Bumping into Jimi Hendrix

jimi_hendrix

One of the differences in recording “No Shame” was that we recorded it in different sessions. Steve Hansen and I were going into the studio to record our parts for Mark Landon, we were walking down the hall when I bumped into this person carrying a guitar case, I said, “sorry man,” then I looked up and saw who I had bumped into. I had literally bumped into Jimi Hendrix. He was, gun slinging his Strat, wearing black leather pants, a black conquistador hat, Indian silver belt and rattlesnake jacket. I recognized him immediately. He was small in stature (but my being six foot five always put me a head above the crowd), he had his familiar afro hairstyle. We started talking, I explained that I played lead guitar for Hunger! I asked him why he burned his guitar on stage. He told me it was all about the current climate of the world with war. It was an expression of sacrifice in a small way that he could reach a mass audience. Like the burning Buddhist priest, the ultimate sacrifice to immolate himself. As far as I’m concerned the legend is for both the man and the myth. He may have been small in stature but he was a ten foot Buddha in how he projected himself, and he was very serious about peace and love throughout the world. He invited us in to watch him record, he was recording stereo versions of “Crosstown Traffic” and “Fire” both of which had been previously recorded for British release but in mono. He wanted stereo versions for the U.S. release of those songs, and he played the hell out of his guitar. Watching Jimi Hendrix play in the studio was magic. It was like the guitar was part of his body. It was just mesmerizing. There were sounds coming out the instrument that I had never heard before or since, he created a landscape that transported me someplace else. It wasn’t what he played, it was how he played. He was high on the music. In my opinion there’s no one that can come close to the power he possessed. I was just jaw dropped awe struck. That’s the closest I can come to explaining in words. He just wasn’t of this world. He had a presence about him like no one I’d ever known.

When he had finished doing the final mix on the songs I asked Jimi about his trademark upside down Stratocaster. He saw my Swept-Wing guitar and said, “you keep going man your going to be known for that Swept-Wing like I am with the Stratocaster. That body is something else! Where did you get it?” I told him the story of how I got the guitar. Jimi said he wouldn’t mind having one for his collection. He was pretty much locked in with Fender especially with his own sound. You know the really cool thing we were always playing the same venues but never at the same time. I still wonder to this day how great that would have been to be on the same stage with Jimi Hendrix, but back then I wasn’t aware of the legend he’d become. I just knew him as the guy who had a big hit with ‘Foxy Lady’. It wasn’t that uncommon to be associated with great musicians and artists on a daily basis. When he was done he said. “hey man, you want to use my amp? I’m done with my session, and it‘s all set-up.” That brought me back to the present like a deer in the headlights. I looked at him and said, “wow! Really? Sure man!” He smiled, walked out the session, put on his black rimmed hat and rattle snake jacket. Then put his Strat in his case and walked out like a gunslinger from Tombstone who had out gunned you and shot you between the eyes. Now that was a moment I’ll never forget!

I plugged straight into his Marshall amp with Arbitron fuzz and Octavia. I had no idea what an Octavia, Arbitraton fuzz and Vox wah-wah pedal were and was actually wary of messing with his personal setup and didn’t use his effects. I had never used effects so I ran straight thru the amp. It was sweet. I thought, ‘how can Jimi get such a controlled sound like that on stage?’ I recorded my part of “No Shame” with Jimi’s Marshall amp and at a lowered treble tone it had a punch and tone I couldn’t begin to achieve with my amp. It gave my Swept-Wing guitar this rich, full sound like I never heard before. I was super pleased with how my opening lead turned out, it had the punch and presence the song needed.

This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book “Strictly From Hunger: A Rock and Roll Memoir” by John Morton. The book is expected to be published in October 2017. For more information and to get updates on the publication visit and “like” the Strictly From Hunger! Facebook page.

John Morton & His Swept Wing Guitar

SweptWing

We were walking a thin line between ruin and success, fame and obscurity, and any one little factor could tip the balance either way. It was good fortune that Stan was able to get us an apartment right behind the Whisky, and being able to keep our equipment in the van at the gas station on the corner, except that my guitar and amp were stolen from the van. We had parked the van in the gas station and of course locked it up, but shortly after we started keeping the van there someone must have noticed or whatever because the van was broken into. They broke the back window of the van and were able to get out my guitar and Fender amp. They would have gotten more but luckily the attendant noticed something going on and when he back to investigate all he saw was a couple guys jump in a car and peel out.

We were playing lots of gigs so I needed a new guitar and amp right away. Stan took me to Hollywood Music and I picked out a tall Standell amp and I tried it out with Gibson and Fender guitar but they didn’t stand out with that big amp. There was also the fact that I had to pay Stan back with my gig money. Stan had a lot of connections and knew that Joe Hall of Hallmark guitars wanted to promote their guitars for endorsements to get their guitars known, and was giving away his guitar to known artists and up and coming bands to get that exposure. Stan did some calling around that night and within a day or two brought me a brand new blue Swept-Wing guitar with a black hard shell case. It was a unique design like nothing I’d ever seen before. It had a thin, long neck I could easily wrap my fingers around, a chrome whammy bar, brown tortoise shell pick-ups, a three way switch, a large white pick-guard and a futuristic body design that looked like a bird’s swept wing. This guitar was one of a kind. The first time I plugged in the Swept-Wing I knew I had my signature sound for Hunger! The design was so unique that every place I played fans wanted to know if the guitar was designed specifically for me. Stan said it was one of the first fifty made and Robby Krieger had one. How cool was that.

I later met Joe when Hunger! played in Bakersfield, California around March of 1968, it was a strange gig. We didn’t know how we were going to be received, and our first set was unremarkably. In between sets Joe Hall came backstage and introduced himself, he said, “maybe we can get the Swept-Wing off the ground and get people interested.”
“I’ll do my best Joe,” I said.

Before we started the second set Joe came onstage and announced to the crowd, “that tall guy there playing my Swept-Wing guitar is a friend of mine, give him a warm welcome!” That really broke the ice with the crowd, somebody yelled out, “Hey! You guys know any surf music?” I said, “sure do!” I cranked up the reverb and whammy barred all our Hunger! songs. Mike Parkison whirled that Leslie on his big Hammond organ and that night we were rocking. Hunger! became a psychedelic surf band. Joe Hall winked at me and gave a big okay sign.

It’s too bad the Swept-Wing never got the recognition it deserved back in the ‘60’s. Most guitarists never played any gigs with them because it was too radical of a design. I later learned that I was the only known artist to play the Swept-Wing onstage in the 60’s.

This is an excerpt from the forthcoming book “Strictly From Hunger: A Rock and Roll Memoir” by John Morton. The book is expected to be published in October 2017. For more information and to get updates on the publication visit and “like” the Strictly From Hunger! Facebook page.