Jimmy Henshaw was involved in, possibly, the most sensational
night in British music’s history.
The VIPs were regularly featured at The Scotch of St. James club
in London. This venue was a mecca, attended only by the most influential
names in the business, including elite recording artists of that
time such as the Beatles. The main nights were Tuesday and Thursday.
The VIPs, as THE resident band, were on stage for their first half
hour performance. Members of this impressive audience were enjoying
the ‘power play’ of Henshaw on lead guitar and keyboards,
the incredible Soul/Blues voice of the unequalled Mike Harrison
with harmonica, the tight thumping rhythm emanating from the drums
of Walter Johnstone, rhythm guitarist Frank Kenyon and bass ace
Greg Ridley. Little did the surrounding talent know what was in
Once the interval arrived, Henshaw was approached by
another good friend, Chas Chandler (of the Animals). Chas grabbed
Henshaw’s arm, keeping his voice low. “I’ve
got a guy with me who wishes to jam with your band”. Jimmy
quickly replied “That’s OK, he can plug into my lead
amp”. Henshaw knew how to build amplifiers AND how to produce
a bigger output than the manufacturer’s recommendations
– however, he was concerned when this strange but polite
and friendly guitarist began to wind up the volume and tone controls.
“My name is Jimi Hendrix. Could we start with ‘Summertime
Blues’ then see how things go?”
Hendrix stepped away from the amplifier in order to stop the whistle/feedback
generated, as the VIPs started up in support. Throwing back the
hair from his face, then thrusting his right hand Strat strung
left-handed guitar towards the crowd, Hendrix’s plectrum
hit the strings! Henshaw’s amp almost lifted off its supports
as it howled out the announcement that a NEW sensation had arrived
on the music scene!
Hendrix asked the VIPs if they knew ‘Wild Thing’,
a number in the charts by the Troggs. Henshaw points out –
“At that time, we were into R&B/Soul and certainly didn’t
play any songs by the Troggs. For some reason, I thought he was
going to play ‘a la Troggs’. What a surprise we got
when he performed his version!”
As Hendrix finished, Henshaw signalled drummer Walter
to bring the first spot to a tidy end. “For what seemed
like an age” reports Henshaw, “the audience sat in
stunned silence”. THEN all hell let loose as they gave Jimi
and the VIPs a standing ovation. Hendrix did about four numbers,
finishing with an amazing fortaste of ‘Hey Joe’ !
Henshaw remembers “Jimi asked if we could play the chords
of C,G,D,A,E repeatedly. The melody followed precisely that forthcoming
smash hit !”
THE RACE WAS NOW ON ! Chas Chandler rang Henshaw incessantly. “We’ve got a band who are willing to back Mike Harrison.
Can Jimi Hendrix link up with the VIPs ?”
Henshaw gave it a few seconds thought. “No way” he
replied. The VIPs were a close-knit Carlisle band ON and OFF stage.
Honest and true to each other, in for the good times as well as
the bad, ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL – it can be said. Jimi
Hendrix would have to look elsewhere for his band!