Jimi Hendrix: Untouched archive of tapes, demos and documents unearthed

A treasure trove of unheard tapes and unseen documents relating to Jimi Hendrix is being put up for sale this year. MOJO gets an exclusive sneak peek inside.

Jimi Hendrix 1967

by Danny Eccleston |
Updated on

AT MIKE JEFFERY’S OFFICE at 39 Gerrard Street in London’s West End, the cupboards were crammed with artefacts and documentation pertaining to the notorious rock manager and club owner’s clients: The Animals, Soft Machine and, most notably, Jimi Hendrix. But when bailiffs came calling – the inevitable upshot of Jeffery’s tendency not to pay for things – they weren’t interested in the archive of demo and master tapes, or the future memorabilia, only the objects of immediate visible value: the furniture. Everything else they dumped on the floor.

“When I went in and saw the mess I nearly died,” says Trixie Sullivan, then Jeffery’s assistant who arrived in time to rescue stacks of material which she has looked after ever since. Only now, aged 80 is she looking for a purchaser. Representatives from Experience Hendrix – the company that manages the guitarist’s estate and curates his legacy – are booked in to view the material. But not before MOJO has its turn...

Diving into the huge stacks of paperwork in a small office in Pinewood Studios is to immerse in the day-to-day running of rock bands at the end of the ’60s. Here’s a postcard from Hawaii from Hendrix to Sullivan in July 1970, on the trip that incorporated his contribution to the movie Rainbow Bridge, plus photographs the incendiary guitarist took on the flight over. And here’s a letter from Sullivan to Jeffery, dated January 10, 1969, updating him on Jimi’s circumstances. “He’s buying new curtains and carpet for the flat and domestication seems to suit him for the moment,” Sullivan writes. “You never know how long it will last…”

Among the archive’s wealth of tapes, all in perfect condition, most are contemporaneous copies of recordings that Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer suspects Experience Hendrix have in their library (“Jimi would have a copy, [producer] Chas [Chandler] would have one, and maybe one for Mike,” he says). One, a 7-inch box labelled in red biro in Hendrix’s own hand, contains early versions – possibly from Mayfair Studios in New York – of songs destined for Axis: Bold As Love, including thrillingly raw versions of Up From The Skies and Ain’t No Telling.

Evidence of the risks and rewards of the pop business in the ’60s is plentiful. A flurry of telegrams concern Hendrix’s inability, due to an apparent leg injury, to fulfil his headline slot at Utrecht’s Flight To Lowlands Paradise festival in December 1968. A copy of a letter from Jeffery to a promoter in February 1969 attests to entertainment establishment anxieties around Hendrix’s influence on the youth: “This letter will serve as a written undertaking that Jimi Hendrix will not invite or incite the audience at the Royal Albert Hall to remove their clothing.”

Sullivan, the daughter of an East End docker, told Hendrix biographer Philip Norman that she secured the job with Jeffery – who also owned a club in Mallorca – because she was the only applicant who knew where Mallorca was. In 1966, early in her tenure, her boss asked her to pop around to his flat in Jermyn Street to supervise the cleaners.

“One of the cleaners comes in and says, ‘What do I do with this?’” she told Norman, “and it’s a shotgun he’s found under a chair. In fact, there’s a gun under every chair.”

“Mike was a tough guy,” underlines Sullivan today. “He didn’t fuck around and he wasn’t a guy to mess with. You took a great deal of care around Mike Jeffery.”

Did the sharp practice, aura of menace, and criminal connections, benefit Jeffery’s clients, or the opposite? For her part, Sullivan is still convinced that Jeffery did not rip off Hendrix, or at least, not much, and that relations between them remained cordial, even during the period in 1970 that some, including the reliable Eddie Kramer, claim that Hendrix was looking to sever ties. “Do you know what bullshit is?” she asks. “That’s bullshit.”

The most mysterious incident in the history between Hendrix and Jeffery – if one disregards the fantasy that Jeffery was in some way involved in the guitarist’s fatal overdose – remains Hendrix’s kidnapping near Central Park in Manhattan in September 1969. No-one likely to speak with first-hand experience of the imbroglio survives. Some, including Hendrix’s brother Leon, have alleged the snatch was set up by Jeffery so he could play the white knight, free Hendrix and bind him closer. Trixie Sullivan, unsurprisingly, sees her old boss in a better light, recalling his horror when he took the ransom call. Her view of Jeffery’s rescue mission is more straightforward.

“He may have given them the money,” she shrugs. “He might have beaten them up. He might have killed them. I don’t know and I don’t want to know.”

For all the stories and myths surrounding Jeffrey – ranging form the colourful to the hair-raising - without Jeffrey and his partner Chas Chandler, would Hendrix’s potential have been unlocked? At the same time, a more enlightened style of rock management – one for which there were few models at the time – would surely have benefited one of music’s great visionary geniuses. If she remembers Jeffery fondly, Sullivan – whose involvement in Hendrix’s life and work is evident throughout the archive she’s preserved – remembers Jimi more fondly still.

“He was a good guy,” she says. “Very shy. Gentle. They all thought I was having an affair with him but I wasn’t. I wasn’t interested in any of the bands. They were cocky little sods most of them. I was like the big sister clipping them round the ears. Jimi – he was different. He had no idea how good he was.”

Special thanks to Pete Sheppard. Items from Trixie Sullivan’s archive will be sold in November by The Propstore London & LA. Enquire via petesheppard@hotmail.com.

Read the full feature only in the latest edition of MOJO. More info and to order a copy HERE.

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