A Jimi Hendrix Memoir.
Texas, July 20, 1969
Six short weeks since returning to the States from a three year tour in Stuttgart, Germany and we were on the road again. We left our Florida relatives, newlywed sister, MacDill AFB and Tampa and ventured off in our new Vista Cruiser through the southern hemisphere of the USA arriving in yet another foreign country.
The land was flat, green and sandy brown with thick dark forests growing right up to the interstate. As we drove down the state line, we cracked jokes over the stark contrast between the Texas side of the street -white picket fences surrounding churches on every block—and the Arkansas side of the street—liquor stores and bars. We stopped for lunch there in Texarkana and got the hysterical giggles (that only our family can do) over the funky rendition of the southern drawl the people in McDonald’s spoke.
My big brother Jerry was creating and singing a country style ditty as we cruised back onto the interstate . . . “I pulled into Texarkana. All the girls wore red bandanas with high-heeled sneakers and cow shit on their boots . . .”
Dad announced we were only 18 miles from our current destination, “There to the left is Johnson’s Loop, that’s where the enlisted families live.”
“Awwww…hah! Sani-flush!” Mom yodeled as we pulled into the main gate of Red River Army Depot just outside of Hooks, Texas.
My sister Patty and I sunk down onto the floor, trying to muffle our giggles as the paunchy civilian Security Guard (picture Slim Pickens) awkwardly attempted to salute and greet the new Deputy Commander and his family. Baby sister Renee wailed from her spot in the front seat and Jerry slouched down in the back seat, pulling up his collar in an attempt to hide his curly, below-the-collar length hair, covering his face and staring out the window hoping no one would notice.
He and Dad had many nasty fights over his hair not being in compliance with the proper image of an officer’s son. The fights had gone on for as long as I can remember and not just over his hair; everything about him was never good enough. He was in non-conformance with the image we were all supposed to adhere to. The more they fought, the more he rebelled—from his appearance, to his grades and attendance in school, to his choice of music, girls and drugs.
Forty years ago, on the same day that the Apollo 11 crew took their historic walk on the moon, the Lamason family was driving slowly past the Headquarters building of Red River Army Depot, the officer’s quarters, the swimming pool, to the end of the road and our quarters—very big, very nice, very white. The water tower stood like a sentry between our quarters and the woods casting a long shadow across the huge yard pointing to the golf course in our back yard.
“Not bad”, I thought, “lots of places to explore”.
The next morning, Jerry and I succeeded in avoiding the Change of Command ceremony. I’m sure it was Jerry’s long hair that made Dad quickly agree with mom that Jerry should stay home and look after poor little me who had come down with a stomach ache. When the formal escort arrived, Dad told us to stay out of sight until they were gone. I quickly retreated to my hideaway bedroom.
Shortly after their departure, Jerry marched into my room, where I lay on my bed listening to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band”. He dramatically saluted me as he shouted, “ATTENHUT! Outside, Private! It is time to give ourselves a proper introduction!” I scrambled to my feet and obediently followed him outside.
He ordered me to the passenger’s side of the “Mafia Staff Car” (Dad’s brand new army-green colored staff car). He climbed behind the wheel, connected the extension cord that was strung out of his bedroom window to the tape player that was lying on the front seat. Grinning his mischievous grin, he switched on the CB radio and it squawked to life. With an exaggerated swoop of his arm, he jerked up the handset and eloquently announced into the microphone, “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Red River Army Depot, it is with great pleasure that I invite you to welcome me to the great state of Texas. Please stand, place your right hand over your heart for our National Anthem”.
He hit the button on the tape player and Jimi Hendrix patriotically slammed out his phenonmenal presentation of the National Anthem
I was stunned, mortified! I couldn’t believe he was doing this and that I was a part of his plan! I glued my eyes to the corner of the house where I knew that any minute the entire Security Guard force would be arriving to arrest us—and all this during Dad’s Change of Command Ceremony.
“Oh my Gawd!” I screamed under my breath as I didn’t want to be broadcast over the entire base, “Dad’s going to kill us! I’m going to get the belt! Are you out of your mind?”
He began to sing “and the rockets’ red glare . . .” grinning his exhilarated grin the whole time, needling me in my ribs and urging me to sing along. So, I did! True, it’s hard to sing along with Jimi’s instrumental interpretation of atomic bombs bursting in air, but we did pretty well—even managed a bit of harmony towards the end.
As Jimi’s last note crashed over the airwaves, Jerry slammed the microphone onto the clip, jerked the tape player up and jumped out of the car dancing into the house with me right behind him. We collapsed in hysterical laughter (as only our family can do) onto the bean bags covering the floor of his dark room, laughing until tears ran down our faces.
I was in heaven. “Man, this is great! He likes me! He thinks I’m cool! It’s like we’re actually friends! Damn this feels good!”
With Jimi’s guitar licks still hanging in my mind, I basked in the warmth of belonging for a few wonderful moments before drifting back to memories of a time earlier that year. A time when it hurt to be around him, when we weren’t yet friends, when he wouldn’t even walk on the same side of the street with me.
