Jimi Hendrix
Accident, Suicide, Murder?

The True Story Of The Death Of Jimi Hendrix
As Related By A Mythical Detective

Another cold Monday morning. I dragged myself up the stairs. The lettering on the office door was more chipped than ever. It was now reading "Sam S ade De ectiv ". I could see the brown envelopes under the door - another set of bills. They were catching the door as I tried to open it. No-one sends bills that thick. I picked up the largest envelope. The postmark was London, England. I ripped it open. Inside, a bank draft and a sheaf of papers. The draft was made out for $500. I was suddenly very interested. There were newspaper clippings and probably twenty typed sheets. Attached by a paper clip, a slip of paper read, "Accident,suicide or murder?". It was a shaky scrawl. Either uneducated or someone with worries.
A quick glance and I could see the papers were about Jimi Hendrix and the last weeks of his life. I knew him, or his story, vaguely. Black guitarist, ex-paratrooper, played with The Isley Brothers, moved to England and got fame - and women. Lots of them. From then on it was sex and drugs and music and more sex and drugs. There was a copy of the coroner's report. It was an open verdict at the inquest.
I figured for once, I could afford breakfast. I took the papers down to the diner across the street. I started with coffee and the Isle Of Wight Festival. The date was 1970, August 27. Hendrix had gone out on stage at 3 a.m. on a damp, cold morning. One of the cuttings gave him a lousy review but then, at 3 a.m. would anything get a good review?
What followed was a diary of events. Hendrix left the Isle Of Wight for a tour of Europe. Something had gone wrong during the tour and one of the band, Billy Cox - the bass player, had a nervous breakdown and was flown home to the States. The last concert on September 14 was blown out and Hendrix returned to London.
On Tuesday, 15th, having booked himself into the Cumberland Hotel, Hendrix was due to meet with lawyers representing rival backers and managers. He didn't show. He'd stayed the night before with a German girl, Monika Danneman at her flat in the Notting Hill area of London. Although he left to go to the business meeting, he next showed up at a flat in the Fulham Road area. It belonged to a girl who worked in the Chelsea Drug Store, Lorraine James. How or why he chose her flat isn't known but she described his arrival: "He was obviously high on drugs and he had a lot of cannabis on him. He was in a terrible state,highly nervous". He spent several hours on a pay phone in the building. He was complaining about his backers and financial affairs. That night, Lorraine watched him spend the night with two American chicks; they were at it until five in the morning.
Wednesday was spent looking for drugs, visiting houses around London. Hendrix was "out of his mind". One guy they met was so bad, he jumped a couple of flights down a stair well. He was taken to hospital with broken legs. With all this going on,Hendrix got weird and ran around the house screaming. Thursday, like any normal person after the excess of the previous days, Hendrix was unconcious in a girlfriend's flat in the Fulham area during the day. That night, it was back to the usual routine. More women and more drugs. You have to hand it to him, the man was consistant.
I flipped the page over. There at the top of the next, I saw the words "Tuesday 15th - version 2". I'd been through this scenario before. The D.A.'s office in town were always doing this... I took another bite of one of Rosie's stale bagels and loked back at the page."... - version 2". Hendrix was at a wild party lasting all day according to Curtis Knight. In one report, he quoted Lorraine James but how or why,isn't clear. Knight also mentioned a call to Chas Chandler late at night asking for help. Wednesday was work and business. He was 'phoning people he knew and could trust, asking them to be his manager. One of them was Chas Chandler who had "discovered" Hendrix and taken him back to London. Chandler had been his manager before and the two were still close. Hendrix also spent several hours that evening trying to persuade Alan Douglas to become his manager. He was obviously desperate for a new manager. I ordered another coffee and asked myself why.
I shuffled the papers. I'd noticed a clipping earlier. There, just a snippet. It was a report of Hendrix having been kidnapped. There was no call to the cops, no ransom - then, out of the blue three goodies from the management company show up and bust him loose. The story was being told by Hendrix. The crazy thing is that he'd been arguing with the management about releasing a double album. They wanted it to be only one. I spluttered coffee over my cup, wondering what would have happened if Hendrix had done more than argue. This was Pop music - not mob violence.
I turned back to what was happening that Wednesday. Hendrix turned up at the famous Ronnie Scott's Club to sit in with Eric Burdon and the group War. I could picture the scene. These smoke filled jazz clubs were good places to get lost. Anyway, he probably finished around 1.30 a.m. and seems to have stayed the night with Monika.
The following day - Thursday, he was down to business. He called his New York attorney,spoke to Chandler about a cover design for the new record and booked a flight to New York to collect the tapes for it. There was also a meeting arranged with one of his old managers, Ed Chaplin but Hendrix didn't turn up. There was a note in the margin: Ed Chaplin, for once having had a contract with Hendrix,was bought-off with a deal that gave him the rights to one album in the U.S.,a percentage of earnings and a million bucks! The cash was up front - maybe even in new bills.I was in the wrong job!
Breakfast was over.I headed back to the office,took the phone off the hook and kept reading. On the next page,I found another version of what had gone down. It was Monika's own account of events.Jimi arrived at her flat on Tuesday. What happened on Wednesday isn't clear but Thursday she describes as being taken up with shopping and taking photos. They got home about 8.30 p.m. Monika prepared a meal. They shared a bottle of wine and talked and played music until 1.40 or 1.45 a.m. when Hendrix said he had to go out and see some people. They weren't friends of his - Monika could not go with him but she could take him there and bring him home. She picked him up again at the back of 3. On their return to the flat, Monika made Jimi a tuna fish sandwich.The two of them went to bed and talked until 7 a.m. when Monika took a sleeping pill and fell asleep. Some time after, Hendrix took at least eight, possibly nine of the same tablets.
Monika woke around 10.20. Hendrix was sleeping normally. She had planned to go out for cigarettes but just before leaving, she noticed vomit on Jimi's nose and mouth. She tried to wake him but couldn't and called a friend (possibly Chandler) to ask what to do. An ambulance was called. It arrived about 11.20 a.m. Hendrix was seated upright in the back with no head support. Sometime in the next twenty-five minutes before they arrived at St. Mary Abbot's Hospital, Jimi Hendrix choked on his own vomit. He was pronounced D.O.A.
My medical knowledge was limited but I wondered why Hendrix hadn't been laid on his side in the normal 'recovery' position in the ambulance.
I went back to the clippings. There were a few that mentioned Hendrix phoning Chas Chandler around 1.30 that morning. He left a simple message on Chandler's office answering machine, "I need help bad,man". When Chandler called back at around 10 a.m., Hendrix told him to ring back later.
The question was obvious. Why had Jimi called Chandler's office and not his home? Could he have made the call from the flat he went out to, or a pay phone nearby? Was it the only number he could remember? If so, what pressures was he being put under by these people who weren't his friends? Eric Burdon, talking about his death on British TV on September 21, mentioned a "suicide note" but nothing else is heard until a few hours after the coroner's verdict on September 28. Then, Monika Danneman told the press of the existence of a five page poem written the night he died.
The pathologist reported a large amount of Seconol in Jimi's blood but no reason to assume that suicide was the cause of death.
I spread the papers on the desk. There were some I hadn't looked at. Three poor photocopies of memos sent to the Director of the F.B.I. They were dated June '69; some passages were deleted. The way the feds work, I knew they were the bits that mattered. Anyway, it was clear from the rest that Canadian immigration was trying to get the bureau to help deport Hendrix to the U.S. The Canadians had charged him with possession of drugs but it wouldn't hold up in court. Why they had wanted to deport him and why the F.B.I. was interested was a mystery.

