Misc Noel Redding, Mitch Mitchell and Jimi Hendrix, captured backstage by Linda McCartney. London.

Published on August 25th, 2023 | by AlexandreG.


Mitch Mitchell: The Remarkable Drumming Legend Behind Jimi Hendrix

When we talk about Jimi Hendrix, the focus often turns, and rightfully so, to his trailblazing guitar work, his magnetic stage presence, and his soulful voice. However, to understand the full force of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, one cannot overlook the tremendous contribution of drummer Mitch Mitchell. The man behind the drum kit was just as instrumental in shaping the iconic sound of one of rock’s most influential trios.

The Early Years Of Mitch Mitchell

Born John Ronald Mitchell on July 9, 1946, in Ealing, London, Mitch showed a proclivity for rhythm from a young age. Before joining Hendrix, Mitchell had already carved a niche for himself in the UK music scene, playing with the likes of Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames. It was this extensive jazz background that made him a perfect fit for the improvisational spirit of the Experience.

Mitch and Jimi: A Match Made in Musical Heaven

In 1966, after Hendrix arrived in London, his manager, Chas Chandler, began the process of putting together a backing band that would eventually become the iconic Jimi Hendrix Experience. Among the musicians auditioned for the drumming role was Mitch Mitchell.

Mitchell’s jazz-infused style immediately caught Hendrix’s attention. Both were heavily influenced by the creativity and freedom found in jazz music, and they connected musically right from the start. Mitchell’s approach to the drums was a perfect fit for Hendrix’s innovative guitar style. He had a free-flowing style that had hints of Elvin Jones and other jazz greats but with a rock twist that made the music of the Jimi Hendrix Experience truly unique.

The Evolution and Return of Mitch Mitchell

Mitchell holding Noel Reddings bass backstage.
Credit: Ed Caraeff

Following the golden era of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, tensions and differing visions for the band’s future began to surface. One significant shift was the departure of Mitch Mitchell from the Experience. The precise reasons for his exit were multifaceted. As is often the case with rock bands, a combination of personal dynamics, musical direction, and the pressures of rapid success can strain relationships.

While Hendrix momentarily transitioned to the Band of Gypsys, it saw a change in the drum seat, with Buddy Miles taking over the percussion duties. This new ensemble showcased a different musical direction for Hendrix, leaning more towards funk and soul, which was a departure from the psychedelic rock sound of the Experience. However, this venture was short-lived.

Recognizing the musical alchemy they once shared, Hendrix and Mitchell reunited, this time with Billy Cox on bass, essentially reincarnating the Experience. This revamped trio, even though not officially dubbed “The Experience”, evoked much of the band’s original spirit and energy. In the year 1970, they embarked on a whirlwind of concerts, demonstrating that their collective magic was very much alive. This period also saw them returning to the studio, laying down tracks that would further solidify their legacy in rock history.

Mitchell’s return to the fold showcased not only his personal and professional bond with Hendrix but also the undeniable chemistry that the two shared on stage and in the studio. Even amidst changes and challenges, the heart of the Experience, powered by Mitchell’s drumming finesse and Hendrix’s guitar genius, continued to beat strong until Hendrix’s death.

Mitch Mitchell’s Contributions to Hendrix’s Posthumous Releases

After the tragic death of Jimi Hendrix in 1970, there remained a wealth of unreleased recordings. Mitch Mitchell played a crucial role in ensuring that this material saw the light of day, and in a manner that would do justice to Hendrix’s legacy.

“The Cry of Love” was the first of these posthumous releases, arriving in 1971. Mitchell’s drumming on this album is as intricate and expressive as ever, complementing Hendrix’s masterful guitar work on tracks like “Freedom” and “Angel.” Mitchell, along with engineer Eddie Kramer, took the reins in completing and mixing the album. Their intimate knowledge of Hendrix’s vision ensured that “The Cry of Love” was a fitting tribute to the late guitarist.

Mitchell was also involved in subsequent posthumous releases, such as “War Heroes” and “Rainbow Bridge.” His dedication to preserving the artistic integrity of these albums was evident. While posthumous albums often stir debate among fans and critics, Mitchell’s involvement provided a genuine link to the original spirit of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

What’s the Best Song featuring Mitch Mitchell on Drums?

When discussing the best songs showcasing Mitch Mitchell’s drumming, “Manic Depression” from the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut album “Are You Experienced?” stands out. This track captures the essence of Mitchell’s jazz-inspired, yet rock-oriented drumming style. His dynamic fills, intricate patterns, and powerful playing complement Hendrix’s guitar virtuosity. The song’s rolling triplet feel offers a platform for Mitchell to demonstrate both technical brilliance and emotive expression. The symbiotic relationship between Hendrix and Mitchell in this song is a testament to the drummer’s integral role in shaping the iconic sound of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

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Maybe the best performance of Mitch Mitchell for The Experience. Manic Depression – Are You Experienced?

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