Jimi Hendrix Funeral

jimiWEBJIMI HENDRIX’s FUNERAL

by A..J. Wachtel

You might recognize the name David Hull from his many years playing bass for Farrenheit, The James Montgomery Band, Joe Perry Project, and Aerosmith, but many moons ago he played with former Band of Gypsys member, Buddy Miles. Here are his recollections of playing at the Jimi Hendrix funeral in 1970.

David Hull: Okay, I tried to put the event in a context of what was going on that year, with Hendrix, Buddy Miles, me, and the people I knew. For what it’s worth, here’s what I remember about it:

I got hired by the late, great Buddy Miles sometime in March, 1970. He called me up at my Mom’s house in Connecticut, I picked up a plane ticket in New York and flew off to Chicago, where we started rehearsing for his upcoming record, which turned out to be the soul classic, Them Changes.  That track had already been recorded but I played on the rest of the album. I was 18.

This was a few months after Buddy had played the famous Band of Gypsys shows with Jimi Hendrix at the Fillmore East on New Year’s Eve and Day, 69-70. Now he was getting back to his solo career and lucky, teenage David Hull somehow got tagged to be the bass player for the next four Buddy Miles Band records.

During the course of the recording, Buddy said an odd thing to me. Being a huge Jimi Hendrix fan, I’d asked him what it was like playing with Hendrix and he said something like, “You mark my words man… it’s sad, but Jimi’s gonna be dead before this year is out.”   At the time I didn’t know anything about Jimi’s behind-the-scenes struggles with his management and career… I thought it was a preposterous statement and let the subject drop.  Sadly, it turned out to be an accurate prediction.

When the recording was finished Buddy moved the band to Los Angeles and we started tour rehearsals at SIR in Hollywood. Turned out the first date on our tour we would be the support act for Jimi Hendrix at the Forum, right there in Los Angeles.  Unbelievable.

Almost anyone who had seen Jimi play around that time thought he was the greatest live act on the planet… transcendent shows, a Hendrix concert was like watching a great magician at work.  At the Forum our green room turned out to be the Lakers’ locker room.  I got to meet Jimi backstage, where he said he had heard Buddy’s new record and liked my playing a lot (!).

His own album of new songs (The Cry of Love) had not yet been released at this point.  Jimi didn’t care, and played a show comprised of about half new material that the audience had never heard, and about half familiar hits.  A brilliant set and the crowd ate it up, familiar or not, and gave him a great reception.  I remember him playing “Freedom,” “Ezy Rider,” and other new tunes that were released after his death on The Cry of Love.  Amazing stuff.  We played two more shows with him, in San Diego and Sacramento and went our separate ways… I continued touring and recording with the Buddy Miles Band.

In September of that year I heard the tragic news of Jimi’s death, along with the rest of the world.

Jimi Hendrix had said that when he died he didn’t want people to mourn him, that instead, he wanted a celebration of his life – a party, with music. I don’t know how literally he meant this, but someone took him at his word.  Shortly after he passed, his body was flown home to Seattle.  We did not play at the church where his funeral service took place – that was strictly for family.  But after the burial a fairly large group of people gathered at a hall nearby and sure enough, a celebration with music took place.

The atmosphere was pretty surreal.  One one hand, everyone there was really saddened and shocked by his death. At the same time, some of the people who knew about the toll some of his business pressures and personal issues were taking on him, were not very surprised.  His bandmate, Buddy Miles had predicted it would happen and said so to my face six months earlier!

But along with that, people loved Jimi’s music and him personally…  everyone understood his wish to have them celebrate his life, rather than mourn his death. I was stunned and had a hard time believing he was really gone… although I didn’t know him very well, he’d been so much larger than life that I couldn’t really absorb it.

There was a stage set up at one end of the hall… nighttime lighting in the afternoon.  Buddy’s band played a set, followed by musician friends of Hendrix getting up and jamming.  Johnny Winter, who was a great jamming partner of Jimi’s, got up and played brilliantly. Billy Cox, Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding were there. I played bass for a bit, I think Noel took over after that.   My pal Charlie Karp jammed with Miles Davis… a who’s who of the music world. The mood was sad but everyone there seemed grateful to have the opportunity to play for Jimi one more time.  People clustered around and reminisced. A lot of stories were told, mostly about jams and parties with Jimi.

To be honest, the whole afternoon was a bit of a blur, and afterwards it was off to the airport, back to work and the Buddy Miles Band tour resumed.  Flying out that night I remember wondering what the music world could be like without Jimi.  I don’t think I was alone in feeling he was way out there, ahead of the pack.  Decades later, I think he was the greatest we will ever see or hear.   RIP Jimi Hendrix.

Comments

Jimi Hendrix Funeral — 7 Comments

  1. Hey AJ! Long time no see. Great to see that you’re writing for The Noise. Thank you so much for bringing David Hull’s reminiscence to we fans of Jimi. I saw him play at the Winter Festival For Peace at Madison Square Garden on January 28th 1970, with Buddy Miles and Billy Cox. He played “Who Knows”, another song, then walked offstage. My pals and I snuck backstage afterward and saw Johnny Winter, among others. It was surreal. But even though I was just a 16-year old kid, I knew that this man whom I’d idealized was deathly ill. I recall that he looked jaundiced to me – his skin was yellowish – even though at that time I didn’t know what jaundice was. In any case, his playing was UNBELIEVABLE. But the vibe was very, very sad. Roberto

  2. I remember I was living in Makaha Hawaii at 19 and woke up that day to the news, just about everyone in town played their albums at full volume. The amazing and magical part of that is it all blended together and sounded like a studio produced album. I like many was emotional most of the day and weeks to come. I went to several of Jimi’s shows on the mainland and stood behind him during his Newport 69 show Friday and Sunday with Janis…It was then I bought my first guitar and proceeded to play Jimi for the next 40 some years!
    He meant so much to so many….”Castles made of Sand slip into the Sea eventually”

  3. Hey A.J.,
    I’ve been a fan of David Hull and his playing since I started performing on The Boston Club Circuit myself back in the late ’70s and into the ’80s with many Boston bands and then working with Dick Wagner. But having Ray Tabano and Neil Thompson as good friends from the Aerosmith camp, you would think a thing as incredibly awesome as playing at Jimi Hendrix’s funeral is something that I would have heard about. Thanks for sharing this piece of history.

  4. Thanks Dave. Seems like yesterday you were off to Chicago to play with Buddy Miles ~ many great years ~ and great music.

  5. David,
    Thank you so much for your heartfelt recollections and thanks to AJ for bringing them to light. AJ, also thank you for the many great articles you’ve written, including the piece you did a few months back on my solo album “All of the Above,” my Boston friends are still telling me that they dug it. Cheers, Tom

  6. AJ – After this was written I discovered something about the day of the funeral I didn’t know. Apparently, Buddy (Miles) and a good number of musicians and friends did attend the funeral service at the church, with Jimi’s family. I didn’t attend that, my participation was strictly at the reception/party later that day.