Why Jimi Hendrix Played Last

Jimi Playing Monday Morning

Jimi Playing Monday Morning

As you might remember Jimi Hendrix played last at Woodstock in 1969. He ended up playing on Monday morning to only a fraction of the 400,000 people who were actually there.


Well it was his choice. Michael Lang the promoter wanted him to play Sunday night at about midnight when plenty of people would still be there. But he and his management refused.

Why would they be so crazy?

It was all about money and egos. Jimi’s manager, Michael Jeffrey, insisted that Jimi would be the headliner and get paid the most. And because he was the headliner he would go on last.

Michael Lang had a philosophy for Woodstock that it wouldn’t be about “stars” or “money” but about the music and the communal spirit. His vision was that no band would be treated “special” and the maximum he would pay would be $15,000. It was even put into all the contracts… something he called the “favored nation status” claus. No particular bands would be given that status.

Hendrix had been getting close to $100,000 at the time because he was the hottest act in the music scene.

So the negotiations began…

Lang also wanted all the bands to appear on the poster and in advertisements as being equal with no band getting top billing or larger font sizes. Jimi Hendrix’s management insisted he appear on top and get paid more than anyone else. His agent, white patten-leather-shoe-wearing Ron Terry, was sent to do the final haggling. He insisted on $50,000.

So Lang offered Terry a solution… $30,000 to play 2 sets… one set would open the show acoustically and then he would close on Sunday night. After a phone call to manager Jeffrey, some discussion, and an extra $2000 for expenses, Jeffrey agreed.

But Hendrix never did play that acoustic set. He never showed up that Friday. He didn’t arrive until Sunday around noon.

And by the way…

The Jimi Hendrix Experience, with Mitch Mitchell on drums and Noel Redding on bass, had disbanded in June. So Hendrix’s band at Woodstock was called, Gypsy, Sun and Rainbows. He later would change the name to Band of Gypsies.

When Hendrix and his band finally showed up on Sunday, Michael Lang offered to let him go on Sunday night at midnight. But his manager, Michael Jeffrey insisted he go on last, no matter what time it was.

It turned out he didn’t go on until 8:30 Monday morning… to no more than 40,000 people. It still was one of Jimi Hendrix’s most memorable shows. The highlight of course being Jimi’s version of the Star Spangled Banner.

Who was in the band that morning?

  • Billy Cox on bass
  • Mitch Mitchell on drums
  • Juma Sultan and Gerry Velez on percussion
  • and Larry Lee on rhythm guitar

Why a new band?

Jimi said… “We got tired of the Experience and every once in a while we were blowing our minds too much, so we decided to change the whole thing around and call it Gypsy, Sun, and Rainbows.”

I wonder if that really is the truth. All we know for sure is that Jimi Hendrix played last on Monday to only 40,000 people. He died a little over a year later.

Some of the information for this post came from Road To Woodstock by Michael Lang. Here’s the link to learn more about it.

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One Response to “Why Jimi Hendrix Played Last”

  1. August 13, 2009 at 11:38 am #

    In honor of Jimi Hendrix, who headlined the festival in 1969, 3,000 guitar players will attempt to break the World’s Record for the Largest Guitar Ensemble playing “Purple Haze” — all at the same time!

    To Regester:

    This will all take place at West Fest, in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park on October 25, 2009.

    Be there!