Feb 17 2022
By Matt Taylor.
Hendrix historian Matt Taylor has created a richly detailed oral history of Jimi Hendrix’s performance at the Men’s Gym at Sacramento State College on February 8, 1968. In addition to the February 8, 1968 performance, Taylor’s journal also details two later visits to Sacramento by Hendrix on September 15, 1968 at the Memorial Auditorium and April 26, 1970 at Cal Expo. Born in 1966, Taylor never had the privilege of seeing Hendrix in concert. Nonetheless, his oral history helps to provide Jimi’s fans with a vivid appreciation of the Hendrix phenomenon in its earliest and most vibrant stage.
“I was bitten by the Jimi Hendrix bug in a big way in the early 1990’s”, admits Taylor, a radio professional based in Sacramento. “I started reading and collecting as much as I could about Jimi.” By chance, Taylor was introduced to one of the co-promoters of the February 8, 1968 concert through a mutual friend. The meeting stoked Taylor’s interest in discovering Jimi’s inaugural visit to his hometown. “One thing led to another, and the project took form as an oral history,” recalls Taylor. “It really blossomed from there.”
The research phase for the Sacramento project lasted ten to twelve months. Taylor gathered first-hand testimony from the concert’s co-promoters, members of The Creators, one of the opening acts that February evening, the poster artist (Jim Ford), as well as a host of audience members. The results are reverential, and often humorous, with most audience members unable to recall exactly what Jimi played but nonetheless left that the impression that it was an unforgettable evening.
The most rewarding aspect of Taylor’s research is how it documents how unstructured the business of rock n’ roll was in early 1968. The promoters of the first Sacramento concert were not corporate giants who controlled every portion of the event. Instead, a group of ambitious college students took advantage of a student facility to bring Jimi Hendrix to their college. They feverishly worked the student body and local underground for their support. In one of many telling anecdotes, the co-promoters were so nervous that Hendrix might not show that they traveled to San Francisco to try and meet Hendrix backstage and come away reassured by his commitment. Jimi comes off as blissfully ignorant of such trivia. All he wants to do, relates one of Taylor’s interviewees, is catch the end of Albert King’s performance.
Throughout Taylor’s journal, there is a sense of achievement and supreme satisfaction. Ultimately, in the final hours before rock n’ roll became big business, a group of students posing as promoters enjoyed a wild night with the greatest guitarist who ever lived. It is in that light that Taylor’s work is best enjoyed. The stories each tell don’t always jibe, but the consistent thread remains the passion for Hendrix and the memorable performance he gave that Winter evening.
This excerpt from Taylor’s oral history focuses on the effort made to bring the Experience to Sacramento State College.
Taylor’s journey into Jimi’s Sacramento past begins with George Gosling, the co-promoter of The Experience’s first show in the city. Gosling, then a Journalism major at Sacramento State Collee, describes the events which brought Jimi to the Mens’ Gym on February 8, 1968.
George Gosling: I started promoting shows with my partner Rick Schultze. The Jimi Hendrix concert was actually our second show. (Our first) had been Janis Joplin [with] Big Brother & The Holding Company. We had guaranteed Big Brother &The Holding Company S2,500 versus sixty percent of the gross. We ended up paying them S4,200. We had no ticket monitoring or any way to keep track, so the settlement with the road manager was a nightmare.
Gosling’s involvement in promoting concerts at the college took form under the guise of a student organization, Students For The Appreciation Of Pop Music.
George Gosling: We formed a club on campus so we could get (access) to the facilities for free. The club was put together by us to promote shows. It was called Students For The Appreciation Of Pop Music. After we formed the club wrote our own rules and regulations. It was a closed membership because we didn’t want it to be watered down by people that really didn’t know anything about promoting a show. It was really a commercial endeavor. We didn’t want anybody else involved in it.
Rick Schultze: We got Jimi Hendrix through Chuck Barnett, an agent with International Creative Management. George and I had gone down to San Francisco because Hendrix had played at the Fillmore West the week prior. This is the naivete of what we were doing. We went down there to ask him if he’d ever signed the contract we had sent him because we had never got it back. I kept calling Barnett and I’d never get an answer. He’d say, ‘Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about it’. The radio station people who were running our ads were going, ‘Man, you’d better be careful. These guys could no-show. You’ve got all this advertising money…’
So we went down to (The Fillmore). Bill Graham was there, and I asked him if I could get in and talk to Hendrix. He said, ‘You got your problems, I got mine. Get in line’.
Finally, we did get in and we got to Hendrix’s dressing room. John Mayall was in there. He was throwing up in the restroom because he was so nervous about playing in front of Albert King. Jimi was with all these girls. I didn’t want to just walk in there and say, ‘Hey man, are you coming up there?’ They were going, ‘Hey man, what’s happening?’ We were just like everybody else, so we never did get a contract.
