Mitch Mitchell found dead
One of the greatest rock drummers of the 1960s, The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s John ‘Mitch’ Mitchell, was found dead yesterday in a hotel room in Portland, Oregon, apparently of natural causes according to the County Medical Examiner.
Mitchell had just completed an 18 date US tour as part of Experience Hendrix, an all-star tribute to the music of Jimi Hendrix. After the last date in Portland on Friday November 7, he had stayed on in the city for a few days holiday.
Janie Hendrix, CEO of Experience Hendrix, LLC commented, “We’re all devastated to hear of Mitch’s passing. He was a wonderful man, a brilliant musician and a true friend. His role in shaping the sound of the Jimi Hendrix Experience cannot be underestimated. Over the course of the recent tour, he seemed delighted with the interchange with the other musicians and the audiences. There is no question that he was doing what he loved.”
Born in Ealing in 1946 (though some claim his birthdate as June 9, 1947), John Mitchell first came to prominence as a child actor in he BBC children’s television series Jennings.
By the early ’60s he was drumming with bands like Peter Nelson & the Travellers and the Coronets, and as a member of the Riot Squad, he sessioned on about half a dozen soul-rock singles in the mid-’60s. He played on some of the Pretty Things’ second album, Get the Picture? and then with Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames. Ironically his next and most famous employer had also been gigging with a band called the Blue Flames.
Jimi Hendrix hit London in September 1966 and set about putting a band together. Aspiring guitarist Noel Redding was recruited on bass – finding a drummer was more difficult. Hendrix and Redding jammed with Aynsley Dunbar, John Banks of the Merseybeats, and Mitch. The end, Jimi and manager Chas Chandler couldn’t decide between Dunbar or Mitchell, so flipped a coin – Mitchell won.
In the words of Allmusic.com: “Mitchell was not a mere sideman to Hendrix, but an important collaborator. Always changing rhythms, never predictable, he was also flexible enough to bounce off and respond to Hendrix’s own original solo lines. This was evident on the very first singles and the trio’s first album, Are You Experienced?, as can be heard on the thrilling drum parts on tracks like Fire, Third Stone from the Sun, and Manic Depression.”
After three ground-breaking albums – Are Your Experienced?, Axis Bold As Love and Electric Ladyland – the Experience split. Mitchell backed Hendrix at his historic gig at Woodstock, but was replaced by Buddy Miles for the Band Of Gypsys album. By the spring of 1970, however, he was back in the band, and toured with Hendrix up until his death in September that year.
Following the death of Jimi Hendrix in 1970 (on the night that Jimi died, Mitchell and Cream drummer Ginger Baker had picked up Sly Stone the airport and were looking for Jimi to jam with him), Mitchell worked with producer Eddie Kramer in completing work on both The Cry of Love and Rainbow Bridge albums. He recorded only sporadically after that, but did work with his band Ramatam (featuring future Iron Butterfly/Alice Cooper guitarist Mike Pinera and April Lawton, a female lead guitarist), as well as Jeff Beck, Terry Reid and Jack Bruce & Friends (a jazz/rock fusion band with Larry Coryell and Michael Mandell).
Mitchell was also part of the super group known as “The Dirty Mac” that appeared in the 1968 TV special The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus joining with John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards.
Mitchell is survived by his mother, his wife of 24 years, a daughter and two grand children.
A great tribute site to Mitchell can be found here http://www.mitchmitchell.de/mitch/mitchindex.htm