Fans remember the day Jimi Hendrix rocked Dereham on 50th anniversary year of show
PUBLISHED: 08:24 23 January 2017
Ask most fans of legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix to name his most memorable performance of all time and thoughts of Woodstock, the Montery Pop Festival and Isle of Wight will usually come to mind.
But for music-lovers in Norfolk, Hendrix’s concert in Dereham, five decades ago, continues to reverberate loudly in the minds of those who were lucky enough to attend.
With this year marking the 50th anniversary of that show, many are sharing their memories of that special day which has gone down as a pinnacle moment in Dereham and Norfolk’s musical history.
The Jimi Hendrix Experience played at The Wellington Club, previously called The Tavern Club, where Dereham’s Hollywood Cinema now stands, on Saturday, October 7, 1967.
He was booked by a 22-year-old Brian Cross, who became a well-known businessman and later mayor of Dereham.
Nick Sands, 67, was 17 when he saw the show and remembers the story well.
He said: “Brian Cross had booked The Jimi Hendrix Experience to come to Dereham at a very reasonable rate as Jimi was not yet well known and playing the smaller clubs of England.
“The original date was to have been in January 1967, but it was cancelled because Jimi had to rush to the De Lane Lea studios in London and record a follow-up record to Hey Joe. A deal was done that Jimi would honour the date later and at the same fee.
“That record would be the world smash hit Purple Haze and by the time The Jimi Hendrix Experience came to Dereham in October they had toured America, played the famous Monterey Festival, played three times at London’s Saville Theatre and were due two nights after their Norfolk visit to perform at The Paris Olympia - put in a nutshell they were the hottest thing on the planet.
“Brian had pulled of the musical deal of his career and being the shrewd businessman, the ticket price went up, although the fee stayed the same.”
Mr Cross, who died from a rare brain cancer in 2006, at the age of 62, went on to start the Big Fry fish and chip chain in 1969 and became one of the biggest blackcurrant growers in East Anglia
His widow Sally Cross, who lives in Gressenhall, said: “The fact that Brian managed to bring Jimi Hendrix to little old Dereham was still talked about many years later - he loved talking about it.”
Hendrix fans from all over the country walked, hitch hiked and caught buses to Dereham to see the show.
Tracks performed included Purple Haze, Hey Joe, Foxy Lady and The Wind Cries Mary.
Stories have resurfaced that Hendrix delivered a lively performance, with extravagant solos, playing guitar with his teeth and smashing spotlights as well as the Wellington Club’s ceiling .
Mike Baldry, 67, who worked for a Dereham building company at the time, saw the show and helped to repair the ceiling on the Monday morning.
He said: “I remember reading in Melody Maker magazine some time later that Brian Cross had taken the ceiling repairs off Hendrix’s fee. He was a very astute businessman and that was typical of Brian.”
He added: “There was a real buzz in Dereham at the time of the show and there was a great music scene.
“Other bands including Cream and The Small Faces also played in the town.
“The musicians weren’t too fussy about where they played back then, as long as they got paid.
“I think they really enjoyed playing some of the smaller places and they just wanted as many people as possible to hear them play.”
Hendrix fan Olly Button, 28, from Dereham, who has been researching the concert, said: “I for one would love to see a Hendrix tribute act play in Dereham on the 50th anniversary to recreate the gig.”
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