The Roadie Chronicles: Lemmy Kilmister and His Time with Jimi Hendrix

Before he was the iconic frontman of Motörhead, Lemmy Kilmister was setting the stage for another legend: Jimi Hendrix.

Jimi Hendrix with Lemmy Kilmister (back left) as his roadie
Key Takeaways
  • Before becoming Motörhead’s frontman, Lemmy Kilmister worked as a roadie for Jimi Hendrix in 1967, setting up amps and tuning guitars.
  • Lemmy had the opportunity to watch Hendrix perform twice a night for about three months and even jammed with him; Hendrix advised Lemmy to switch to bass.
  • The experience served as an “education” for Lemmy, giving him insights into the music industry that influenced his later success with Motörhead.

The Man Before The Legend

Before Lemmy Kilmister became the iconic frontman of Motörhead, he was hustling as a roadie for some of the biggest names in rock history. One of those names? None other than the guitar god himself, Jimi Hendrix. Yeah, you heard that right. Lemmy was in the trenches, setting up amps and tuning guitars for the man who set his instrument on fire—literally and metaphorically.

From Floor-Sleeping to Guitar-Prepping

The year was 1967, a pivotal moment in rock history. Albums were dropping that would change the course of music forever. Lemmy, fresh-faced and eager, had just moved to London. He was sleeping on the apartment floor of Neville Chester, a roadie for Hendrix, who happened to share a apartment with Noel Redding, another member of Hendrix’s road crew. Talk about six degrees of separation, huh?

Lemmy wasn’t exactly hired for his technical prowess; he was just in the right place at the right time. But hey, that’s how rock ‘n’ roll works sometimes. He found himself humping gear for Hendrix, setting up and breaking down the stage, and even prepping Hendrix’s guitars before the shows. Post-show? He was the guy picking up the remnants of Hendrix’s demolished stomp-boxes.

Hendrix, ever the gentleman, told Lemmy he’d never make it as a guitar player.

But it wasn’t all work and no play. Lemmy had the privilege of watching Hendrix perform twice a night for about three months. He even jammed with the legend in a rehearsal room in White City. Hendrix, ever the gentleman, told Lemmy he’d never make it as a guitar player. Ouch, but also, thank you? This nudge from Hendrix led Lemmy to switch to bass, and well, the rest is head-banging history.

The Roadie Who Became a Rockstar

Working for Hendrix wasn’t just a job for Lemmy; it was an education. He described Hendrix as “magic”, stating that watching him felt like time and space would stop. This experience gave Lemmy a unique vantage point into the music industry, exposing him to the inner workings of a successful band. It’s no stretch to say that these early experiences influenced his later success with Motörhead.

This chapter in Lemmy’s life adds another layer to the enigmatic figure he became. It’s a vivid illustration of the unpredictable and serendipitous nature of the music industry. One minute you’re sleeping on someone’s floor, and the next, you’re tuning guitars for a legend. And maybe, just maybe, you end up becoming one yourself.