June 7, 1970. I was a month shy of my 16th birthday. For a couple of years his music had already been playing through my stereo headphones. I was also listening to Cream, The Who, Led Zeppelin, any band with a soaring guitar and a British drummer. My friends and I could not believe Jimi Hendrix was actually coming to Tulsa, Oklahoma! The day tickets went on sale we arrived at the Carson Attractions ticket office about twelve hours prior to opening and were rewarded with fourth row seats. My ears ring just thinking about it.
My mom and sister had been visiting relatives in Austin, Texas. I went with my dad, my sisters husband and infant son to the airport to pick them up. This was during the era when you could actually greet people at the gate and watch them literally walk off the plane. We got there a few minutes early and watched the Braniff flight arrive from Austin. As people began to file through the gate my dad said “there sure are lots of hippies on this plane.” First off the plane were a group of about eight people who were young, hip, dressed in clothing of the sixties, and since it was early June I assumed they were college students flying home for the summer. Wait a minute, college students don’t typically fly home! They drive Volkswagens and carpool! (In the seventies, we carpooled before it was the environmentally right thing to do). Then I saw him.
Even if not famous he would have stood out in any crowd. From seeing him on photograph and film I had expected him to be taller. After a few seconds of shock I walked straight over to him. ”Mr. Hendrix, can I have your autograph?” With a big smile he said “sure man, but you have to call me Jimi.” The next thing I knew I was walking through the airport with Jimi Hendrix. It was not a busy day. All of his entourage was already at the baggage claim. So my family and I essentially had him to ourselves. At least for ten minutes or so. I am writing about something that happened 42 years ago! Some specifics are a little foggy. But one thing I remember very clearly. His demeanor. He looked at me when he spoke. He asked me if I was going to the show and where he could get a good cheeseburger. He had a 8 mm movie camera and shot a few frames of us. He stated that my 14 month old nephew ”looks like Charlie Brown,” and after handing someone his movie camera actually picked him up held him for a few minutes. He was friendly, talkative, in no particular hurry, and never stopped smiling.
(more later, still writing…)