In 1967 Jimi Hendrix turned up at The Troutbeck Hotel in Ilkley and caused a riot. 50 years on we speak to the man who booked the rock legend, got him out in one piece and find out what really happened the night Hendrix hit town.
As Jimi Hendrix drove slowly up to the Troutbeck Hotel on a cold and wintry night on March 12th 1967, it seemed like the entire town of Ilkley was making the same journey.
The young 24-year-old American frowned, took a long draw on his smoke, peered out of the window and then with a grin on his face turned to his friend Stuart Frais and in a deep drawl said: “Let’s blow this joint.”
Two hours later and just one song into the gig, Jimi, true to his word, had well and truly blown the joint away. And while The Troutbeck Hotel in Ilkley – now a sedate nursing home – perhaps won’t go down in history as one of the world’s most notorious rock venues, it was for that one night fifty years ago, home to a right old rock n roll riot.
The place erupted as the police arrived and stopped the three-piece ‘Jimi Hendrix Experience’ in mid flow and as the guitar legend disappeared backstage, the fans took it out on anything they could get their hands on.
Reports of fighting, smashed furniture and pictures ripped from the walls were all made as over 1,000 fans were left waiting inside and outside the hotel for Hendrix to reappear.
And one man who was responsible for getting Hendrix in and out remembers exactly what happened on that infamous night.
Stuart Frais was the manager who booked Hendrix to play at Ilkley and who first took the rising star on the road in the UK.
He said: “I remember the Ilkley gig well and although it is one of those nights that is surrounded by myths and legends, I can remember it clearly.
“I had met Jimi the year before, prior to him hitting the headlines when he had first arrived in England and I offered to get him some gigs up north.
“I booked him for £22 and 10 shillings to play three concerts, one in Newcastle, one in Leeds and the one in Ilkley.
“We used The Troutbeck a lot in those days and the timing for Jimi was perfect as he had just got to number one with Hey Joe.
“I remember we stopped at Harry Ramsden’s in Guiseley on the way to Ilkley and I told him what a nice crowd they were at The Troutbeck and how we were expecting a couple of hundred people to be there.”
But by the time Stuart and Hendrix turned up in Ilkley on that Sunday night it was grid-locked as the crowds flocked up to the moorside hotel.
Stuart remembers: “I looked at Jimi and he looked at me and I could tell it was going to be an eventful night. “Jimi had just got to number one but the group were still in their infancy and they had something to prove, they had to make an impression. And they certainly did…” Because so many people had turned up, Stuart arranged for the band to play three separate concerts of about five
songs each so everybody could see Hendrix play.
The cost was 7/6d to see the concert and The Troutbeck was dangerously over- packed before the band took the stage for the first time.
Hendrix and his band thundered through the first number in a typically nonchalant fashion. It is hard to imagine the psychedelic vibes of London’s Marquee and U.F.O club had now arrived in Ilkley and as the audience rose to the challenge of the sonic onslaught of one man and his Fender Stratocaster, members of the crowd began to clamber over furniture and each other in
order to get a better view of the guitar genius.
But halfway through the second song, as the bank of Marshall amps were cranked to the point of staving in the head of anybody who dared get too close, a nervous police chief stepped onto the stage to stop the show.
It was probably the worst decision he ever made. Stuart, now 71, recalled: “There was absolutely no need for the police to get involved and while it was getting boisterous it was certainly not a critical situation and the police intervention only made things worse.”
As the band resigned themselves back to the dressing room, the fans who included bank clerks, school teachers and nurses began to vent their anger.
There were reports of fittings torn from the walls of the hotel, windows smashed with chairs and fans storming the stage before spilling out into the crisp night air to eventually disperse and go their separate ways.
Looking back, Stuart, who escaped with Jimi into the night said: “Hendrix couldn’t believe it, he thought the police had over-reacted.
“I think the fact it was Hendrix, who had such charisma and presence, threw the police and they didn’t know how to handle it.
“He had arrived on the scene and nobody had ever seen anything like it. He was an incredible musician and one of the most charming and polite people you could meet offstage despite this wild image he had created.”
“It was a pleasure to have worked with such a genius and the world lost one of its greats when he died in 1970 aged just 27.
“Thankfully, Ilkley got to see him and it will always be remembered as the night Jimi blew the joint.”.
words | Mark Bowness
pics | Rex Features