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Reliving Jimi Hendrix’s last Toronto concert, 50 years after his death

Jimi Hendrix (Photo by Jeff Goode/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

Fifty years after the passing of Jimi Hendrix, the impression the guitarist left on Torontonians is still fresh.

Toronto musician Pete Faragher was only 13 when he scored tickets to his first concert, seeing the Jimi Hendrix Experience in 1969.

“When he announced the Maple Leaf Gardens show I begged my parents for $4.50 so I could go buy a ticket. So, we went down from Scarborough, took the streetcar down to Carlton Street to Maple Leaf Gardens.”

As an eighth grader, Faragher made the trip from the east end with classmates.

“Even just to be downtown as a Scarboroughite was a big deal, but the fact that I was in Maple Leaf Gardens was a bigger deal, and then the fact that it was Jimi Hendrix was incredible.”

Faragher says he and his friends were intimidated by the crowd.

“This was the coolest of the cool people and I was just like this little kid in the corner just sort of taking it all in, so the whole experience was mind-blowing.”

The show almost didn’t happen. Hendrix was arrested at the Toronto International Airport when RCMP officers found illegal drugs in his flight bag. He was later acquitted on all charges, but it would be the last show the guitarist played in Canada before his death at the age of 27.

Few people knew Hendrix quite like his recording engineer Eddie Kramer, who now calls Toronto home.

“I get a phone call from the front desk and there’s this lovely English lady who ran the studio with an iron fist, and she said ‘Eddie, there’s this American chappie with the big hair and you do all that weird stuff anyway and why don’t you do him’ and that’s literally how I got the gig.”

The pair worked closely together on Hendrix’s three studio records, and the live album Band of Gypsys.

“As our relationship grew over the 4 years, I knew what he was going to say,” Kramer recalls. “He’d say ‘hey man, I want some purple on that’ and I’d go ‘okay, I know exactly what you’re talking about.'” Hendrix thought of sounds as colours, he explains.

“Purple was one sound, green was another. Green was reverb.”

Even decades after his death, Kramer says he still sees Hendrix’s influence today.

“There’s just so much that he keeps teaching, even though he’s gone. Young kids today, 12-, 13-years-old are picking up on Jimi Hendrix… It affects every generation of musicians, and thank goodness I was lucky enough to work with him.”