Jimi & the U.S. Army

hendrixarmyJames Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix is another artist whose dedication to his art—and resistance to authority—show up clearly in his military file.

Hendrix enlisted in the Army in May 1961, at the age of 18. Under the heading “Avocations and Sports,” his Enlisted Qualification Record states, “Plays Guitar (3 yrs).” Both creativity and nonconformity are revealed by other enlistment documents, such as a security questionnaire on which Hendrix takes a novel approach to filling in check boxes.

Hendrix’s interest in guitar seems to have taken precedence over any commitment to military service. “Pvt Hendrix plays a musical instrument during his off duty hours, or so he says,” declares one Sgt. Louis Hoekstra. “This is one of his faults, because his mind apparently cannot function while performing duties and thinking about his guitar.” A training record from July 1961 shows Hendrix at the bottom of the heap in marksmanship—ranked 36th out of a group of 36. While he may have been right on the mark with a guitar, with a rifle he was not even close.

In a request that Hendrix be subjected to physical and psychiatric examination, a Capt. Gilbert Batchman asserts, “Individual is unable to conform to military rules and regulations. Misses bed check; sleeps while supposed to be working; unsatisfactory duty performance. Requires excessive supervision at all times.” A May 1962 document recommending that Hendrix be discharged from service states tersely, “No known good characteristics.”

Within a few years, Hendrix would be hailed as one of the most influential electric guitarists of all time.

(thanks to dr.Wu for sending it in)

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