Mitch Mitchell

Mitch Mitchell
Mitch Mitchell
Background information
Birth name John Ronald Mitchell
Born 9 July 1947(1947-07-09)
Ealing, Middlesex, England
Died 12 November 2008(2008-11-12) (aged 61)
Portland, Oregon, US
Genres Rock, psychedelic rock, hard rock, jazz fusion
Instruments Drums, vocals, percussion
Years active 1966–2008
Associated acts The Coronets, Johnny Harris and the Shades, The Pretty Things, Georgie Fame, The Riot Squad, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Gypsy Sun and Rainbows, Gypsy Sun Experience, The Dirty Mac, Ramatam, The Who

John Ronald "Mitch" Mitchell (9 July 1947 – 12 November 2008) was an English drummer, best known for his work in The Jimi Hendrix Experience.



Early life and the Jimi Hendrix Experience

Before joining the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Mitchell gained considerable musical experience touring and playing as a session musician. He also had an acting background, and had starred in a children's television programme, Jennings and Derbyshire, when he was a teenager.[1] He became a musician through working for Jim Marshall at his drum shop on Saturdays while still at school.[2] Pre-Experience bands included Frankie Reid and the Casuals (1962), Johnny Harris and the Shades, The Pretty Things, Bill Knight & The Sceptres, The Riot Squad, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, and The Who as a session drummer while the band was deciding on a replacement for Doug Sandom.[3] (The band's eventual choice was Keith Moon). Mitchell auditioned for Hendrix's band in October 1966, beating out many other British drummers, including Aynsley Dunbar (who, according to Hendrix's manager Chas Chandler, was their other final choice. Mitch won the job on the flip of a coin).

Mitchell was praised for his work with the Jimi Hendrix Experience on songs such as "Manic Depression", "Stepping Stone", "Little Miss Strange", "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)", "Fire" and "Third Stone from the Sun". Mitchell came from a jazz background and like many of his drummer contemporaries was strongly influenced by the work of Elvin Jones, Max Roach, and Joe Morello.[4]

Mitchell played in Hendrix's Experience trio from October 1966 to mid-1969, in his Woodstock band of August 1969, and also with the later incarnation of the Experience in 1970 with Billy Cox on bass, known posthumously as the "Cry of Love" band. Hendrix would often record tracks in the studio with only Mitchell, which would enhance on-stage chemistry.

In December 1968, Mitchell played in the band The Dirty Mac assembled for The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus in 1968. Other members included John Lennon as vocalist and rhythm guitarist "Winston Leg-Thigh"; Yoko Ono providing improvised primal screams; Eric Clapton as guitarist, and Keith Richards as bassist. The group recorded a cover of "Yer Blues" as well as a jam called "Whole Lotta Yoko".

Another noteworthy musical collaboration in the late 1960s was with the Jack Bruce and Friends band featuring Mitchell along with ex-Cream bassist and vocalist Jack Bruce, keyboardist Mike Mandel and jazz-fusion guitarist and future The Eleventh House frontman Larry Coryell. Mitchell played in this band during late 1969 and early 1970, when Hendrix was working with the Band of Gypsys.

Mitchell also took part in some of Miles Davis' demo sessions for Miles' 1969 album Bitches Brew, but does not appear on the final album.


After Hendrix's death, Mitchell (with engineer Eddie Kramer) finished production work on multiple incomplete Hendrix recordings, resulting in the posthumous releases The Cry of Love and Rainbow Bridge. In 1972, he teamed up with guitarists Mike Pinera and April Lawton to form Ramatam. They recorded one album and were Emerson, Lake & Palmer's opening act at a number of concerts. Mitchell and Hendrix had been offered spots in the band Keith Emerson and Greg Lake were forming, but Carl Palmer got the drum position instead.

Ramatam never achieved commercial success and Mitchell left the act before their second LP was released. Mitchell also performed in some concerts with Terry Reid, Jack Bruce and Jeff Beck (substituting for drummer Cozy Powell, then sick).

