Remember When Jimi Hendrix Got Kicked Out Of The Army For Masturbating?

History
Jimi Hendrix performs at Golden Bear raceway in Sacramento, California on April 26, 1970.
Photo by Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Before Jimi Hendrix was a living icon, knocking out psychedelic guitar riffs and counterculture ballads that remained relevant after his untimely death on Sept. 18, 1970 — 47 years ago — he was a soldier in the U.S. Army. The man who once set his left-handed Stratocaster ablaze after playing it with his teeth wore olive-drab fatigues and a military cover before swapping them in for tie-dye shirts and headbands. But the way he left the service was as epic as any of his guitar licks.


James Marshall Hendrix’s short tenure in the service — exactly one year — began after he was arrested in connection with a Seattle car-robbery spree in 1961 and given a choice: serve two years in prison, or enlist in the military. Hendrix opted for the Army and enlisted in May 1961, getting assigned to the 101st Airborne. Almost from the start, Hendrix had doubts about military service, writing back home to his father after arriving at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, about the physical hardships of uniformed life.

Pvt. James Marshall Hendrix while in the Army.Photo via Wikimedia Commons

“There’s nothing but physical training and harassment here for two weeks, then when you go to jump school, that’s when you get hell,” Hendrix wrote in the letter, according to Steven Roby and Brad Schreiber’s 2010  biography Becoming Jimi Hendrix. “They work you to DEATH, fussing and fighting.”

Already a skilled guitarist while stationed at Fort Campbell, Hendrix was instantly drawn to the thriving music scene an hour away in Nashville, Tennessee. His late-night shows out at clubs and bars often put him at odds with military life.

He was frequently the subject of numerous counselings and disciplinary reports, and after repeatedly missing bed checks on base — due to playing late-night gigs out in town — Hendrix was demoted from private first class to private. In his defense, Hendrix wrote that his delayed return to base was “due to payday activities and [the] weekend,” Roby and Schreiber write in Becoming Jimi Hendrix.

They flag a report by Hendrix’s squad leader, Gerd H.K. Klepper, who wrote that “Private Hendrix has been found sleeping on duty several times, he has been given extra training as a corrective action on numerous occasions but to no avail.

Related: That Time The Army Had To Save All The Anti-War Hippies At Woodstock From Starvation »

“In my opinion,” Klepper concluded, “Private Hendrix is unsuitable to military service and should be eliminated from the service.”

The list of infractions grew, including “failure to pay overdue laundry expenses” and, finally, the kicker on April 26, 1962: getting caught masturbating in the latrine when he was supposed to be on a work detail. Roby and Schreiber cite this report written by Hendrix’s squadmate, Pvt. James Maddox:

There were six of us working pairs… Every once in awhile I would catch Hendrix setting down on his footlocker or laying down on his bunk trying to get some sleep. Around 1000 hours I looked all over the squad bay for Hendrix buy couldn’t find him… I then went into the latrine and saw Hendrix sitting in the last commode. I thought he was sitting there sleeping I stood on the stool in the commode next to his and looked into his commode, there sat Hendrix masturbating himself. At that time [Private Stroble] came into the latrine and I motioned him to come over and witness what was happening. He took a look and then went back into the squad bay and started working again.

Following the incident, Hendrix was honorably discharged from the military due an ankle injury incurred during a jump, which allowed him to quietly leave the service. However Hendrix’s official May 31, 1962, discharge request reads: “Behavior problems, requires excessive supervision while on duty, little respect for regulations, apprehended masturbating in platoon area while supposed to be on detail.”

Image via Wikimedia Commons

“Psychologically, Jimi was unprepared to cope with the military,” Roby and Schreiber write, “yet he never lost respect for those in the armed services. He studiously avoided public discussions of Vietnam, opting instead for general comments on peace and unity.”

Jimi Hendrix performs at Golden Bear raceway in Sacramento, California on April 26, 1970.Photo by Larry Hulst/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

That feels like a bit of a stretch — but then again, even Hendrix’s iconic anti war song “Machine Gun,” is more of a visceral ride through a firefight than a staunch stand against the war, with Hendrix telling the audience at the Fillmore East in New York City on Jan. 1, 1970: “I’d like to dedicate this one to the ‘draggy’ scene that’s going on. All the soldiers that are fighting in Chicago, Milwaukee and New York. Oh yes, and all the soldiers fighting in Vietnam.”

Though his time in uniform was short-lived, it’s probably for the best. If Hendrix had never pissed off so many of his superiors and gotten kicked out, there’s a chance he’d never have been able to inspire so many thinkers, artists and political activists during the height of counterculture movement, and that would have been a terrible loss.

WATCH NEXT:

The Space Force has a name tape now

popular

The U.S. Space Force has a name tape for uniforms now. Get excited people.

In a tweet from its official account, the Space Force said its uniform name tapes have "touched down in the Pentagon," sharing a photo of it on the chest of Gen. John W. Raymond, the newly-minted Chief of Space Operations for the new service branch nested in the Department of the Air Force.

Read More

PALM BEACH, Fla. (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump gave a minute-to-minute account of the U.S. drone strikes that killed Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani in remarks to a Republican fund-raising dinner on Friday night, according to audio obtained by CNN.

With his typical dramatic flourish, Trump recounted the scene as he monitored the strikes from the White House Situation Room when Soleimani was killed.

Read More

The U.S. Navy will name its fourth Ford-class aircraft carrier after Doris Miller, an iconic World War II sailor recognized for his heroism during the Pearl Harbor attack, according to reports in The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and U.S. Naval Institute News.

Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly is expected to announce the naming of CVN-81 during a ceremony on Monday in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, according to USNI. Two of Miller's nieces are expected to be there, according to the Star-Advertiser.

Read More

Two immigrants, a pastor and an Army sergeant have been convicted of conspiracy to commit marriage fraud as part of an illegal immigration scheme, according to federal prosecutors.

Rajesh Ramcharan, 45; Diann Ramcharan, 37; Sgt. Galima Murry, 31; and the Rev. Ken Harvell, 60, were found guilty Thursday after a nine-day jury trial, according to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office in Colorado.

The conspiracy involved obtaining immigration benefits for Rajesh Ramcharan, Diann Ramcharan, and one of their minor children, the release said. A married couple in 2007 came to the U.S. from Trinidad and Tobago on visitor visas. They overstayed the visas and settled in Colorado.

Read More

DUBAI (Reuters) - Iran said on Saturday it was sending to Ukraine the black boxes from a Ukrainian passenger plane that the Iranian military shot down this month, an accident that sparked unrest at home and added to pressure on Tehran from abroad.

Iran's Tasnim news agency also reported the authorities were prepared for experts from France, Canada and the United States to examine information from the data and voice recorders of the Ukraine International Airlines plane that came down on Jan. 8.

The plane disaster, in which all 176 aboard were killed, has added to international pressure on Iran as it grapples with a long running row with the United States over its nuclear program that briefly erupted into open conflict this month.

Read More