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Jimi Hendrix Gets Star on Walk of Fame

November 22, 1991|JOSH MEYER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Hundreds of fans watched the unveiling of a Hollywood Walk of Fame star honoring rock legend Jimi Hendrix Thursday, but only Chris Williams had the audacity to bring an electric guitar.

The longhaired Malibu resident spent the morning vigorously strumming off-key renditions of tunes Hendrix had turned into pyrotechnic masterpieces.

"This is sacred!" exclaimed Williams, 22, calling the star ceremony "a celebration of his music, his existence, his memory. Jimi Hendrix took it all the way, man, as far as you can take it, musically."

Shortly thereafter, Hendrix, perhaps the most renowned and notorious of the electric guitar heroes, got his posthumous commemoration in grand Hollywood style, more than 20 years after his drug-related death in 1970 at age 27.

The event was part media circus and part outpouring of admiration for the shy guitarist from Seattle who stormed the music scene in 1967 with such hits as "Hey Joe" and "Purple Haze."

Hendrix's father, Al, and brother, Leon, came from Seattle, and a gaggle of musical celebrities who either played with Hendrix or idolized him also showed up.

"It's been a long time coming," said Al Hendrix, sporting a black beret and appearing a bit choked up. "But better late than never."

Mashed together were rockers with Technicolor hair, T-shirt hawkers, transients and camera-toting tourists, toddlers, gray-haired hippies and corporate types. A police officer estimated the crowd at 600--three times the average for a Walk of Fame ceremony.

The star is in front of Book City Collectibles in the 6600 block of Hollywood Boulevard.

Hendrix is widely credited with redefining his craft. His guitar virtuosity, his penchant for torching his instruments and his stunning performance at Woodstock, when he made "The Star-Spangled Banner" sound as if it were being played by an air-raid siren, are indelible images from the late '60s.

"He's transcendent, a psychedelic soldier," said Robert Rider of Hollywood.

Chip Branton, producer of Hendrix albums released since his death, said he has nominated Hendrix for seven years, to no avail.

Finally, Hendrix's star, the 1,943rd on the boulevard, was sponsored by Warner/Reprise Records, which paid the $4,800 necessary for the ceremony. It just so happens that Reprise is releasing a boxed set of four Hendrix compact discs soon.

Johnny Grant, head of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce committee that determines who gets honored with a star, said that's what usually happens: A star is granted only after a sponsor pledges to pick up the tab.

And, Grant said, "they either want to do it on their birthday, on an anniversary or when they are releasing a new album."

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