It happened a little over 50 years ago, but people still remember it like it was just yesterday. Jimi Hendrix came to The Wellington Club in Norfolk on a Saturday, back in early October of 1967 – in the middle of one of the most pivotal decades in western music. Back then, it wasn’t at all unusual for emerging names to grace small, nondescript music venues in unknown towns. Shindig Magazine looks back at this fiery era of live music in Norfolk, in which Dereham saw the likes of The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Pink Floyd, The Action, Rod Stewart, Geno Washington, and The Small Faces play live in less-than-ideal venues to chaotic crowds.
Hendrix even had to take a pay cut when his onstage moves caused his Stratocaster to pierce through the Wellington Club’s false ceiling and take out a couple lights in the process, all while bouncers chucked water at the crowd to literally cool the packed venue down. Although the legendary gig happened over half a century ago, Hendrix’s fire still burns in Dereham.
Just last year, tribute bands came together at different Dereham clubs to celebrate the 50th year of the occasion. Hundreds of blues, rock, and psychedelic fans came from all over the UK to witness the celebration. Known tribute act Purple Jimi played at the Railway Tavern pub to a full capacity crowd. Meanwhile, the Norfolk Blues Society took the reins at another local pub called The Metro, featuring the Norfolk Blues Society Band, Against the Grain, and Ron Sayer and Friends. The crowds included everyone, from new and young fans of psychedelic, face-melting blues to long-time Norfolk residents who were at the original Hendrix gig that put Dereham on the map.
Note, however, that the gig at the Wellington was actually the second time that Jimi Hendrix played in Norfolk. The first time was on the 25th of January, 1967 – a few months prior to the Dereham gig. This one happened in Norwich, at a small venue called The Orford Cellar. What’s memorable about this one is that apart from arriving late and prompting people to almost ask for refunds, Hendrix also said that this was the gig that gave him his first actual big break. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was booked for just £39, and tickets were sold for a mere 7p. People back then had no idea how much of a bargain it was to pay so little to hear arguably the greatest psychedelic blues guitarist in history play live!
Today, the Orford Cellar is known for being a venue that managed to book some of the biggest names in music before they became legends. Apart from Hendrix, their roster of greats includes David Bowie, Eric Clapton, Rod Stewart, Elton John, and Ginger Baker. The way The Orford Cellar carefully curated their live music acts is why the tiny venue has been known as an influential tastemaker since the ’60s. This reputation was finally officially recognised by the county of Norwich via a plaque at the cellar’s entrance, which was installed back in 2010.
It’s no surprise that Jimi Hendrix’s footprints still cause ripples in music and culture today. Tribute gigs and plaques in long-standing music venues are just some of the reminders of his psychedelic legacy. There’s also the 2013 film Jimi: All Is by My Side, which starred Outkast’s André Benjamin as the iconic musician. The superstar’s global influence is also seen through the Foxy Bingo game ‘Jimi Hendrix’, which has helped a new generation of fans appreciate his music. The legendary figure takes centre stage in this game, set against the backdrop of his original songs and graphics that provide good-old ’60s’ psychedelic nostalgia.
Whether it’s digital gaming, movies, actual tribute gigs, or new music being undoubtedly influenced by his original sound, Jimi Hendrix’s legacy lives on, and Norfolk will forever miss him.