Mitchell - a former child actor in British TV and film turned drummer – had developed his signature jazz rock drumming style and skills as a touring and session musician playing from 1962-66 with the likes of the Riot Squad and Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames.
Hendrix had auditioned many drummers by this time and could not find the right one to be a part of his new band until he met Mitchell. Mitchell, along with Hendrix on lead guitar and Noel Redding on bass guitar, formed The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Mitchell and Hendrix worked together for four years from 1966-70 with Redding replaced by Billy Cox in 1969. Recordings included their debut album Are You Experienced?, Axis: Bold as Love, Electric Ladyland, Smash Hits, the posthumous release of City of Love (produced by Mitchell and Eddie Kramer) and Rainbow Bridge.
A taste of that era can be bought in the form of memorabilia during a November 4 sale at Julien’s Auctions in Los Angeles. Hendrix Era: Property from the Estate of Mitch Mitchell is a section of the saleroom’s Idols & Icons: Rock ‘n’ Roll auction, offering a collection of Mitchell’s fine instruments, along with memorabilia, gear, wardrobe and ephemera.
Highlights of this collection include Mitchell’s drum kits, such as his beloved vintage Ludwig Silver Sparkle kit played at numerous concerts and in studio as a member of The Jimi Hendrix Experience (estimate $60,000-80,000); The Rock and Roll Circus Gretsch drum kit played in rehearsal with the super group Dirty Mac ($20,000-30,000) and the DW Siberian Tiger finish drum kit, whose brand of drums and equipment Mitchell endorsed later in his career (estimate: $10,000-20,000).
Also featured are Mitchell’s record awards, including an RIAA-certified multi-platinum award commemorating the sale of more than 2m copies of the MCA album, compact disc and cassette Electric Ladyland (estimate: $2000-4000). An RIAA-certified ‘gold’ record award commemorating the sale of more than 500,000 copies of the Reprise album and cassette The Jimi Hendrix Experience/Otis Redding, which went gold in 1970, is guided at $1000-2000.
The more eye-catching memorabilia comes from Mitchell’s psychedelic wardrobe worn for various performances and social engagements, including a 1960s blue velvet mod ensemble with a floral Deborah & Clare bespoke shirt and a pair of Anello and Davide Beatle style boots (estimate: $1000-2000). An emerald green custom-made snakeskin suit is estimated at $1000-2000.
Particularly garish is a 1960s multicolour shag coat that Noel Redding’s mother, Margaret, repaired using vintage yarns (estimate: $2000-3000).
Mitchell, devastated by Hendrix’s death in 1970, went on to play with Jack Bruce, Larry Coryell, Miles Davis and so many others. Mitchell continued to perform and tour until his death at the age of 62 in 2008 just five days after finishing a US tour celebrating The Jimi Hendrix Experience.
While The Beatles reign supreme certainly in the UK when it comes to the highest demand for entertainment memorabilia, Hendrix is also very popular: see ATG’s report on a note Hendrix wrote on the back of a packet of guitar strings in 1967 selling for £5700 at a recent Derbyshire auction.