Stuttgart, Germany January 14, 1969
I carefully selected my outfit making sure it was appropriate for an officer’s 11-year old daughter: my first pair of nylons and garter belt, pink slip, conservative, pretty dress and one-inch black pumps. I raced out the door after Jerry to the sounds of mom’s near frantic instructions, “Be careful! Don’t take your eyes off of her! Don’t let her out of your sight! Jerry, I’m trusting you with my little girl—take care of her!”
He was already down the stairwell of our White Village apartment and out onto the sidewalk. I ran to catch up with him.
“Don’t walk with me!” he hissed as he stepped off the curb to cross the street. “You stay on this side of the street. I don’t want anyone to know we’re together!’
I slowed my steps, shoved my hands into my navy blue trench coat, slouched my shoulders a bit to appear as disconnected as possible both physically and emotionally. I watched him with tears stinging my eyes as he pulled his collar up, lit a Marlboro, and strutted towards the Patch Barracks DYA (Dependent Youth Association).
Fuzz! Although I wasn’t allowed to address him as such, that was his nickname in Germany. Fuzz! The Man! Mr. Cool! Marlboro hanging out of his lips, collar pulled up, shoulders straight, back slid down – Fuzz!
Fuzz didn’t see me as I leapt into the stairwell and ran up the stairs two at a time and banged on the door of Jonie’s apartment.
She threw open the door, “Damn, I thought you’d never get here! Hurry up! We don’t have much time before the bus leaves!”
We ran into the bathroom and she commenced to apply eye shadow, eye liner and mascara to my virgin eyes transforming me into a sophisticated lady.
We raced to the bus and scrambled aboard. Fuzz was there, in the very back of the bus with his friends, glaring at me. We quickly found seats near the front of the bus across the aisle from each other.
It took forever to arrive at the auditorium downtown Stuttgart. The chaperones gave us our instructions for the return trip as we filed off the bus. We found our place in the long line and waited in extreme anticipation.
“This is so Far Out! I can’t believe we’re actually here!” I was so excited—back in the days when I allowed myself to feel and display excitement – what an awesome experience.
Fuzz appeared from the crowd with a group of his friends and cut in front of us in line. He stood facing me menacingly looking me up and down.
“You look like a French Bisexual Nymphomaniac Whore! What the hell are you doing wearing makeup? You’d better have that shit off your face before we get home and mom sees your ugly ass. ”
Instantly, my eyes stung with tears. What a horrible thing to say, especially in front of his friends and my friends on such a special night! I prayed no one would notice my burning red cheeks and neck and my tears. Then the mascara betrayed me as it began to run down my face completing my total humiliation. He grinned his evil grin, quite pleased with himself; he turned his back on me and, again, pretended I didn’t exist.
My friend was dabbing my eyes and wiping the black streaks off my face, helping me to recover as quickly as possible. Soon it didn’t matter anymore. Soon we were inside the building and making our way down the aisles trying to locate our seats.
The lights were turned down and it was hard to see the row identification. Finally, after checking and rechecking our tickets, we confirmed our row and seats but our seats were occupied! We showed them our tickets and they responded by shouting German vulgarities at us. An usher was fast on the scene and delivered in rapid-fire German orders to: “Sit down!” “Get out of the aisles!”
We respectfully asked for help, explaining that our seats were taken. The usher checked our tickets and checked their tickets then ordered us to go find a seat on the stairs to the far left of the auditorium. We, of course, protested but two very young American girls had little clout especially when the Germans in our seats had valid tickets for our seats as well. We were outranked!
Jonie and I headed for the stairs as he came out on stage. The crowd instantly went wild – screaming, shouting and whistling. He introduced himself and welcomed everyone as I climbed the stairs backwards watching his every move! He wore an orange tie-dyed tunic style shirt with a bandana tied around his “fro” – an impressive sight for sure.
Suddenly our eyes connected. He grinned at me standing there with my mouth open on the stairs above him. With his arm raised, sleeve on his shirt draping downward, finger pointing straight at me, he said, “I’d like to dedicate this song to the sweet young thing in the pink petticoat standing there on the stairs!” Jimi Hendrix plunged into “Foxy Lady”!
I stood there, frozen, unable to breathe, in complete and total awe . . .
You know you’re a cute little heartbreaker
And you know you’re a sweet little love maker
I wanna take you home
I won’t do you no harm
You got to be all mine
Ooooh, Foxy Lady . . . .”
He looked at me sideways from the microphone and pointed again! I remained totally frozen, breathless, tingling all over:
I’m coming to get you . . .”
I was scared to death—half-scared that he meant it and half-scared that he didn’t!
Of course, Fuzz wouldn’t allow me the pleasure of acknowledging Jimi’s dedication to me. At that point his cruel opinion (“French Bisexual Nymphomaniac Whore”) had been totally replaced with Jimi’s and I was, at least for the night, a “Foxy Lady, accepted by no less than Jimi Hendrix.