Earlier this week, I heard reports on the radio that a former Jimi Hendrix roadie was publishing a book that claimed that he was murdered by his manager for the insurance money. Hendrix had two managers after he became famous, Chas Chandler and Mike Jeffrey. Chandler, the bassist for the Animals, was responsible for bringing Jimi from New York City to London, for helping to hire Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell to round out the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and for serving as producer on the Experience's recordings. Jeffrey had managed the Animals and, from the beginning, worked in tandem with Chandler to oversee the Experience. However, Chandler, frustrated by the glacial pace of the making of the Experience's third album Electric Ladyland, quit in mid-1968, leaving Jeffrey as the only one in charge of Jimi and the band.
Here's the link to the story as posted to the British music magazine's website NME:
This is not the first time that suspicions have emerged about Hendrix's death. In fact, in 1994, his former girlfriend Kathy Etchingham helped persuade British authorities to reopen his case, spurred by conflicting stories that the woman who was with Hendrix during his last night had told over the years. Since 18 September 1970, Monika Danneman maintained that Hendrix was still alive when he was put into the ambulance, that she chatted with him on the way to the hospital, and that the two had been engaged to be married. But during Scotland Yard's reinvestigation in the 1990s, the emergency workers who had tended to Hendrix testified that he was already dead (and alone) when they arrived on the scene. Hendrix's friend Eric Burdon, who played in the Animals with Chandler, said Danneman had called him in a panic before summoning the ambulance. He, too, found Hendrix already dead and hurriedly cleared the room of drugs. Burdon admitted that he had initially lied to investigators in order to prevent any drug raids on Jimi's friends and associates; also, he had found one of Hendrix's poems in the room, mistook it for a suicide note, and took it with him before the authorities arrived in order to protect his now dead friend. As for the engagement, Hendrix's friends have insisted that due to his impulsive nature, he may very well have proposed to Danneman, as he had to a few other women, but that he never had any intention of following through. In the end, in 1994, Scotland Yard ruled that the cause of Hendrix's death was indeed an inhalation of vomit due to an accidental barbituate overdose. And Danneman, the only true witness of Hendrix's death, forever silenced herself by inhaling the carbon monoxide from the exhaust of her Mercedes in April 1996.
But former roadie James "Tappy" Wright now claims Jeffrey drunkenly confessed in 1971 to plying Hendrix with the wine and pills that killed him. Wright's new book alleges that Jeffrey was scared Hendrix would leave his management so Jeffrey killed him to collect on a $2 million insurance policy.
Is this scenario even plausible?
Quite possibly. I remember reading David Henderson's biography 'Scuse Me While I Kiss the Sky twenty years ago (I did a book report on it in eighth grade- no kidding) and I recall that Jeffrey was portrayed as a rather shady character and that his death was called into question. Jeffrey died in a plane crash over Spain in March 1973 but according to the book, a number of people believed that, since his body was never identified, Jeffrey faked his own death and ran off to some deserted island somewhere with a wad of cash (I can't recall the specific reasons that particular book gives for Jeffrey doing such a thing as I can't find my copy ---did Mike Jeffrey steal it from my apartment?). In Charles Cross' Room Full of Mirrors, Noel Redding is counted among those who believe the faked death theory as Jeffrey was in the middle of litigation involving Jimi's estate when his plane went down. Also, Cross recalled that Hendrix was kidnapped in the latter part of 1969 and rescued unharmed by Jeffrey after being held hostage for two days. Redding, for one, thought Jeffrey had arranged the kidnapping as a warning to Hendrix to not seek other management while others insisted the incident was completely legitimate. Cross also wrote that just prior to his death, Hendrix was on the verge of firing Jeffrey and rehiring Chandler as his sole manager.
So this new claim from the roadie is something to chew on, I guess.