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Published: 2010/11/16
by Brian Robbins

Experiencing Jimi – Part 1: Janie Hendrix

BR: Ah – that’s great; it really is. Did you get to see him play much live? Do you remember any of the times you saw him perform?

JH: I got to see 5 concerts. He came to Seattle four times and then one other time we drove up to Canada. You know, thinking about it now and looking at his schedule, I wonder “Why didn’t we drive down to Oregon? ? Why didn’t we go here? Why didn’t we go there? It doesn’t make any sense to me now, but it’s the way it was.

Three months before the trip up to Canada, Jimi came home and gave my parents enough money to buy a car and a truck. My dad needed a truck – he was a landscape gardener – and my Mom needed a new car, so Jimi did that.

When we went to Canada, we didn’t ride in a limo or anything – we drove up in the family car that Jimi had bought. Behind us was a station wagon with Noel and Mitch [bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell] and [Hendrix managers] Michael Jeffery and Chas Chandler. In fact, on the _Voodoo Child _ DVD that’s included in the West Coast Seattle Boy box set, there are some pictures and video from that trip. There’s a little clip of the family video that Mitch took where we’re at a rest stop between Seattle and the Canadian border.

BR: And the Jimi you saw on stage was a lot different cat from the guy on the other side of the Monopoly board…

JH: (laughs) Completely different, yeah. But you know, before the first show he played at the Coliseum here in Seattle, Jimi said, “I’ve been around the world, but I’m so nervous tonight to be playing in front of my family. As much as I’ve been wanting to come home to play, I’m really, really nervous to be playing in front of you guys.”

But it didn’t take him long to let his hair down (laughs) and go into his “space mode.” Offstage, of course, he was this very quiet, shy – almost painfully shy – person who was very soft-spoken. There were really two different sides to Jimi: on-stage and off.

BR: There was no way for you all to know that the last time you saw Jimi would be the last time. Is there anything in particular you remember about his final visit home?

JH: It’s interesting you should say that. The last time Jimi was home was to play here at Sick’s Stadium. That was an outdoor stadium; the home of the Seattle Pilots at the time. I remember it was very windy that day, with a lot of rain, thunder, and lightning. My dad pulled his rain suit out – rain pants, raincoat – and he was pushing the tarp that was over the stage with a pole to dump the water out of it. I remember being so afraid that Jimi was going to get electrocuted or something.

The family was all sitting on one side of the stage. During “Purple Haze”, Jimi turned around when he sang, “that girl put a spell on me” – and pointed at me. My family was all like, “Did you see him? Did you see him?”

After that show, Jimi was really sick. He’d been traveling a lot and his immune system was just shot. The next day they were supposed to drive down to Portland, Oregon for a show the following night. Michael Jeffery came to pick up Jimi and my dad met him at the door.

Michael said, “We’re ready to roll out.” And my dad said, “Well you go ahead. Jimi will catch a plane tomorrow and join you.”

Michael was insistent that Jimi leave then: “We’re all leaving; we have soundcheck; we’re ready to roll out.”

And my dad said, “That’s right – you’re going to roll out; you’re going to go down to Portland; and Jimi will join you tomorrow. Period. He’s sick; he needs to get some rest; and he’s not leaving today.

Michael Jeffery tried to insist, but my dad stood his ground: “Jimi’s the artist – if he’s sick, the show’s not going to go on anyway. There’s no show tonight and there’s really no reason for him to be down there. He’s just going to stay here and recuperate and that’s that.”

Finally, Michael Jeffery left – and Jimi was able to stay home with us and sleep.

That was the sort of thing that shows why Jimi wanted the family to move out to New York and be on the road with him – he needed that family support.

When Jimi left that final time – that was on July 27th – he said, “Go look for a house on the water – like on Mercer Island.” My dad had a lot of gardening clients out there. Jimi said, “When I come back, I just want to take a sabbatical for like a year. I just want to have a refuge; some place to go. Find a place on the water.” And my parents started to search, as he had asked.

When we arrived at the airport for the flight to Portland, my dad and Jimi just stood there for a long while looking at each other. My dad said this many times afterwards: “Jimi started down the hallway to the plane – and he turned around and walked back to me.”

They just looked at each other. My dad said afterwards, “I had this feeling that that was going to be the last time I saw him.” And even though my dad had been having those gut feelings about losing Jimi, he’d never shared them with the rest of us. He was afraid it would be in a plane crash, like so many other musicians over the years.

It was all so tragic and unexpected. Just devastating.

So that was late July. In August, we received a weird call – a crank call – from someone saying that Jimi had died. My parents, of course, were frantic, but they were able to track Jimi down on the phone. He told them, “I don’t know what that was all about, but ignore it – I’m fine.”

When they got the call that he’d died on September 18, I’d already walked to school – I was in the 4th grade.

The teacher had heard that Jimi had died, but nobody was saying anything to me about it. My parents apparently figured I wasn’t going to find out during the day at elementary school, I guess – they were planning on talking to me about it when I got home. I understand why they were thinking that way; grief is something that most of us just don’t have the tools to deal with it – we don’t know how. So they were doing the best they could, you know?

I remember it was show and tell that morning, and some boy stood up and said, “Today Jimi Hendrix died.”

BR: Oh, Janie – just like that?

JH: I remember the teacher was trying to get him to stop, but it was too late; he blurted it out. Everyone kind of gasped and looked at me. I remember I said, “No he didn’t. That’s a rumor, just like a month ago. I don’t believe it.”

Later on that day, this girl who was in 6th grade came up to me and said, “Janie, I’m really, really sorry.” And I said, “Why? What did you do?” And, of course, she was talking about Jimi, but I told her the same thing: “That’s just a rumor – don’t believe it. People have said that before, but it’s not true.”

So after school, I’m walking home. One of my friends had invited me to a birthday party and that’s what I was thinking about: going home and asking my parents if I could go to this party, right? I simply refused to believe that anything had happened to Jimi.

I had it all figured out as I approached my street. I said to myself, “If this is true, the street is going to be full of cars. And if Jimi’s okay, there won’t be anybody.”

BR: Oh, man …

JH: Oh, yeah. I had my eyes closed as I walked up the hill towards home, thinking, “Let there be no cars … let there be no cars.” But as soon as I turned the corner, I could see: the whole street was full of cars.

But even then, I didn’t accept it. I said to myself, “They all believe it; it’s another rumor and it’s not true but they all think it is.”

This was the mind of a 9-year-old, you know? I said, “Everything’s okay. Jimi’s okay. I’m just going to walk into the house and ask if I can go to the birthday party.”

I walk in the house and my mom comes running to meet me. Everybody’s there: my siblings and my aunts and uncles and cousins – the house was full of people. And I just looked at my mom and blurted out, “Can I go to Ann’s birthday party?” Just as if there wasn’t anybody there, you know?

My mom started to speak, and that’s when my dad came out of nowhere and picked me up. We went in his room and sat on the bed. He was having a hard time getting the words out; he just held me for a while. Finally he said, “Jimi died today. Jimi has died and our lives will never be the same.”

And they weren’t.

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