Jimi Hendrix's Early Years: His Musical Roots and Influences | By Kerwin Blog

Jimi Hendrix’s Early Years: His Musical Roots and Influences

How his musical style, guitar playing and electric image were shaped during his formative years

Jimi Hendrix, the enigmatic guitar virtuoso, is celebrated as one of the greatest musicians of all time. While his meteoric rise to fame is well-documented, little is known about his early years and the influences that shaped his musical journey. As a UK pop artist, I have captured Jimi Hendrix in my signature Jackson Pollock-inspired style, so this is an interesting topic for me.

In this blog post, I embark on a brief and captivating exploration of Hendrix’s formative years. I unearth some lesser-known aspects of his musical upbringing; tracing his roots and uncovering the pivotal moments that forged his unique sound.

Jimi Hendrix’s early formative years, from his musical upbringing in Seattle to a transformative move to London, were influential in shaping his career. His unique sound was shaped by genres such as blues, R&B and psychedelic elements. Early life experiences were also key in crafting his image.

Read on as I delve into the remarkable early life of the legendary guitarist and discover the building blocks that laid the foundation for his groundbreaking musical legacy.

Childhood in Seattle: The Musical Awakening

Jimi Hendrix was born on November 27, 1942, in Seattle, Washington. Growing up in a musical household, young Jimi was surrounded by rhythm and melody from an early age. His father, Al Hendrix, introduced him to the sounds of blues, jazz, and R&B; exposing him to a rich tapestry of musical genres. Fascinated by the diverse sounds he encountered, Jimi developed an insatiable curiosity and an innate passion for music that would shape his future.

Did you know: At the age of 15, Hendrix acquired his first acoustic guitar from a friend’s father for just $5.

Gaining Ground: Seattle’s Music Scene and Early Performances

Seattle’s vibrant music scene provided a fertile ground for Jimi Hendrix to hone his craft. He immersed himself in local clubs, jam sessions and talent shows; impressing audiences with his natural talent and charismatic stage presence. During this time, Hendrix learned from local musicians, absorbing their techniques and expanding his musical vocabulary. His early performances showcased a raw talent that hinted at the greatness yet to come.

Did you know: Before achieving fame as a guitarist, Hendrix displayed his vocal abilities as the frontman of his high school band, The Velvetones.

Jimi Hendrix’s Military Interlude: A Brief Detour

In 1961, Hendrix enlisted in the United States Army, temporarily interrupting his burgeoning music career. However, even during his military service, he found ways to keep the music alive. Stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky, he joined the 101st Airborne Division’s band, where he honed his guitar skills and performed for fellow soldiers. This period allowed him to further refine his style and experiment with new sounds.

Did you know: Hendrix received an honourable discharge from the army in 1962 after injuring his ankle during a parachute jump.

Jimi Hendrix performing in the US Army

The Chitlin’ Circuit and Collaborations: Musical Growth and Exploration

Following his military discharge, Hendrix embarked on a journey through the Chitlin’ Circuit, a network of venues that catered primarily to African American musicians. It was during this time that he played as a sideman for numerous R&B acts, including the Isley Brothers and Little Richard. These experiences not only solidified his reputation as a skilled guitarist but also exposed him to different musical styles and stage dynamics, contributing to his growth as an artist.

Did you know: Hendrix’s encounters with artists like Curtis Mayfield and Ike Turner during his Chitlin’ Circuit days left a big impact on his musical development and stage presence.

American singer-songwriter and guitarist Jimi Hendrix on stage at the Newport Pop Festival, Northridge, California, June 22, 1969.

Jimi Hendrix’s Move to London: Breaking Barriers and International Stardom

Why did Jimi Hendrix move to London?

In 1966, Hendrix made the bold decision to relocate to London, England, in search of broader opportunities and artistic freedom. This move proved to be transformative. He formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, captivating audiences with his electrifying performances and innovative guitar sounds.

Hendrix’s arrival in London coincided with the peak of the British music scene, where he found a receptive audience and a vibrant community of musicians eager to collaborate and push boundaries.

Did you know: Hendrix’s explosive performance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, where he famously set his guitar on fire, catapulted him to international fame and solidified his reputation as a groundbreaking live performer.

Influences That Shaped His Sound: Blues, R&B, and Psychedelic Explorations

To understand Hendrix’s unique sound, it’s crucial to explore the influences that permeated his music. The blues played a significant role in shaping his guitar style, evident in his soulful bends, expressive phrasing and emotive playing. Artists like Muddy Waters, B.B. King and Howlin’ Wolf left an indelible mark on his approach to the instrument.

Moreover, Hendrix’s immersion in R&B and soul music added a layer of groove and rhythm to his playing. Drawing inspiration from musicians like Curtis Mayfield and James Brown, he incorporated funky elements and dynamic strumming patterns into his compositions.

As the 1960s embraced the psychedelic era, Hendrix fearlessly embraced its ethos, infusing his music with mind-bending effects, experimental tones and boundary-pushing sonic landscapes. His use of distortion, feedback and wah-wah pedals became signature elements of his sound, revolutionising the possibilities of the electric guitar.

Did you know: Hendrix’s rendition of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” is widely regarded as a definitive interpretation, showcasing his ability to reimagine songs and make them uniquely his own.


Jimi Hendrix’s early formative years, from his musical upbringing in Seattle to a transformative move to London, were influential in shaping his career. His unique sound was shaped by genres such as blues, R&B and psychedelic elements. Early life experiences were also key in crafting his image.

Jimi Hendrix’s early years were marked by a deep exploration of music, exposure to various genres, and formative experiences that propelled him towards greatness. From his childhood in Seattle to his time in London, Hendrix absorbed a diverse range of influences. He merged blues, R&B and psychedelic elements into a sound that defied conventions and pushed the boundaries of what was possible on the guitar.

A new appreciation of Jimi hendrix

By tracing his musical roots and uncovering the pivotal moments that shaped his formative years, we gain a deeper appreciation for the genius of Jimi Hendrix. His relentless pursuit of musical expression, fearless experimentation and unwavering commitment to his craft laid the foundation for his enduring legacy as one of the most influential musicians in history.

As we listen to his iconic songs and witness the impact of his groundbreaking techniques, we are reminded of the power of artistic exploration, the beauty of musical fusion, and the transformative nature of a truly visionary artist. Jimi Hendrix’s early years set the stage for an extraordinary career that would forever change the landscape of music, leaving an indelible mark on generations to come.

Jimi Hendrix

Did any of these facts about Jimi Hendrix’s early years surprise you? View my By Kerwin Jimi Hendrix painting and shop prints of this here

I’ve also written about Jimi Hendrix’s musical and artistic inspiration. Learn more about how the worlds of pop art and music collide in my dedicated blog section, here.

View my full range of Jackson Pollock-inspired pop art paintings and prints of your favourite music and pop culture icons at www.bykerwin.com. High-definition printing, fast worldwide delivery and satisfaction guaranteed. You can follow my art progress on Instagram and Facebook.

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