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Talkin' Blues with Jaimoe

Alan Bryson By

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AAJ: Yeah, didn't he do that song with Duane, "Down Along the Cove?" That's great.

Jaimoe: Yeah, that was a track that was cut in Muscle Shoals for the record they were trying to put out on Duane. They were trying to cut a record on him and Duane even sang on a couple of them, they had picked "Down Along the Cove" for him to sing, and a couple of funny tunes like "No Money Down" about getting a car, and "Happily Married Man."

Jaimoe with Duane Allman's daughter Galadrielle at the 2012 Grammy Awards

And one day Duane said, "Man, my brother is the singer. I ain't no singer, and I'm tired of this shit!" So he stopped doin' it. He was very adamant about it.

So back to the call from Twiggs, they wanted to make Johnny Jenkins into the next Jimi Hendrix. See, when Twiggs was on the road with Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix was the guitarist. And the guy who wrote, "Tell It Like It Is" that the Neville Brothers sing, is George Davis, who was the bassist in Little Richard's band. So George Davis and Jimi Hendrix were in Little Richard's band when Twiggs was the road manager.

AAJ: Holy smoke, that's wild.

Jaimoe: And it gets nicer and nicer on down the line! You know "Mardi Gras Mambo," that was the first song that Nevilles ever cut; they were high school kids when they cut it, young teenagers. And George Davis was the alto player on that.

So Twiggs tells me, "Jaimoe, listen to these records. I'm gonna be back in a couple of days, and I want you to tell me what you think of it." Well if it hadn't been for those records, I probably would have never played in Duane Allman's band, or anything like that, because I thought all that shit was loud-ass music. And I had no desire for it, because it was so damn loud you could never hear it well enough to understand it in the first place.

So I sat down and listened to these records he brought me: Are you Experienced (MCA, 1967) by Jimi Hendrix, a Greegree album with Mac Rebennack, Time Peace: The Rascals' Greatest Hits (Atlantic, 1968), and Disraeli Gears (Atco, 1967) by Cream. He came back and I said, "Them cat are playin' jazz." So he says, "You like that huh?" And I said, "Yeah man, I like it."

So he explained his idea about Johnny Jenkins. When he was out on the road with Little Richard he had taken some Johnny Jenkins records along and played them for Hendrix. And Hendrix liked them. So Twiggs had this theory, that some of the stuff that Hendrix was now playing was stuff that he had picked up off of the Johnny Jenkins records. So he thought he could create this Jimi Hendrix character out of Johnny Jenkins. And I'll tell you, it didn't work.

We created The Johnny Jenkins Blues Revival. I was the drummer, and a guy named Ron Graybeal was on bass. So that's when I met Hendrix, it was 1968. They came to Atlanta and I couldn't hear shit, they were just as loud as everything else. They had amplifiers stacked up completely across the stage, and at least three high. But you couldn't hear anything they were playin'!

But Jimi was a nice guy. I became real good friends with those guys, not so much with Jimi, he was kind of a quiet guy off to himself, but Mitch and Noel Redding up until their deaths. Especially Redding, whenever he would come to New York he would always find me, or I would find him.

The last time I saw Noel, he came to a joint in New York City and I was doin' something in a kind of All Star band, Warren Haynes was in it at one time, Bernie Worrell who played keyboards for Parliament-Funkadelic, and a few more guys. So anyway, my wife tells me, "Hey, that guy wants to see you." And I said, "What guy?" And she says, "That bassist from Jimi Hendrix." I said, "Noel?" She said, "He stood there I don't know how long waitin' to talk to you."

[Laughing] When I figured out who she was talking about, I realized Noel had died his hair jet black. So I went looking for him and couldn't find him, and not long after that he died.

And in 2008, Mitch Mitchell died in Portland after a gig, a Jimi Hendrix tribute thing. He played the gig, went back to the hotel and died.

AAJ: You know on stuff like "Manic Depression" and "Fire," Mitch Mitchell had some chops.

Jaimoe: Oh man, Mitch was a hell of a drummer.

With The Johnny Jenkins Blues Revival we played this club on 42nd Street in New York for about a month, and everybody and their mammy came in there. Quite a few of them would sit in, but Jimi would never sit in. Jimi would just come in there and sit with his entourage of women, just a slew of them!

They'd just kind of swam in the place and swarm out. They reminded me of bees, the way Jimi would move and whoever was with him. But all these cats would come in, we played with Johnny Winter, Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady before they were Hot Tuna—they were still in Jefferson Airplane then. Man a lot of people sat in with The Johnny Jenkins Blues Revival when we were there.

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