Despite regular reassurances from Chuck Barnett at ICM, Gosling and Schultze grew increasingly worried that their star might not come for the gig.
Rick Schultze: We had never seen (contract) riders before. The (Hendrix) rider said that they would have to be picked up at the airport. We had to provide a truck for their equipment. We got to (Sacramento Metro Airport), say if it was supposed to come at six o’clock, we were there at five. We had never got the contract, right? We didn’t even know for sure, if they were there. I went up to the guy at the gate and said, ‘Can you tell me who is on this plane?’ The guy says, ‘Well, we can’t release the names of the people that are on the aircraft.”
The guy looks around like ‘I’m not supposed to tell you who’s on that plane.’ He looks around, then he looks back at me and goes, ‘Yeah, but he’s on there.’ When they came off, they were at the end. AlI the regular people were coming off, and instead of meeting their friends and then taking off, they were all saying, ‘Wait here. Wait here.’
Everybody that came off that plane just stopped and then here comes all these guys with their bags and hats and everything like that. All the people that were waiting for the other people on the plane stayed there and watched the whole thing. It was like a parade. It was really like a ‘band of gypsies’ coming out there and people were going, ‘Holy Cow!’ We were all going, ‘Wow, this is pretty wild.’ They had it all on. I mean it really looked as if he could have gone right onstage. Those reactions are priceless because nowadays people probably wouldn’t … well, they still would have looked, but not like in those days. They were knocked out.
Despite their limited experience as concert promoters, Gosling and Schultze wondered why they couldn’t capitalize on the growing demand far rock concerts. According to Gosling, a growing number of people were traveling from Sacramento to San Francisco to see shows at Winterland and Fillmore West.
George Gosling: (For the Big Brother & The Holding Company concert) I sold tickets through cousins and friends and in psychedelic shops. We just had everybody out selling tickets. There was no BASS, Ticketmaster, or anything like that in those days. It was really done at street level.
We sold tickets for the Hendrix show at the Failasouf Shop, which was run by Jodette the belly dancer. She made an outfit for Janis Joplin and we let her present it to her onstage. There was another place called The Eye, which was kind of the ‘hip’ underground store.
Rick Schultze: I think we probably sold three or four hundred tickets at the door. A lot of the advance tickets were sold through Tower Records locations. We also sold them at a head shop downtown and a bookstore in Davis.
Gosling and Schultze’s efforts were bolstered by two important factor, the success of their Big Brother & The Holding Company and the second Jimi Hendrix Experience album Axis: Bold As Love.
George Gosling: A lot of people bought advance tickets because they knew it was going to be old out, especially after the Big Brother & The Holding Company show. The demand for tickets and backstage passes was unprecedented. We knew that we had a tiger by the tail when we found out that (Hendrix) had a new album (Axis: Bold As Love) coming out. I think we had 4,000 people. It was more than we could fit in there. It was dangerous, there’s no doubt about it. The crowd was mellow inside. The people that were uptight were outside, but they didn’t riot. They were just trying to sneak in.
Rick Schultze: It was a big deal at Sac State in those times. It was really like, ‘This guy is coming to your neighborhood!’ type of thing and here is your chance to see it. I had guys calling me up begging for tickets that I hadn’t talked to in years. You know, ‘Man, I got to see this dude! How can I get in there?’ We weren’t even listed as promoters, really. It was just Students For The Appreciation Of Pop Music.
Skip Maggiora was both a member of Students For The Appreciation Of Pop Music and guitarist for The Creators, one of the opening acts that evening.
Skip Maggiora: We had, I think, over 4,000 people at the event. It was packed. I remember talking to the Fire Marshall outside, because you couldn’t get in. He was saying, ‘This is way out of control’.
Maggiora was struck by Hendrix’s charisma and willingness to work with the equipment provided him and create magic.
Skip Maggiora: He put on a great show. It was loud. It sounded fantastic. It had all the aura of a perfect Hendrix concert. I remember leaning on the back of his amplifiers watching him. In fact, he’d come charging at our Webb cabinets with the head of his guitar and I just knew he was going to shove it through. At that time, all the money we had in the world was invested in that equipment. Fortunately, he would turn before he’d get to the thing and he wouldn’t smash anything.
Jimi was easy to please. He just brought his amp heads. He plugged in. He never questioned what we were giving him to use. Most artists that come to town these days would be probably refusing to go onstage if they saw that type of equipment sitting there waiting for them. There was no expectation of being pampered. He played to the crowd. The crowd loved him and I think he enjoyed the gig virtually as much. I remember them coming off the stage really excited. The three of them felt like they had played one of their better performances.
The fans were in awe. He didn’t even have to play a lick and he would get a standing ovation. Of course, he played great. I remember how loud that crowd was in appreciation. There was a sense of “Wow, this is Jimi Hendrix … live!”
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