Ask “Mr. Music”
Jerry Osborne


DEAR JERRY: Until reading it in your recent column, I never heard the apocryphal Jimi Hendrix story about who is the best guitarist.

I do, however, question that Hendrix appeared only once on “The Tonight Show.” I seem to remember him appearing on a late night talk show with Johnny Carson as the host.

I distinctly remember Jimi playing a solo version of “Red House” on his electric guitar, using a small practice amplifier.

It may have been another late night talk show, such as Tom Snyder's, but I mostly watched the Carson show.
—Ed Heinzelman, Milwaukee

DEAR JERRY: I saw Jimi Hendrix on “The Tonight Show,” with Johnny Carson as host, though I thought it was in 1968, not '69.

Jimi went through the standard interview where he put across the well-known stoner responses. Then he moved to the stage to perform. He did a tune I never heard before, and as far as I know was not on any of his standard LPs.

In the middle of the performance the sound failed. He sort of stopped and strummed the guitar a few times to see if there was anything obviously wrong. He looked stage left with a sort of shrug and it looked like he said something about the sound not working. He then walked off stage for a few minutes until they fixed the sound system, after which he resumed playing.

Jimi did a classic crowd-pleasing performance, including playing the guitar behind his head, using the mike stand as the slide, and playing the strings with his teeth.

If this is not the appearance referred to in your previous column, you can take it as beyond contradiction that there was another Jimi Hendrix performance on “The Tonight Show.”
—Larry Sabine, Renton, Wash.

DEAR ED & LARRY: While you both have interesting memories, pieces of which are likely accurate, neither scenario is completely compatible with the facts we have in hand.

After reviewing all verifiable data, including each known audio and video recording of Jimi Hendrix on TV, the evidence says he made only four U.S. television appearances, all while in New York in the summer of '69:

One is merely an interview, aired circa-1969 on WABC-TV, New York.

On the other three he does sing and play guitar, either solo or with his three-piece combo:.

Monday, July 7, 1969, “The Dick Cavett Show” (ABC-TV). After a few minutes of chit-chat with Cavett, Jimi sings “Hear My Train A-Comin'.” He performs solo, though Cavett's house band provides accompaniment.

Thursday, July 10, 1969, “The Tonight Show” (NBC-TV). This is the show we discussed last month where Jimi sings “Lover Man,” then dedicates it to Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones. Jones died just a week earlier (July 3). Flip Wilson filled in as host for Johnny Carson on this night.

Tuesday, September 9, 1969 “The Dick Cavett Show” (ABC-TV). Hendrix and his combo perform for about five minutes. His song selections are “Izabella” followed immediately by “Machine Gun.”

These four tunes are instantly recognized by Hendrix fans, and are all available on countless albums.

One possible cause of confusion might be Jimi's appearances on Canadian television, all on stations whose broadcast area extends into U.S., including the Seattle (Renton) area. Some folks who remember a different host or performance may have been watching a Canadian channel.

For the record, Hendrix did appear on one regional TV show, “Night Train,” in 1965 on WLAC-TV Nashville. Jimi is merely an uncredited guitarist in the back-up band for the Soul duo, Buddy & Stacy.

Though his first time on television, this, and any other regional broadcasts, have nothing to do with the post-'67 network appearances — the focus of this column.

IZ ZAT SO? Dick Cavett and Johnny Carson have more in common than being competing late-night talk show hosts, whose names both begin with C.

Both gentlemen were born in Nebraska — Cavett in Gibbon, Carson in Corning — and both grew up in the Cornhusker state.

For a couple of years before Johnny Carson replaced Jack Parr on “The Tonight Show” (October 1962), Dick Cavett was that show's talent coordinator. Dick also appeared at times on the “The Tonight Show.”

When Carson took over “The Tonight Show” he retained Cavett as a comedy writer. Carson (1950s-1990s) and Cavett (1960s-2000s) are the only U.S. talk show hosts seen regularly during five consecutive decades.

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