Rolly Waters meets Jimi Hendrix
Hendrix in the West, a posthumous release of live Jimi Hendrix tracks, is one of the earliest, and best, collections of Hendrix live performances. It was also the starting point for my upcoming Rolly Waters novel, Gillespie Field Groove. When I learned that some of the songs on the album had been recorded at the San Diego Sports Arena in 1969 (critic Robert Christgau has called the album’s version of Red House definitive), I started looking for ways to incorporate it into my next book. I had one problem. The fictional Rolly Waters wouldn’t have been born when the concert took place. How could I make a fifty-year-old concert part of his investigation?
Hendrix performed in San Diego three times, but it was recordings from the May 24, 1969 concert featuring the original Jimi Hendrix Experience that were used on the album. I started by doing some more research about that specific concert and learned the following:
- The Sports Arena concert was one of the last for the original Experience lineup. The tour ended a month later and the group never played together again.
- The concert was sold out, but a large group of hopeful gatecrashers showed up outside the arena. They became restive and the police were called in. A riot ensued, with cops beating up kids in the parking lot.
- Backstage at the arena, a promotional contest by local radio station KCBQ went awry when Jimi’s handlers turned away the station representative and the contest winner (the station had not cleared the promotion beforehand with Hendrix or his team).
Based on the above, I imagined the following characters and scenario as a starting point for my novel:
- The teenaged girl (and contest winner) who was turned away;
- One of Hendrix’s roadies who was working the concert;
- The teenaged girl and the roadie meet and run away together after the concert.
So far, so good. But we’re still stuck in 1969. How did Rolly Waters get involved? Here’s the answer I came up with:
- Years later, after the above characters have died, Rolly Waters is contacted by their daughter who asks him find a Stratocaster guitar her parents claimed to have owned, a guitar once played by Jimi Hendrix.
I was intrigued now. I had something to work with. A puzzle to solve. And off I went. As I worked on the book, it took some unanticipated twists and turns but the initial idea stuck. We’re still a few months away from publication, but I’ll be providing more information in future posts.
P.S. If you want more details about the 1969 Hendrix concert, you can find them in this article from the San Diego Reader. Here’s the recording of “Red House” from the album.