May 31: Jimi Hendrix Enlisted In The Military

It Just Wasn't Meant To Be

On this day in 1961, when he was just 19 years old, Jimi Hendrix enlisted in the American military. Having been caught riding in stolen cars two times, it was that or prison. 

Hendrix completed 8 weeks of basic training at Fort Ord in California. Following training, he was stationed at Fort Campbell, Kentucky as part of the 101st Airborne Division. Soon after arriving there, he wrote to his father saying:

“There’s nothing but physical training and harassment here for two weeks, then when you go to jump school … you get hell. They work you to death, fussing and fighting.”

In his next letter, he asked his father to send his guitar. Hendrix’s red Silvertone Danelectro soon showed up at the base. 

In late 1961, Bill Cox, bassist and fellow serviceman heard him playing. Impressed by his skill, Cox began jamming with Hendrix using a borrowed bass guitar. Cox was once noted saying he sounded like a mix between John Lee Hooker and Beethoven. 

Soon the two were performing at base clubs as the Casuals, along with other musicians. 

Jimi Hendrix Didn’t Last Long In The Military

While Hendrix may have been amazing on the guitar, he was not much of a military man …

Playing guitar became a near obsession for Hendrix. He played so much that he neglected his duties. He was not a qualified marksman. He was regularly found napping. He failed to report for bed checks. He was regularly taunted and abused by his peers. And by February 1962, he was in hot water with his superiors for poor personal conduct. 

In June of that same year, Hendrix received an honourable general discharge. According to Hendrix, it was because of an ankle injury he suffered during a parachute jump. But no records have ever surfaced to confirm this. 

James C Spears, Hendrix’s sergeant, did however file a report around the same time. In it, he said, “[Hendrix] has no interest whatsoever in the Army … It is my opinion that Private Hendrix will never come up to the standards required of a soldier. I feel that the military service will benefit if he is discharged as soon as possible.” 

A few months later, in September 1962, Cox was also discharged. Cox played regularly with Hendrix, as well as other well-known artists, over the years.  

Other Notable Rock Events From May 31

1961 – Berryland opens near St Louis. Owned by Check Berry, the amusement park had a zoo, golf course, guitar-shaped pool, and Ferris wheel. 

1964 – Dave Clark Five appear on the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time. 

1966 – The Monkee’s first TV show begins filming. 

1969 – John Lennon and Yoko Ono record “Give Peace a Chance.”

1969 – Jimmy Hendrix gets featured on the cover of the Rolling Stone. 

1969 – The Rolling Stones recorded “Honky Tonk Women.”

1969 – Stevie Wonder released “My Cherie Amour.”

1973 – George Harrison throws John Bonham’s own birthday cake in his face. In retaliation, John Bonham throws Harrison into the pool. 

1974 – Sundown by Gordon LIghtfoot is certified gold. 

1975 – The Rolling Stones performed live on a moving flatbed truck in New York. 

1976 – The Who set the Guinness World Record for Loudest Rock Band. The performance was held at Charlton Athletic Football Ground and was 120 dB. Guinness eventually stopped certifying the record due to the risk of hearing loss. 

1976 – “Got To Get You Into My Life” by The Beatles is released as a single 10 years after it first appeared on Revolver. 

1977 – “God Save The Queen” by the Sex Pistols was banned in the UK. BBC announced that any radio stations playing the song would be in breach of the Broadcasting Act. The song became a #2 single in the UK. 

1982 – R.E.M. signs a five-album record deal with an independent label out of California – I.R.S. Records

1985 – The Parents Music Resource Center, led by Al Gore’s wife, sends their first letter to RIAA asking for albums and concerts to have a rating system. This eventually led to stickers on albums warning of offensive lyrics. 

1986 – Peter Gabriel’s album So makes it to #1 o the UK charts. 

1989 – David Bowie’s Tin Machine played at the International Music Awards in New York, making their live debut. 

1993 – Alan McGee declares, “’I’ve found the greatest rock ‘n’ roll band since The Beatles,” after seeing Oasis play in Glasgow Scotland. 

2004 – Jon Bon Jovi and his wife Dorothea Hurley welcome their first child, Stephanie Rose. 

2005 – Strawberry Field, the orphanage that inspired the similarly named song, closed.  

2014 – Led Zeppelin was sued by Randy California for stealing his song “Taurus” for the intro of “Stairway to Heaven.” 

2016 – Midwest Medical Examiner’s Office in Minnesota releases a report that says Prince died from an accidental fentanyl overdose. 

Rock Birthdays

1938 – Peter Yarrow of Peter, Paul & Mary (Vocals)

1948 – John Bonham of Led Zeppelin (Drums)

1948 – Paulinho da Costa who worked with Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Elton John, and more (Percussion) 

1948 – Mike Edwards of Electric Light Orchestra (Cello)

1952 – Jim Vallance who worked with Bryan Adams and more (Producer) 

1964 – MC Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run D.M.C. (Vocals)

1980 – Andrew John Hurley of Fall Out Boy (Drums)

On This Day In History – May 31

May 31 has proven to be a significant date in the annals of rock history, marked by events that shaped the course of the genre and the lives of its legendary figures.

From Jimi Hendrix enlisting in the military to the debut appearance of Dave Clark Five on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1964 to John Lennon and Yoko Ono recording the timeless anthem “Give Peace a Chance” in 1969, each occurrence left a mark on the genre’s history.