Leon Hendrix Weaves a Tale of Brotherly Love

Jimi Hendrix: A Brother's Story By Leon Hendrix with Adam Mitchell Thomas Dunne Books, 276 pp. $25.99

Memoirs about rock stars written by family members, friends, ex-wives and quickie backstage assignations are a wildly divergent lot that alternately take the narrative tracks of score-settling, axe-grinding, deification or exploitation.

Fortunately, this effort by Jimi Hendrix's younger brother is a mostly sweet remembrance of the rock legend, heavy on tales of their youthful adventures (and misadventures) as Leon and the brother everyone called "Buster" (after Flash Gordon serial actor Buster Crabbe and Jimi's love of science fiction) grew up under less than ideal circumstances.

Al and Lucille Hendrix seemed to go through dozens of intense breakups, reconciliations, affairs and children whose parentage was in question. That they both liked to drink and party regularly often meant that the boys would dine on two-day-old spaghetti while Al slept off a bender.

After Lucille died and child protective workers felt the home situation wasn't good, Leon was shipped off to a foster home, though he saw father and brother often.

But even at an early age, Leon writes of Jimi's innate understanding and unquenchable desire for music -- to learn about it, play it and live it. Once, Al came home to find the family radio in pieces and thus unusable.

When he furiously asked young Jimi what he thought he was doing, the boy replied, "I was looking for where the music came from." And Jimi's first instrument? Not the guitar, but a ukulele!

Leon and Al hadn't seen Jimi in seven years when the guitarist returned home after a stint in the army, years of gigging as a backup guitarist on the chitlin' circuit, and then finally the release of his own groundbreaking record, Are You Experienced?, and worldwide fame.

The generous rocker quickly showered family with material and monetary gifts, later taking Leon on the road where he got his fair share of free drugs and love.

"Make sure you let Jimi know you got the best pussy you ever had last night," Leon recalls one lovely lady asking him to pass on. It wouldn't be the last time that a willing groupie would gladly entertain Leon when Jimi was otherwise occupied.

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Bob Ruggiero has been writing about music, books, visual arts and entertainment for the Houston Press since 1997, with an emphasis on classic rock. He used to have an incredible and luxurious mullet in college as well. He is the author of the band biography Slippin’ Out of Darkness: The Story of WAR.
Contact: Bob Ruggiero