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Becoming Jimi Hendrix: From Southern Crossroads to Psychedelic London, the Untold Story of a Musical Genius Paperback – August 31, 2010

4.2 out of 5 stars 35 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

As a boy growing up in Seattle, Jimi Hendrix and his guitar were inseparable. He even slept with it. And when his father objected to the young boy playing left-handed—the elder Hendrix called it the devil’s work—Jimi learned to play right-handed upside down without changing the strings. These are the kind of details one learns in Roby and Schreiber’s entertaining biography, which follows Hendrix from his troubled childhood in Seattle, his disastrous stint in the army (he refused to conform to regulations), and on to New York and London, where he died under rather mysterious circumstances. From his earliest days as a sideman in various bands, Hendrix was different, creating weird wailing sounds on his guitar, which often got him fired. They also examine his dark side; despite his typically gentle demeanor, Hendrix had a violent streak. When the black community rejected both his music and his flamboyant style of dress, Hendrix spent more time in Greenwich Village, where, inspired by the success of another iconoclast, Bob Dylan, he found acceptance. An insightful look at an iconic star. --June Sawyers


New York Times Book Review, 10/17/10
“Hendrix’s career as a superstar has been well chronicled; the more interesting details of how he became one are told here…[Becoming Jimi Hendrix] makes a case for the preparation that every originator should go through: follow your passion obsessively, so that when you encounter the person or thing that will change your life, you’ll be ready.”

Steve Coates, New York Times, 10/15/10
“It’s a fascinating book for the story it tells, but I would pay the cover price just for its amazing photographs.”

Rolling Stone, 8/19/10
3 ½ out of 4 stars "Most important, the book shows how Greenwich Village was crucial to Hendrix's 1966 breakthrough: With Harlem unable to hold him, MacDougal Street provides the launching pad for Hendrix's psychedelic genius."

Classic Rock (UK), September 2010
“[A] unique and fascinating book…The most thorough account yet seen of the years during which a shy, spacey, chronically untogether young guitarist learned his craft…Tells us more, and more deeply, than any previous volume about exactly what went into his Becoming Jimi Hendrix.” (9 out of 10 stars)
Booklist, 9/15/10
“An insightful look at an iconic star.”
L.A. Weekly, 9/23
“A crucial rock bio.”
Chicago Sun-Times, 9/19
“Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber’s assiduously reported work illuminates the evolution of Hendrix from self-taught amateur to the guitar paragon whose stylings remain a rock hallmark… [They] seem to have tracked down almost everybody who crossed paths with Hendrix… [and] are to be thanked for a comprehensive bibliography, recommended listening, a sessionography including discography and TV appearances, and a chronology of 1961-1966 tours and events.”
Wolfgang’s Vault, Ben Fong-Torres
“A well-researched book loaded with great stories.”
Mojo, November 2010
“One of the most intelligent and revealing biographies of an unsurpassable giant.”
San Francisco Chronicle, 10/04/10
“A compelling account of an artist whose idiosyncrasies earned him both respect and scorn in the black music establishment and eternal superstardom in the rock arena…Roby and Schreiber provide an insightful account of an artist who perceived his craft differently from any guitarist before or since, and who finally aligned the rock world with that perception, but never fully reaped the rewards of his efforts.”

, September 2010
“If you read only one new Hendrix book this year, make it this one...You will still be drawn in and fascinated to hear how Jimi became the showman and musician that he did.”
Internet Review of Books, 10/29/10
“A must read for hard-core Hendrix fans.”
Popmatters.com, 11/11/10
“The first major fleshing out of the formative period during which Hendrix discovered not only who he was, but who he wasn’t…Roby and Schreiber document a remarkably busy and pivotal stretch in Hendrix’s career and life. Their digging through files, interviews and news clippings puts meat on the bones of his pre-fame chronology.”

TheRoot.com, 11/4/10
“For a reader's first exploration into Hendrix's early years, Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber's well-researched book provides a solid start… What this book does well is bring a legend down to earth, if only so that readers can, 40 years after his untimely passing, better understand from whence he came.”
Houston Press (“Get Lit” blog), 11/22/10
“The authors contribute plenty of valuable and insightful stories about the music, moods, and outlook of perhaps rock's most inventive guitarist.”
Waterbury Sunday Republican, 12/5/10
“A worthy addition to the growing shelf of books on the man who redefined the role of electric guitar in rock music.”

Curled Up with a Good Book, 12/21/10
“For hardcore Hendrix fans, it's worth reading.”

Blues Revue, February 2011
“Stories about the chitlin’ circuit experiences, about losing head cutting contests in Nashville to Johnny Jones, about not getting paid, and of course, about the young women who helped the sometimes-homeless Jimi to survive make this book come alive. The 25 black-and-white photographs offered here are fantastic and most of them never seen before…A very enjoyable book.”
Midwest Book Review, January 2011
“A key acquisition of any rock music history holding.”
Examiner.com, 2/9/11
“Well-written and chock full of the kind of new information and original interviews that make it a joy (and even a relief, given the regurgitated nature of so many recent books on Hendrix) to a Jimi-obsessive.”

LosingToday.com, 5/22/11
“Well researched and well written, and the authors do a tremendous job of bringing both the subject and the era back to life for a whole new generation. Highly recommended.”


