50 Years Ago: Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell and Others Hold MLK Tribute Jam
On the evening of April 4, 1968, the great Martin Luther King was shot down in Memphis, Tenn. The news shocked and angered the world as it tore people apart, and in other cases, brought them together via music.
According to Joni Mitchell's website, a few nights later, on April 7, at a small club in New York City called the Generation Club, a group of musicians including Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, Al Kooper, B.B. King, and according to legend, Ted Nugent, bonded together in grief held an impromptu jam session in tribute to King.
(We reached out to Nugent, and he indicates that people must be confusing two different nights: "I did indeed jam with BB King, Al Kooper, Elvin Bishop, Buddy Miles, Rick Derringer, Steve Winwood, Jimi and others in N.Y.C. around that time. Joni Mitchell was never a part of any jams I was involved in.")
The evening began with a performances by Mitchell and Guy (a video of Guy's take on "Stormy Monday" with Hendrix watching is embedded above). Eventually Hendrix made his presence known, and before long it was a full-on jam session tribute to Dr. King. Though a track titled "Ezy Rider" / "MLK Jam" appeared on the 2006 Dagger Records compilation, Burning Desire, it is not the fabled late night jam in question.
The same night in Boston, Mayor Kevin White and city councilman Tom Atkins feared the onset of riots in wake of King's assassination. They called on none other than James Brown to calm the city. Brown's scheduled concert at the Boston Garden was, at last minute notice, aired live over public television station WGBH in an attempt to keep people home. The concert did the job, as police reported lower than average crime for a Friday night. On stage, Brown pleaded for people to be peaceful, and pleaded for the police to ease up. Both parties obliged.