One of the F.B.I. memos

The Feds were normally involved if there was a suspicion that the mob was in on something. There was no obvious connection but maybe a tenuous link. I checked some accounts that had come from Noel Redding, Jimi's old bass player. They showed the earnings for various tours and mentioned that Hendrix was often having to borrow from the managers to buy clothes or guitars. There was no proof but I wondered if Jimi could have been into a loan shark. If we were talking big bucks then we were talking heavy business dealing. It could easily have been the boys with the violin cases.
There was another strange thing. A few hours after Jimi was dead, all the flats he had in London or was known to crash in, were turned over. Clothes, instruments, writings, almost anything it seems, was stolen. Could this have been the final pay-off?
Another thing bothered me. Hendrix made it clear that he wanted to be buried in London but instead found his last resting place in Seattle. Could this have been one last precaution in case the inquest was re-opened and an order for exhumation issued? Even in death the mystery continued. Someone stole his gravestone.
There was one last cutting, stamped "S 31 JAN 84", the headline read, "Hendrix was killed claims aide". It quoted Ed Chaplin saying, "I believe the circumstances surrounding his death are suspicious and I think he was murdered".
I needed a drink. I picked a bottle from the filing cabinet and poured three fingers. It caught the back of my throat. There wasn't enough in these pages to prove anything but I discounted suicide. I know accidents happen but I wasn't happy with that as a reason either. I got up. Looking out the window onto the street below, I wondered who'd sent the papers. Who knew I'd got them?
There were no answers, just question after question and, now, paranoia. One by one, I picked the papers up and threw them in the waste basket.
I grabbed my coat. Slamming the door behind me, I felt I'd earned the 500 bucks but I didn't even know if I could ever spend them - or even bank them. It was the end of another day in a dirty world. One fact remained: Jimi Hendrix didn't need to die all those years ago. It was down to fate, or someone unknown. I hoped for fate but the smart money was bet against me.

This manuscript was published back in December 1987 by Idols magazine, who never paid me for the piece. The editor, Bill Harry (the so-called Beatle Detective) commissioned it and should have known better. Bill once contacted me and asked that I remove this remark - but I still never received payment!

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