“I can still remember the audience being filled with people like Rod Stewart, The Beatles, members of the Small Faces... all of them were silent when Jimi was done”: Junior Marvin on seeing one of Jimi Hendrix's early UK gigs

Junior Marvin (left) and Jimi Hendrix performing onstage
(Image credit: Getty Images)

In a recent interview, Junior Marvin marveled at the two sides of Jimi Hendrix, noting how he was “playing guitar behind his neck” onstage, but too shy to look him in the eye off it. 

The Wailers guitarist, speaking in the latest issue of Guitarist, recalls crossing paths with the legendary guitarist after he wowed – and ultimately silenced – a talent-packed crowd that included members of the Beatles and the Small Faces.

Yet, despite his heroics on stage, off it, he proved too shy to talk to Marvin, who was just 17 years old at that time.  

“He’d play clubs and speakeasies at midnight, and all the musicians would hang out there,” says Marvin.

“I was underage, but my manager at the time would get me in for free to watch, though I couldn’t drink any alcohol. One night, I was there and Jimi came in to jam at around two o’clock in the morning.

“I can still remember the audience being filled with people like Rod Stewart, The Beatles, members of the Small Faces – all of them were silent when Jimi was done. I said to myself, ‘Now there’s a guitar player. I want to play guitar like that.’”

Jimi Hendrix performs in Isle of Fehmarn, Germany on September 6, 1970

(Image credit: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

A number of those members of the rock and roll elite have since spoken about how those audiences would greet Hendrix’s playing with stunned, wordless reactions.

Marvin on the contrary, had much he wanted to discuss with the electric guitar hero, except this time, the wordless response belonged to Hendrix.

“I went right up after he was done, met him and shook his hand,” he relays. “But Jimi was so shy and wouldn’t even look at me to say hello.

“It was crazy: here was this guy who was just up on stage playing guitar behind his neck and [now he’s] barely even talking to me. He was like two different people.”

Jimi Hendrix performs live in the late 1960s

(Image credit: Chris Morphet/Redferns)

Ever the optimist, Marvin took from the black cloud of their meeting a silver-lining, saying: “But I got to shake Jimi Hendrix’s hand – I was very proud of that.”

Three years later another revolutionary guitarist, King Crimson’s Robert Fripp, met Hendrix. During the intervening period, Hendrix had evidently managed to bottle up some of his on-stage courage to dose himself with when off it.

As Fripp recalled in an interview earlier this year, the roles reversed as Hendrix was left stunned by a King Crimson show. In response, Fripp says he told him to “’Shake my left hand, man, it's closer to my heart.’”

Phil Weller

A freelance writer with a penchant for music that gets weird, Phil is a regular contributor to ProgGuitar World, and Total Guitar magazines and is especially keen on shining a light on unknown artists. Outside of the journalism realm, you can find him writing angular riffs in progressive metal band, Prognosis, in which he slings an 8-string Strandberg Boden Original, churning that low string through a variety of tunings. He's also a published author and is currently penning his debut novel which chucks fantasy, mythology and humanity into a great big melting pot.