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New EMP Hendrix exhibit chronicles Jimi’s amazing British invasion

A guitar Jimi Hendrix smashed in his final London show on June 4, 1967, is among the treasured artifacts featured in the new EMP Museum exhibit focusing on Jimi's historic nine month stint in the Saville Theatre, to mark his final show in London. The back of the guitar features a poem he painted incorporating the lyrics to his song "Love or Confusion."

When Jimi Hendrix left the U.S. in 1966 for London in search of fame and fortune, he was a skilled but relatively unknown guitar slinger from some place called Seattle. Just nine months later he’d taken the music world by storm with such groundbreaking songs as “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze,” and his amazing debut album “Are You Experienced”.

That brief period that changed the music world forever is immortalized in the new EMP Museum exhibit “Hear My Train a Comin’: Hendrix Hits London,” opening this weekend.

“We’ve never done a show focusing on a specific time period like this,” says Jacob McMurray, EMP Senior Curator.

“It’s really focusing on that period in which Hendrix goes from being sort of a well practiced but unknown musician in America to flying over to England [to meet] all of the Eric Claptons, Jeff Becks and Pete Townsends in London and becoming a superstar.”

It didn’t take long. Within a week of his arrival in September 1966, he’d formed a band and soon after began touring Europe. Then he was overshadowing the established English superstars with his unmatched skill and unique showmanship.

“The idea that Hendrix was an amazing guitar player – had the chops – but he also had the moves as well. I think that greatly adds to that intrigue and mystique that surrounds him.”

As with previous EMP Hendrix exhibits, McMurray pulled from the deep stores of rare memorabilia from the museum, founder Paul Allen’s personal collection and friends and family to tell the story.

Among the highlights are a smashed guitar recovered from Hendrix’ final London show in June 1967, custom tailored jackets and “countless” rare lyrics, posters and letters McMurray says is among the most comprehensive exhibit ever at EMP, spanning two full galleries.

The longtime curator says it’s telling the story, not just showing the stuff, that turned his crank the most with the new exhibit.

“What’s most exciting was being able to see the nuance of Hendrix’s progression. When you think of a figure like Jimi Hendrix where they’ve become this almost non-human icon, a lot of that sort of nuanced human aspect is stripped out,” he says.

McMurray also pulled dozens of interviews and articles from the period to flesh out Hendrix as a person, and he’s thrilled with the result.

“My ongoing goal is to try and preserve the life, legacy and career of Hendrix. It’s amazing he was only in the popular eye for four years or so and only lived to be 27, but there are so many stories to tell.”

Considering how much Hendrix accomplished during his brief British invasion, “Hear My Train a Comin’: Hendrix Hits London” is definitely a story worth telling.

Hear My Train a Comin’: Hendrix Hits London’ opens Saturday and runs through 2015 at EMP Museum.

‘Hear My Train a Comin’: The Concert’
With Billy Cox, Ian Moore, Ernie Isley, Eric Gales, Mike McCready, Vernon Reid, Duff McKagan, Brandi Carlile, Audley Freed, Jeff Fielder, Barrett Martin and Mike Musburger playing the songs of Jimi Hendrix. 8 p.m. Saturday at EMP Museum.

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