Midnight to Six blog, 12/25/11
“While everyone knows the Hendrix that was the leading guitar player during the psychedelic era, most are unfamiliar with how he got there, and that’s why this book is so valuable. The authors paint a very vivid picture of Hendrix’s years of poverty as he bounced around from gig to gig, backing some of the day’s top R&B stars (don’t miss the wild stories from his stint in Little Richard’s band!), while trying to find a way to get into the spotlight on his own merits… Becoming Jimi Hendrix is both well researched and well written, and the authors do a tremendous job of bringing both the subject and the era back to life for a whole new generation. Highly recommended.”

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Da Capo Press; 1st edition (August 31, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0306819104
  • ISBN-13: 978-0306819100
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,010,215 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Stuart Jefferson TOP 100 REVIEWER on November 23, 2010
Format: Paperback
Soft cover, 185 pages of text, 9 pages of information sources, 2 pages of recommended listening, 17 pages of discography/sessionography, 43 pages of a chronology of tours/events from 1962-66, and an index. There's 16 pages of b&w photos of Hendrix from the time period detailed in the book.

This great little book by Steven Roby (author of "Black Gold" a great book on unreleased Hendrix material), and Brad Schreiber is basically how Johnny Allen Hendrix became Jimi Hendrix. His youth in Seattle, playing in various local bands. The army-where he met and played with Billy Cox. Scuffling in Nashville, playing in the dives for very little money. Getting his first road experience with Hank Ballard's band, and getting fired (nothing unusual) for playing the music "incorrectly". Continuing to scuffle along as Jimmy James and the Vagabonds in New York, where he was discovered by Chas Chandler (bassist in THE ANIMALS), and whisked away to England on the promise of recording "Wild Thing". And then on to fame and fortune that's known to most fans of his music.

This succinct book is well written in an easy flowing style, with a number of quotes from people who knew Hendrix through all the various stages of his early years. The photographs help the reader formulate a better picture of Hendrix through these years, especially a picture of Hendrix at the age of four, wairing shorts and an embroidered sweater, and another shot of him in his uniform playing his guitar on the army base in 1961. The other photos show Hendrix on stage with Little Richard, the Isley Brothers, and Joey Dee and the Starlighters, among others.

For anyone who wants a clear, concise book on Hendrix' early years, this is the book to read.
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A very engaging and informative look-back at pre-Experience Hendrix and something for the "Voodo Chile" fans as much as the historian searching for JH odds n ends on many R & B classics.

Bursting with detail on sessions and gigs with Wilson Pickett, Don Covay, Ike and Tina, and plenty on his rocky sojourn with Little Richard. Now, those "elitist" fans and writers can see that Richard's flamboyant orations on talk shows about when Hendrix was "my guitar player" were right on the money..we learn that JH played on poor *and* magnificent records, of the latter bunch, a Soul ballad extraordinaire, "I Don't Know What You've Got (But It's Got Me)", the most popular.

Other stop offs with Curtis Knight and Lonnie Youngblood also reveal Jimi was still "blues n' soulin'"-it as late as 1966!

Small complaint: Roby does not analyze the *musical* value of these pre-fame sides. Although his work is superior to others who have dived into this musical morass, he too simply says, the disc was released in May and made number 112, whatever....but was the thing any good? The Richard release mentioned above today is considered a Soul Classic. No evaluation of this and other Hendrix-related, early records.

Altogether....an essential. By the way, the many, many rare photos are worth the proverbial price of admittance.
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Format: Paperback
This is the perfect companion book to Leon Hendrix's new book, A Brother's Story. Leon's book covers Buster's (Jimi's) early life through school and the army. The portion of Jimi's life that Leon did not know much about was when Jimi was trying to `make it' in the music business after the army. According to Leon's book, Jimi did not communicate very often during this time frame.

This book covers the difficult years when Jimi struggled to survive in the music industry, before he became a global rock star and idol. This book travels through the detail on how Jimi was never accepted by mostly other black musicians, such as Little Richard, Ike Turner, King Curtis, Curtis Knight, Sam Moore, Sam and Dave, and many others who saw Jimi as a show boater and an odd duck. Jimi never fit in with these bands and went through a lengthy period of time where the bands admired him, then hired him and then fired him. Jimi was always a square peg in a round hole and it wasn't until he began charting his own course with his style of music that he began to find success.

One thing that I realized after reading this book was that Jimi Hendrix really paid his dues. He struggled through poverty, prejudice, and adversity, but kept focused on being his own man and finally persevered.

I thought this book was well written and entertaining, although there were sections of the book that were confusing. Some of the confusion came from the fact that Jimi was moving around from band to band so often he was hard to keep track of.
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Format: Paperback
I really dug this book! It was not only enjoyable, it was also a very easy read as well. What made this bio on Jimi Hendrix so good, was that it covered not only the history of Blues and R&B circa the early 1960s, but also how much it influenced Hendrix as a musician and song writer. I would recommened all Hendrix fans to read this book to get a better understanding about this legacy that played such an important role in his style as a guitar player. I would also recommend listining to the first cd of the; "WEST COAST SEATLLE BOY" box set, which contains some of those great early R&B sides that Jimi played on. I consider myself a serious Hendrix fan, and there is a lot of detailed info on him in this book that I didn't know about, such as his childhood in Seattle,and his early playing days with Billy Cox in Nashville, and playing the chitlin' circuit together,while he was living in the black community in the south,during the early 1960s, as well as the time he spent living in New York City's; Harlem, and later,his change to living in; Greenwich Village where he met Chas Chandler,and became a Rock Star in London,not long after. There was also some good stories about Jimi living with The Isley Brothers early in his career. I thought the story about Jimi missing a gig because he had to get his hair pressed and curled in Harlem, was classic soul brotha material!This book was well researched,written and very informative. A must for all true fans, and avid readers on music history.
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