Episode 020–Jimi Hendrix by Bruce Hilliard

Listen to this episode

A long time ago in a 1960s Galaxy far, far away there was a teen dance club between Seattle and Tacoma called the Spanish Castle Ballroom. Built in 1931, it was a caricature of an ancient Moorish fairytale storybook castle highlighted with neon lights.  It was located an area known as “Midway” located just outside of city limits in unincorporated county land (now Sea-Tac) in order to escape the towns’ efforts to minimize nightlife.
In late ‘50s through the ‘60s the venue featured touring attractions from Roy Orbison to Johnny Rivers and the Beach Boys.  Several local bands, the Wailers, the Sonics, the Kingsmen (“Louie Louie”) and the Amazing Aztecs (Merrilee Rush of “Angel of the Morning” fame on vocals and keyboards) also performed.
Pat O’Day, one of Seattle’s legendary DJs of the era tells a story of a skinny little kid that hung out there and offered to help out.  In those days guitar amplifiers were small, too small to crank up and play at the volumes the bands played.  To make matters worse they would plug two guitars into one amp. Consequently, the amps blew up and that would be the end of the music for the night.
According to O’Day, one night a skinny young kid came up to him and said, “I always have my amp in my car. It’s a big Gibson so if the amps ever blow you can use mine…as long as I can stand in back and play.  Don’t worry, I know all the licks they do.”
O’Day, recalling the incident in a 2011 interview goes on the explain that 2 or 3 weeks later, sure enough Tiny Tony and Statics were playing. They blew their amps.  So who came to the rescue?  The skinny kid showed up and asked O’Day if the band needed his amp.  The up and coming promoter said, “Yeah, go get it.”  The band played on.
Years later Pat O’Day, by this point one of the owners if Concerts West, the largest concert company in the world at the time, was sitting in a dressing room with client superstar Jimi Hendrix.  Jimi asked him, “Do you remember where we first met?”
Pat asked, “With the attorneys?”
“Do you remember the kid at the Spanish Castle that loaned you the amp when the band’s blew up?”
The kid was James Marshall Hendrix, a.k.a Jimi Hendrix, later the writer of “Spanish Castle Magic” from the album Axis Bold as Love.

Leave a Comment