Thursday, November 13, 2008

Drumobit: Mitch Mitchell

An era of rock history has drawn to a close with the death of Mitch Mitchell, last of the founder members of the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

London born, shortly after the end of the Second World War, Mitchell made an early entrance to showbusiness as a child actor. Fortunately, a passion for jazz led him astray and by the 1960s, he was drumming for a number of rock groups. He missed out on joining The Who after failing at an audition, but in the end that worked out alright for both The Who and Mitchell, as it left him free to take up a job the George Fame's backing band, The Blue Flames. Then, after they split, within a week he landed the job beating stuff behind Jimi Hendrix. Some sniffy critics will point out that, as a self-taught drummer, he often had trouble keeping up momentum during his solos - but surprisingly, this didn't seem to hold the Experience back any.

What did do for the band was the death of its focal figure, Hendrix, in 1970; this led to a glum period of jobbing drumming for Mitchell - including a spell working with Ramatam and Hinkley’s Heroes. It hadn't helped that the Experience's manager, Michael Jeffery, had arranged a contract which had left Mitchell and bassist Noel Redding treated as freelance staff in their own band. With his earnings taking a dive, Mitchell was sometimes reduced to flogging memorabilia to make ends meet.

After a couple of decades of side-projects, tribute acts and disappointments, Mitchell entered semi-retirement at the start of the century. Shortly before his death he had been tempted to return to the drum stool for a US "Experience Hendrix" tour. He was found dead in his hotel in Portland early yesterday morning. He was 61; his death is believed to have been due to 'natural causes'.

[Thanks to Karl & Michael for the tips]