According to John McDermott's book Hendrix: Setting the Record Straight, Michael Jeffery, Hendrix's manager, relegated Mitchell and Noel Redding to paid employees without an ownership share in future revenues. This limited their earnings to a low rate and led to Mitchell and Redding being largely excluded from sharing in future revenues generated from their work with the Experience. This arrangement pressured Mitchell in the mid-1970s to sell a prized Hendrix guitar. In addition, he sold his small legal claim to future Hendrix record sales for a sum reported to be about $200,000. In 1974, he auditioned for Paul McCartney's band Wings, but was turned down in favour of Geoff Britton.

For the rest of the 1970s through to the 1990s, Mitchell continued to perform and occasionally record. He kept reasonably busy with session work (such as Junior Brown's Long Walk Back album) as well as participating in various Hendrix-related recordings, videos, and interviews.

In 1999, Mitchell appeared on the Bruce Cameron's album Midnight Daydream that included Billy Cox and Buddy Miles along with Jack Bruce. Mitchell also played a series of live shows with the Hendrix emulator Randy Hansen. Most recently, he was part of the Gypsy Sun Experience, along with Cox and guitarist Gary Serkin. He became semi-retired, living in Europe.

In 2005, he was named the 23rd greatest drummer of all time by Rolling Stone.


His last days were spent celebrating Hendrix's music on the 2008 Experience Hendrix Tour. For nearly four weeks the tour travelled coast to coast in an 18-city tour in the US, finishing in Portland, Oregon.[5] The tour also featured Billy Cox, Buddy Guy, Jonny Lang, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Eric Johnson, Cesar Rosas, David Hidalgo, Aerosmith's Brad Whitford, Hubert Sumlin, Chris Layton as well as Eric Gales and Mato Nanji. Five days after the tour ended Mitchell was found dead at about 3am on November 12, in his room at the Benson Hotel in downtown Portland.[6] Following medical tests, it was revealed by the Multnomah County Medical Examiner's Office that Mitchell had died in his sleep[7][8] of what was thought to be natural causes (it should however be noted that Mitchell had alcohol-related problems for decades). He was the last surviving member of the original Experience. Mitchell had planned to leave Portland that day to return to his home in England.[citation needed] Mitch Mitchell was buried in Seattle, Washington.


Mitchell pioneered a style of drumming which would later become known as fusion. This is a "lead" style of playing distinguished by interplay with lead instruments such as guitar or keyboards, and the blending of jazz and rock drumming styles. Though the use of lead drums was not a new concept in the world of jazz, it was relatively unheard of in the rock genre at the time. Upon joining Hendrix in late 1966, it soon became evident to Mitch that the trio format of the band was similar to the recently formed Cream, and that it would allow him an opportunity to become more free with his playing. Like a jazz drummer, Mitchell's playing not only provided a rhythmic support for the music, but also a source of momentum and melody. He made heavy use of snare rudiments, fast single and double stroke rolls, and jazz triplet patterns in his playing, and shifted between both traditional and matched grips. Notable examples of his style include the rudiment-heavy fills on Hey Joe, which help to carry the song through a series of increasingly intense climaxes. Manic Depression is a 3/4 rock waltz that finds Mitchell playing a driving Afro-Cuban inspired beat, which then shifts to an explosion of triplets all around the drumkit during the outro.

Third Stone from the Sun incorporates a swing ride pattern to underpin Hendrix's jazzy surf guitar, and the spacey breakdown section features polyrhythmic drum fills that float over the 4/4 meter. 1983... (A Merman I Should Turn to Be) features military-style snare drum work and delicate cymbal playing that evokes the sound of wind chimes. The long blues jam Voodoo Chile features Mitchell playing a deep blues groove with subtle hi-hat accenting and powerful drum fills that help to propel the song to new heights. Alongside Hendrix's revolutionary guitar work and songwriting, Mitchell's playing helped redefine rock music drumming.[9]



External links

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