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.