By: Ron Hart
"I've been in the public eye since 1975 and I have never once spoken about the fact that I knew Hendrix," proclaims former Television guitarist Richard Lloyd. I'm speaking to the NYC punk legend about his recently released album of Jimi Hendrix covers, The Jamie Neverts Story (released September 1, 2009 on Parasol Records), which finds Lloyd setting fire to such Jimi staples as "Spanish Castle Magic," "Ain't No Telling," "Bold As Love" and "Little Miss Lover," which features Television drummer Billy Ficca behind the kit. "I got close enough to Jimi for him to sock me and to cry on me."
We all know that Jimi Hendrix had his hands in a lot of pies (both literally and figuratively) back when he roamed the earth, as the rumors, innuendos and bootleg recordings of him working with everybody from Miles Davis to Mahavishnu's John McLaughlin to members of Traffic to B.B. King to Jim Morrison can certainly attest. However, few could have called the existence of the guitar legend's connection to the downtown NYC punk scene, albeit a good seven years before it even took off. But thanks to the friendship between Lloyd and his high school-age best friend, Velvert Turner, famous for being Hendrix's sole guitar student, Jimi's unexpected ties to CBGB have been confirmed through his roundabout acquaintance with Lloyd, whose own revolutionary, serpentine guitar style he created alongside frontman/guitarist Tom Verlaine in Television, has inspired nearly three generations of guitarists himself.
"Mr. Turner was an accomplished guitarist who crossed paths with Jimi Hendrix as a young teenager growing up in New York City in 1966," stated the 2000 death notice in The New York Times for Turner, whose sole 1972 album, The Velvert Turner Group, is one of the great lost psychedelic soul albums of the era. "He was befriended by Hendrix, who recognized the young scholar's passion for the electric guitar. The legendary guitarist served as a mentor to Mr. Turner, offering both guitar instruction and professional advice to the young musician."
Unfortunately, at the time, few people believed that a poor kid from the inner city could have struck up such camaraderie with one of the most recognizable figures in rock 'n' roll, so Velvert's claims of knowing Hendrix would often be met with laughter and doubt from skeptics. Except for Lloyd, whose chance meeting with Turner at a mutual friend's house in Greenwich Village back in the summer of 1968 would eventually lead to his own brief acquaintance with Jimi.
"I was at somebody's house and they said Velvert was coming over and that he claimed to know Hendrix," Lloyd explains, "and that everyone should laugh at him because it was plainly impossible for a skinny black kid from Brooklyn to know Jimi Hendrix. And I said to myself, 'Well, Jimi doesn't live on Mars. He has to know somebody, why not this kid?' So, I believed him and our friendship grew out of that."
According to the very well written liner notes penned by Lloyd that accompany The Jamie Neverts Story, Velvert told the crowd that Hendrix was in town to play a show at The Singer Bowl, which, according to Lloyd, was "some place in Queens with a revolving stage." Jimi used to book himself into various hotels around the city under a secret pseudonym, one that Velvert knew, and to silence his skeptics at the Greenwich Village apartment, he called the hotel he knew Jimi was at that day, the Warwick Hotel, and let the line ring and ring, passing the phone around the table to his naysayers until it got to Lloyd.
"On the second ring, I heard the phone being picked up and the unmistakable voice on the other end," he explains in the notes. "It was Jimi saying, 'Hey man, what's up? Who's this?' I didn't know what to say, so I said, 'It's Velvert, man!' and handed the phone to Velvert who snuck away in the corner for a long, whispered conversation. In the meantime, the other guys were grilling me. 'Was it really Jimi? What did he say?' I told him I recognized his voice, and there was no mistaking it. It was Jimi."
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