Noel Redding on Jimi Hendrix's "Red House"
A Revealing Letter From the Jimi Hendrix Experience Bassist
Soon after Jimi Hendrix arrived in London in 1966, Noel Redding became the first recruit for his as-yet-unnamed band. Until then, Noel had been a lead guitarist; he’d just auditioned for the Animals. Jimi’s benefactor in England, Chas Chandler, had until recently been the bassist in the Animals. Redding agreed to give bass a try, and on September 29, 1966, after jamming on “Hey Joe” and “Have Mercy on Me Baby,” Jimi asked Noel to join his band. Chandler tutored Noel on his new instrument, and on occasion Jimi showed him parts he wanted to hear. When Mitch Mitchell came in on drums, the Jimi Hendrix Experience was born.
Noel Redding played bass on the Experience’s first three studio albums – Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland – and composed and sang the songs “Little Miss Strange” and “She’s So Fine.” He’s also heard on the group’s many live recordings. On the side, Noel had a band called Fat Mattress, which opened several shows during the Experience’s 1969 U.S. tour. Tension flared between Jimi and Noel, and on June 1, 1969, Noel Redding left the Experience and returned to Great Britain. Billy Cox, Jimi’s Army buddy, took his place on bass.
Fast forward twenty years. In 1989, while I was an editor for Guitar Player magazine, we scored an unreleased recording of the Jimi Hendrix Experience playing “Red House” at San Francisco’s Winterland. In those days, we included a flexi-disc “Soundpage” in the issues, which readers could tear out and play on their turntables. Jim Marshall provided us with a stunning cover photo, and I volunteered to write the copy.
I invited Billy Cox, Joe Satriani, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Noel Redding to participate in the issue. The first three were easy to find, and they all agreed to sit down for interviews. My only contact for Noel was an address in rural Ireland. So I crossed my fingers and sent him a letter with some questions. A couple of weeks later, a large brown envelope arrived with my name and address written in his large, beautiful penmanship. The return address was a house in Ardfield, a small village a few miles from Clonakilty in southwest Ireland. Inside were six hand-annotated pages from a dot-matrix printer. Noel, bless his heart, not only answered my questions, but had formulated them into an essay. His insights into his life at the time, and his experiences in the Experience, were quite telling. I used portions of the document for my May 1989 cover story. Here are scans of the original documents.
Five years later Noel Redding and his partner Carol Appleby co-authored Are You Experienced?: The Inside Story of the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Noel carried on his fight for royalties until his final days. On May 11, 2003, he passed away at home in Ardfield, Ireland.
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