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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mitch Mitchell Dead at 61

Mitch Mitchell, the drummer for the Jimi Hendrix Experience, was found dead at approximately 3:00 a-m Wednesday in his room at the Benson Hotel in Portland, Oregon. The local Medical Examiner reported that the 61-year-old died of natural causes. Last Friday, Mitchell had played the final show of the Experience Hendrix tribute tour -- which featured him and Band of Gypsys bassist Billy Cox accompanying The Doors' Robby Krieger, Aerosmith's Brad Whitford, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin and others. We spoke to Krieger yesterday and he told us Mitchell was not well on Friday in Portland. "He was acting very strange all day... That whole day he was not making sense what he was saying, stumbling around and just not in good shape. I said to myself, 'Man, this guy should not be on tour right now. He should be in bed.'" Janie Hendrix, Jimi's sister who runs Experience Hendrix, says, "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." Mitchell is survived by his mother, his wife of 24 years, a daughter and two grand children.

Mitchell was the last surviving member of the Experience. Hendrix died in 1970, and bassist Noel Redding died in 2003. Chas Chandler, the Animals bassist and Hendrix's manager, is also dead, which makes the Experience possibly the first '60s rock band to be extinct.

Mitchell was born July 9th, 1947 in England. Before hooking up with Hendrix in 1966 he was a session and touring musician and even acted as a teenager in Jennings At School, a U-K T-V program. He played in a number of bands, including The Pretty Things and Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames, and also worked in Jim Marshall's amplifier shop in London. In 1968 he backed John Lennon, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards in the Dirty Mac band during the Rolling Stones abortive Rock and Roll Circus T-V special. Following Hendrix's death, Mitchell assisted engineer Eddie Kramer in finishing a number of the guitar icon's recordings. He also played in the band Ramatam and recorded with Jack Bruce, Jeff Beck and others. He was also reportedly offered the drummer's chair in Emerson, Lake and Palmer but turned it down. He tried out for Paul McCartney and Wings but failed the audition.

--Sal Cirrincione/Premiere and Iris Harrison/KGON