On October 15, 1965, while "Jimmy" Hendrix was a sideman with Curtis Knight and the Squires, he signed an agreement with a New York record producer named Ed Chalpin. The agreement required Hendrix to record exclusively for Chalpin's PPX Enterprises for a period of three years. In exchange for his signature, Hendrix received one dollar in cash and the rights to one percent of the "retail selling price of all records sold for his production efforts, and minimum scale for arrangements he produces." A series of recordings was made for Chalpin and PPX before Hendrix left the Squires. Then, one year after he signed the now long-forgotten PPX agreement, Jimi Hendrix debuted his Experience in Evereux, France.
It wasn't long before the Experience's phenomenal success was noticed by Ed Chalpin, who then proceeded to market his old recordings of Hendrix with Curtis Knight. Hendrix's new record company initiated a lawsuit to halt the release of these records, but a New York court ruled that, however unfair, the 1965 agreement between Hendrix and Chalpin's PPX Enterprises was not illegal.
In June 1968 an out-of-court settlement was reached between the involved parties; Chalpin was given a two percent "override" on Hendrix's first three albums and complete rights to his fourth, with a guarantee of $200,000. In exchange for surrendering his 1965 agreement with Hendrix, Chalpin retained the right to market his recordings of Hendrix with Curtis Knight and the Squires.
Jimi's Electric Ladyland
Hendrix's third album, Electric Ladyland
was released in October 1968 and it went straight to the top of the charts. A fourth album -- the one owed
to Ed Chalpin -- was now due from Hendrix in 1969.
1969 was a year of unprecedented mass gatherings in America; gatherings of rock fans who celebrated the new music and gatherings of protestors who denounced the war in Vietnam. It was during this period that Hendrix emerged as an outspoken leader of these two countercultures.
In January President Nixon came to power still believing that America could disassociate itself from the brutal French legacy in Vietnam and overcome historical forces that had been building momentum in that tortured land for more than a century. Seemingly in accord with Nixon's hopes were network executives who, after seeing the violence that accompanied the 1968 presidential campaign in America, deliberately cut back on the amount of televised combat footage from Vietnam in 1969. An impression that the war was winding down was created and many Americans, believing that an end to the bloodshed was near, remained indifferent to the rising tide of protest.
But by April the number of American combat deaths in Vietnam had surpassed the 33,629 killed during all of the Korean War. Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird announced his "Vietnamization" plan -- a process of slowly turning the fighting effort over to the South Vietnamese Army. As it became clear that the war would be prolonged for years more, lines separating hawks from doves were drawn clearly and draft age students rebelled on hundreds of American campuses that spring.
Jimi, Mitch & Billy in Harlem, Sept. 5, 1969
At the end of June 1969, having become the highest paid performing artists of their time, the Jimi Hendrix Experience finished a last U.S. tour and then disbanded. Hendrix recruited his choice of bass players, long-time friend Billy Cox, and spent most of the summer developing a new repertoire in between appearances on the Tonight Show
, the Dick Cavett Show
, and at Woodstock.
Jimi, Mitch & Billy at Salvation, Sept. 10, 1969
Experience member Mitch Mitchell remained on drums when Hendrix's expanded revue, called Gypsy Sun & Rainbows
gave a benefit performance for the United Block Association of Harlem on September 5th (the last public performance of the group was five days later, September 10th, a showcase at Salvation Club in Greenwich Village to kick off that venues's live music policy). A new composition, Machine Gun
, was debuted at this Harlem concert (the full song with its distinctive bass lines are first heard here. Earlier in the summer Jimi had included a few lyrics from Machine Gun
at the Newport festival in Los Angeles) at a time when a disproportionate percentage of blacks were sent to Soulville
: the front lines of battle in Vietnam. Soon after Hendrix's Harlem benefit, reports of his conversations with militant Black Panthers appeared in the press.
Twenty-one Panthers had been in jail since April 1969 when they were charged with conspiracy to bomb sites around New York. With bail set at $100,000 for each of the Panther 21, Hendrix was invited to give a benefit performance to raise funds. Reportedly, Hendrix was willing to do it until his management persuaded him not to. There was real concern that his involvement with the Panthers would attract the same type of repression that had infiltrated the Civil Rights movement.
Jimi & Buddy in the Hashbury,
Summer of Love, June 25, 1967
Autumn 1969 brought increasing demands from Hendrix's management and record company for his fourth album, the one due Ed Chalpin. It was at this time that Billy Cox and another of Hendrix's longtime friends, drummer/vocalist Buddy Miles, teamed up for a very specific purpose. Cox recalls it this way: "Jimi had a financial problem (the owed album), so the Band of Gypsys got together to help bail him out, because he couldn't find anybody else to do it. We weren't looking for any big monetary gain or anything."