By Armond Blackwater as told by Ron Russel. Edited by Jillian Martineau.
Kathy Etchingham met Jimi in September 1966 upon his arrival in London. They had a whirlwind love affair. Kathy inspired several Hendrix songs. After a bitter argument he wrote The Wind Cries Mary. On a better day, Foxy Lady. They had a solid relationship for three years. While on the road, Jimi wrote Send My Love to Linda, which was originally named Send My Love to Kathy, but she objected to being named in the song. By 1969 they drifted apart, which opened the door for Monika Dannemann.
Monika’s testimony concerning Jimi’s death changed several times and is generally considered unreliable and raises more questions than it answers.
However, Monika’s description of Hendrix’s mood does ring true, “Jimi didn’t feel safe anymore, and he also felt unable to protect me from anything that might happen. He told me to wait for him, and that he would come as soon as he had sorted out everything with his manager. He wanted to break free from his management first and then join me in England.”.
In the last two years of Jimi’s life, several suspicious events fed Jimi’s paranoia.
In May 1969 he was arrested at Toronto Airport for carrying drugs, which he believed Jeffery had planted to retain control.
Death threats and other attempts to intimidate Jimi followed. He was kidnapped by purported Mafioso only to be miraculously rescued by Jeffery.
It was clear to Ron that Jimi desperately wanted to change his management situation, but his manager had neatly tied Jimi in legal entanglements.
Jimi listened intently as Ron Russell told of his friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King from their first meeting in Melbourne, Florida in 1962 until Dr. King’s murder in 1968. Ron confided to Jimi the incredible sense of loss that he felt following Martin’s assassination.
Jimi confided to Ron that some “heavy shit” had been happening around him; that he feared for his own safety. Hendrix told Ron that Mike Jeffery was constantly making deals behind his back attempting to control the superstars every movement.
Jimi asked Jeffery to shorten the tour Jeffry claimed the money was needed because Electric Lady Studio was draining the finances. In reality, Jeffrey was the drain. He was siphoning revenue to pay his own debts to mobsters. Quite simply, losing Jimi would result in death for Jeffry. It became a matter of Hendrix or himself.
Jimi was defiant. He took steps to free himself of what amounted to modern day slavery.
Jimi Hendrix found himself in a position familiar to musicians like “Little Richard”, Chuck Berry, Billie Holiday and a host of other talented folks who had a genius for music, but were ignorant of business machinations. The underhanded tactics of managers like Mike Jeffery were beyond the imagination of creators like Hendrix until it was too late.
Days passed, Jimi’s tremors receded, and he started feeling healthy again. In their extended discussions of the upcoming Jimi Hendrix Fusion Band, he asked Ron whom they should use as their bass player. Jimi loved Billy Cox, but knew that the pace and pressure that had severely weathered Jimi would surely crush Billy. That prophecy came true during the European Tour.
“You see, the bass and drums have to be together,” Ron explains, “They are the foundation.” Ron thought immediately of his friend Wally Dentz. Wally was a premiere bass player, a natural musician, who ultimately joined the Bellamy Brothers and has become known as their third brother.
Jimi had been trying to recruit a keyboard player that he had met in his early days of club gigs in London. Keith Emerson was the enigmatic keyboard player for the band Nice. Emerson was fascinated with Jimi’s concept of fusing disparate musical elements together. However, Jimi was unable to extricate himself from his current contractual obligations. Keith eventually joined forces with former King Crimson bassist and lead singer, Greg Lake, and The Crazy World of Arthur Brown drummer, Carl Palmer, to form the infamous classical rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer.
The players for the Jimi Hendrix Fusion band were set: Jimi Hendrix on guitar and lead vocals, multi-talented Wally Dentz on bass, and Ron Russell on drums. Both Ron and Wally are good singers. Jimi was thrilled with the prospect of three-part harmonies
At the end of his stay, Jimi Hendrix was clean. He had wrestled the monkey from his back. He hadn’t felt that good since his days as guitar man with the Isley Brothers. He looked forward to a future that would see him moving in new musical directions.