Cox, the later closely confident and then bass-player, (who is) often cheesed off the soldier’s daily routine. The foot injury he expands to alleged chronic back problems and is honorably dismissed because of “unsuitability”. He doesn’t suit to the army and the military doesn’t suit to him. Actually he is said to be notorious lazy. Various estimates picked his suitability for service to pieces. Once, he is as so often not to be found, his superior examines the complete compound and finds him beating the meat on the toilet. His “Screaming Eagles” move out to Vietnam without him in 1965. The army as an organized structure, as a safe haven, as a family replacement? The comrades like to disseize him off his guitar. So he has to beg for it on his knees.

It will never be sufficient for an own family. Solid structures will be gruesome to him all his life. If somebody gets too close, it it becomes nasty – especially if it’s about women.