With Experience Hendrix and Legacy Recordings having previously reissued Jimi Hendrix’s core catalogue as well as more unexpected offerings like The Cry of Love and Rainbow Bridge, where to go next? The answer is back to the very beginning – which, as always, is a very good place to start. You Can’t Use My Name: Curtis Knight & The Squires (Featuring Jimi Hendrix) The RSVP/PPX Sessions is the first in a series of releases intended to place the legendary guitarist’s pre-fame recordings in the context of his subsequent career. This fourteen-track collection, derived from sessions in 1965 and 1966 (plus one July 1967 recording), will be available on CD and 150-gram vinyl LP on March 24.
It’s well known that before launching his incendiary solo career, Jimi Hendrix apprenticed with a variety of artists including The Isley Brothers, the late, great Don Covay, Little Richard, and the Harlem-based R&B combo Curtis Knight & The Squires. The latter group (and the subject of this release) was managed and produced by one Ed Chalpin, founder of PPX International. Chalpin’s main business was recording cover versions of U.S. hits for international markets with overdubbed, translated lyrics, but he also had hopes to diversify into original material.
In October 1965, leader Curtis Knight introduced Jimmy Hendrix to Chalpin. After their initial recording session yielded Knight’s “How Would You Feel,” Chalpin signed the future legend to a rather draconian three-year contract (for one dollar and a one-percent royalty). In 1966, Chalpin licensed two singles from Hendrix’s sessions with Curtis Knight to RSVP Records, a New York-based independent label owned by Jerry Simon: “How Would You Feel” b/w “Welcome Home” and “Hornet’s Nest” b/w “Knock Yourself Out.” The latter two instrumental tracks were composed by Hendrix and represent the first commercial releases of his own music. But as both singles failed to chart, RSVP didn’t follow up with a third 45. Throughout 1966, however, Hendrix continued to perform and record as a member of Curtis Knight and the Squires as well as with his own group Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. His work with the latter outfit led to producer Chas Chandler’s spotting him in Greenwich Village…and the rest is history.
The Curtis Knight recordings (many of which had been left in the can) became controversial artifacts of Hendrix’s early career in no time flat, as Ed Chalpin soon asserted his right to Hendrix’s recordings made between October 1965 and October 1968. Beginning in May 1967, Chalpin had begun notifying every company he could identify as doing business with Hendrix that PPX held Hendrix’s contract covering the term between October 1965 and October 1968. (Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland were all recorded during that period.) He filed suits against labels including Reprise Records and Polydor/Track. Beginning in December 1967, the same month Axis arrived in stores, Chalpin began to produce and license product featuring Hendrix’s early recordings. As became custom for the “before the fame” packages that have dogged artists from Steely Dan to Elton John, many of these sets were adorned with photos of the contemporary Hendrix. 1967’s Get That Feeling was followed by 1968’s Flashing (both on Capitol Records); in subsequent years the Chalpin recordings have been packaged and repackaged.
Following the 2003 resolution of a lawsuit between the Hendrix estate and Ed Chalpin and PPX, Experience Hendrix has acquired all of these recordings. This 14-track anthology includes Hendrix’s compositions “Hornet’s Nest” and “Knock Yourself Out,” as well as “How Would You Feel” and “Welcome Home,” both of which earned Jimmy Hendrix his first credits as arranger. Access to the original session tapes has also allowed Experience Hendrix to present a track (“Gloomy Monday”) made in August 1967 prefaced by Hendrix’s request that Chalpin not use his name to promote the recording he was about to make. By the time of that session, Are You Experienced had already been released and work was underway on Axis. Hendrix’s admonition (which, alas, fell on deaf ears) gives this release its title.
Longtime Hendrix associate Eddie Kramer was tasked with overseeing the sound of this new release. “We’ve taken every single performance as far back as we could go in terms of source and we came up with the best original performances, stripped them back and re-mixed them and made what we feel is the best representation of those recordings,” says Kramer in the press release. “It’s a continuing archeological sound dig which is to say you sweep away the dirt with a fine brush and find the gem hidden therein. It’s what I call ‘forensic audio’ where we use every available piece of outboard gear and plug-ins and whatever tools are available to us. It’s been hours and hours of intensive work but it’s truly been fun to find the best performances and to make sense out of them.”
The first fruits of Kramer and Experience Hendrix’s labor with these early recordings arrives on March 24 from Legacy Recordings. You can pre-order You Can’t Use My Name: Curtis Knight & The Squires (Featuring Jimi Hendrix) – The RSVP/PPX Sessions at the links below!
- How Would You Feel (RSVP 1120, 1966)
- Gotta Have a New Dress (Shell 45-312, 1962 – later re-recorded with Hendrix)
- Don’t Accuse Me
- Fool for You Baby
- No Such Animal
- Welcome Home (RSVP 1120, 1966)
- Knock Yourself Out (Flying on Instruments) (RSVP 1124, 1966)
- Simon Says
- Station Break
- Strange Things
- Hornet’s Nest (RSVP 1124, 1966)
- You Don’t Want Me
- You Can’t Use My Name
- Gloomy Monday
Tracks 1, 2, 6, 8, 10 included on Get That Feeling, Capitol ST-2856, 1967
Tracks 3, 4, 11, 14 included on Flashing, Capitol ST-2894, 1968