To celebrate a new exhibit of Jimi Hendrix memorabilia at the 8,600-square-foot Fender Visitor Center in Corona, Calif., Fender held a VIP party on Saturday night that was attended by several important people in the legendary guitarist’s life.
Hendrix’s sister Janie, longtime engineer Eddie Kramer and Band of Gypsys bassist Billy Cox mingled with the nearly 100 guests before hosting a panel discussion of the Seattle native’s career.
In addition, Fender held a listening party for Hendrix’s latest album People, Hell and Angels (Legacy Recordings), which comes out Tuesday, allowing those on hand to hear the record that was co-produced by Janie Hendrix, Kramer and historian John McDermott.
With doors opening at 6 p.m., the crowd filed in the Visitor Center past an entranceway that was highlighted by a display featuring several daring outfits that Hendrix actually wore, along with lyrics to many of his songs and intimate in-studio photos from Kramer’s own collection.
Hendrix was also unmistakeable on the cover of the many music magazine covers that made up a mural on one wall. That display held a poster touting his historic appearance at Woodstock and the actual guitar strap he had attached to his white Stratocaster during the festival.
Those in attendance – a group that included Los Angeles Kings president of business operations Luc Robataille, RATT’s Warren DeMartini and fingerstyle guitarist Doyle Dykes – were treated to not only catered hors d’oeurves, but also a panel discussion with Janie Hendrix, Kramer and Cox.
Cox enjoyed reminiscing about Jimi, a longtime friend whom he met while serving in the army at Fort Campbell, Ky. As the story goes, Cox, at that point an avid musician, had a chance encounter with a young Hendrix at a service club and was recruited to play bass.
“The window was cracked just a little bit, but I heard this unmistakeable guitar coming from inside the club,” Cox said. ”I didn’t hear it with my ears, though. I heard it with my soul.”
Cox also said that the Fender Visitor Center was the perfect place to house this new exhibit, considering Hendrix’s predilection for the Stratocaster.
“There’s no better home,” he said. ”You see the pictures, and you see that guitar. And when Jimi held that Strat, it almost melted into his body. It became part of him.”
Another highlight of the evening was a jam session that saw 12-year-old guitar prodigy Ray Goren step to the stage with Cox and drummer Andrew Garze (who actually played the kit with the handles of a pair of paint brushes). The trio – compiled at the behest of Kramer – ripped through a searing blues number that saw Cox and Goren trading vocal duties.
The Hendrix exhibit is the first of its kind for the Fender Visitor Center. Officially opening on March 6, it will run through May 31 and is open to the public. For Visitor Center location and hours, click here.
People, Hell and Angels will be available for sale during the exhibit, as well as Jimi Hendrix: The Ultimate Lyric Book compiled by Janie Hendrix and Jimi Hendrix An Illustrated Experience, an interactive book/CD by Janie L. Hendrix and John McDermott and Robert Knight’s Jimi Hendrix photography.