“Save some film for this Hendrix cat…” How one photographer made Jimi an icon

A photograph of Jimi Hendrix on stage
(Image credit: Ed Caraeff)

I was the high-school photographer. It wasn’t my career plan, I was just really into photography, and my photography teacher, Mr Meade, was accessible and caring, not like any teacher I had before.

I was listening to the radio, and heard that a band I really liked, The Seeds, were arriving at LAX the next day. Since the school was only eight minutes away, I skipped out at lunchtime, went to the airport and took photos of the band with my school’s camera equipment. A lady executive from The Seeds’ label handed me her business card and told me to bring her those photos for her to see – and my rock’n’roll photography career started, though I didn’t know it at the time.

A few years later, and after working as much as I could taking and selling photos of the bands that would come through Hollywood, I heard about the Monterey Pop Festival. Through my connections I scored a press photo pass. I went with some friends, including Rodney Bingenheimer. Rodney was then – and still is – the go-to guy in LA for anything cool, hip or happening. When it was time for Hendrix to take the stage, no one really knew who he was. I’ll never forget this, though: a German photographer told me, “Save some film for this Jimi Hendrix cat.”

It was a wild, raw performance. As his set finished, Hendrix got down on his knees with lighter fluid and matches, and lit his guitar on fire. I was so close I could feel the heat from the flames.

A few days later, after I went back to school to develop the photos, Rodney mentioned where Hendrix was staying. I wanted to make sure I was showing the best of my work, and laboured over the prints until I was happy with them.

Hendrix was staying at a two-story motel on Sunset Boulevard. I went in and asked the guy at the front desk:“Is Jimi Hendrix here?” And he said he was over by the pool.

Sure enough, there he was. He was laying there in a blue Speedo with a cigarette in one hand and a drink in the other; there were two beautiful, friendly blonde girls in bikinis hanging around. I went right up to him and told him that I had these shots from Monterey and showed him the prints I made. He called Michael Jeffery, and got him to come down to the pool. Jeffery was working with Chas Chandler to manage Hendrix at that time. Jeffery came down, looked at the prints and signed-off on them. They pretty much invited me to come along to future gigs to photograph. And that’s really how my relationship with Hendrix began…

Burning Desire: The Jimi Hendrix Experience Through The Lens Of Ed Caraeff, published by ACC Editions and Iconic Images, is available wherever books are sold. www.iconicimages.net

Used with kind permission.

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