Self-taught, Hendrix was influenced early on by blues legends like B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Robert Johnson, as well as rock and roll artists like Elvis Presley, Little Richard, and Chuck Berry. As a teenager, he played in some local bands in and around Seattle. After serving a couple years in the Air Force (Official reports read, "He has no interest whatsoever in the Army ... It is my opinion that Private Hendrix will never come up to the standards required of a soldier. I feel that the military service will benefit if he is discharged as soon as possible." On June 29, 1962, Hendrix was granted a discharge under honorable conditions.), he found work as a backup guitarist playing for artists like Sam Cooke, Little Richard, the Isley Brothers, Wilson Pickett, Jackie Wilson, The Impressions and King Curtis. He moved to New York City, gained a reputation for his innovative guitar playing, and came to the attention of Animal's bass player Chas Chandler. Chandler, who wanted to get into management, persuaded Hendrix to go to London where he would launch a career as a headline performer.
Though he spent a lot of time in the studio, Hendrix would make only three fully conceived studio albums -- Axis: Bold as Love, the double LP Ladyland, and Are You Experienced? Electric Ladyland reached number one in the U.S. in 1968 - it was Hendrix's most commercially successful release and his only number-one album. He was the world's highest-paid performer, and he headlined the Woodstock Festival in 1969 and the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970.
In 1967, readers of Melody Maker voted Hendrix the Pop Musician of the Year. Rolling Stone declared him the Performer of the Year in 1968. Disc and Music Echo magazine honored him with the World Top Musician of 1969, and Guitar Player named him the Rock Guitarist of the Year in 1970. The Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and the UK Music Hall of Fame in 2005. Rolling Stone ranked the band's three studio albums among the 100 greatest albums of all time, and ranked Hendrix the greatest guitarist and the sixth greatest artist of all time.
Jimi's life, musically, financially, and personally, would become a chaotic mess. Contract disputes, lawyers and drugs all became part of the whirlwind. The Experience broke up in 1969 and he formed the Band of Gypsies with drummer Buddy Miles and old Air Force buddy Billy Cox. It was with them that he made an appearance at Woodstock where he laid down his immortal rendition of The Star Spangled Banner. In 1970 the Experience got together again only to break up shortly afterward. At the time of his death, he was working on an album tentatively titled First Ray of the New Rising Sun.
After a lengthy court battle, in July 1995 the rights to Hendrix's estate, including all his recordings, was turned over to his father, Al Hendrix. With the help of Jimi's half-sister Janie Hendrix, they formed Experience LLC. They proved themselves conscientious keepers of Jimi's legacy. Subsequently, Jimi's first three albums were remastered and re-released and compilation albums, drawing from the wealth of recorded material Hendrix left behind, were produced.
Worth about $5 million when he died, Jimi's estate is now worth in the neighborhood of $200 million.
Said Janie Hendrix, who's now the President and CEO of Experience Hendrix LLC, "We have an obligation to protect Jimi's legacy and these unauthorized, inferior-quality CD releases confuse and disappoint his fans throughout the world. We will continue to make every effort to confront copyright infringement and piracy issues wherever and whenever possible."
In August 2009, Experience Hendrix announced that it had entered a new licensing agreement with Sony Music Entertainment's Legacy Recordings division which would take effect in 2010. Legacy and Experience Hendrix launched the 2010, Jimi Hendrix Catalog Project, starting with the release of Valleys of Neptune in March of that year. In the months before his death, Hendrix recorded demos for a concept album tentatively titled Black Gold, which are now in the possession of Experience Hendrix LLC; as of 2013, no official release date had been announced.