August 29, 2018

Jimi Hendrix scores with gym concert 50 years ago at Physical Education West

Editor's note: This is the first in an occasional series shining a spotlight on pieces of ASU's past.

Tucked between the Memorial Union and the Computing Commons is a hidden piece of the Tempe campus’ history.

Fifty years ago, Physical Education Building West was known as the Sun Devil Gym and was the main basketball and gymnastics facility. But for one evening in February, it hosted the Jimi Hendrix Experience in front of a crowd of 3,000 fans.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

“Hendrix rocked this house with his wailing guitar and his feedback and distortion,” said University Archivist Rob Spindler. “… Hendrix was known as an acrobatic guitar player, playing behind his head, between his legs — even burning his guitar at the Monterey Pop Festival the year before.”

Hendrix warmed up in the locker room beforehand and sported a Native American choker, Afghan-style coat, bell-bottoms and his signature hat. He played a white-and-rosewood Fender Stratocaster.

“To see Hendrix in this small gym, in such close quarters must have been incredible! Unfortunately, the play list has long been lost,” said Spindler, who is known to rock out on guitar himself.

As one State Press reporter put it, “It was a good Experience.”

Top photo: Jimi Hendrix warmed up his Fender Stratocaster in the ASU locker room with actor Pat McMahon on Feb. 5, 1968. Photo courtesy of TJ Franklink Photography