Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mitch Mitchell: child actor who drummed up a rock career

Mitch Mitchell: child actor who drummed up a rock career
By Matt Dickinson, PA

Mitch Mitchell has been described as one of the three great British rock drummers of the 1960s.

According to fan forum, he had "magnificent rhythmic drive" and ranks alongside legendary Cream drummer Ginger Baker and The Who's Keith Moon.

Mitchell was born in Ealing, west London, on 9 July 1947, and started off his showbiz career as a child actor.

But his love of jazz and rock music soon took over and he developed into a largely-self taught and in-demand session drummer by his late teens.

He played for a variety of bands during the early 1960s, including The Tornados, and Riot Squad, also auditioning at one point for The Who.

His big break came in 1965 after joining jazz star Georgie Fame and his outfit The Blue Flames.

After that group was disbanded a year later, Mitchell was recruited within a week to join up with the world's most electrifying guitarist, Jimi Hendrix, and bassist Noel Redding.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience held its first rehearsal on October 6, 1966, and quickly secured their place in rock and roll history thanks to their powerhouse performances.

In a recent interview with a US paper, Mitchell recalled the moment he joined the band: "I got a call from (Hendrix manager) Chas Chandler asking if I'd fancy playing with this guitarist he'd brought over from America.

"We met in this sleazy little club, and (Jimi) was this guy in a Burberry raincoat. We did some Chuck Berry and took it from there. I suppose it worked."

A week after the group was formed, the Experience played a four-day French tour supporting French rocker Johnny Hallyday.

A clutch of classic albums including Are You Experienced? and Electric Ladyland followed that featured tracks like Purple Haze, Little Wing and Hey Joe.

The group also notched up some of the famous performances of all time, including at the Monterey Pop Festival where Hendrix famously set light to his guitar, and Woodstock.

After the guitarist's death in 1970 aged just 27, Mitchell's career lacked direction but he continued to play and record with some of rock and jazz world's biggest names, including former Cream bassist Jack Bruce.

In 1992 the Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted with Redding into the prestigious Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Redding died at 57 in 2003, leaving Mitchell the only surviving member of the legendary trio.

Before his death, he was performing with the Experience Hendrix Tour in the US with companions including guitarists Buddy Guy and Robby Krieger from The Doors.

One tribute on a fan site appeared to sum his career up: "A lot of drummers are great but there is only one Mitch Mitchell. Mitchell held it all together for Hendrix. How do you play drums like that? He's the best I ever heard! That's the way real drums should sound like!"

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