Jimi Hendrix, Pair of Toronto Hotel Keys from 1969, Given by Hendrix to His Longtime Friend & Rhythm Guitarist, Larry Lee - Accompanied by Notes Lee Kept during the Summer of 1969
An incredible set of artifacts, a pair of hotel keys used by Jimi Hendrix during a 1969 stay in Toronto, together with a set of holograph notes in the hand of Hendrix's longtime friend Lawrence "Larry" Lee (1943-2007), who played rhythm guitar for Hendrix in The Gypsy Sun & Rainbows that performed at Woodstock in August 1969. The keys, manufactured by Yale, are stamped, "4-280" and "4-295." Affixed to each key ringhole is an embossed plastic return tag for a P.O. Box in Toronto. The notes consist of three sheets, 5.5" x 6.75" (missing one quadrant), 3" x 4.5", and 2.5" x 2.5" bear a list of phone numbers in the hand of Larry Lee and include two phone numbers for Hendrix, one presumably in New York City, and the other for the house near Shokan, New York where Hendrix rehearsed and recorded during the summer of 1969 prior to his historic appearance at Woodstock. The keys bear only minor wear, the notes while mostly free of soiling are heavily creased, and the largest, which is missing it's top left quadrant bears other fold separations. According to the original typed provenance that accompanied these keys and notes, one of the keys belonged to Hendrix and the other to Lee. However we can find no evidence indicating that Lee accompanied Hendrix to Toronto. Hendrix and Lee only reunited for a very short time, starting in mid-July until Lee left for Memphis late September 1969. Whoever typed the original notes may have confused some facts as they were being related by Lee and the keys may have been left with Lee some time during the summer of 1969 during the short existence of The Gypsy Sun & Rainbows, or perhaps (and more remotely) during an impromptu reunion between Hendrix and Lee backstage at a concert in Memphis, Tennessee on June 9, 1970. By that reckoning, these could have been the hotel keys Hendrix used during his May 3, 1969 concert appearance, which was the same day he was arrested for drug-possession (and hastily released after one of the arresting officers noted that his son had tickets and would have hell to pay if he didn't get Jimi processed and released in time); or his June 18-19, 1969 stay in Toronto for his preliminary hearing to set his court date. The list includes two phone numbers for Hendrix, one simply reads, "Jimi 473-1729," which is most likely where Hendrix was staying in New York City at the time. (He did not have a permanent place in New York until he leased an apartment in a pre-war building at 59 West 12th Street in the fall of 1969). The second number, is listed as "Jimmy's House - 657-2729." The exchange traces to Shokan, New York where Hendrix rented a house for the summer of 1969, and where he held the rehearsals for his Woodstock performance. Others who appear on the notes include "Jerry Velez," who played hand-percussion with The Gypsy Sun & Rainbows at Woodstock. Another boldface name that appears is "Bow legs," most likely Gene "Bowlegs" Miller (1933-1987), the legendary Memphis band leader and producer. Lawrence "Larry" Lee was a student at Tennessee State University, writing songs for Stax records on the side, when he first encountered Hendrix with Billy Cox at the Del Morocco, a Nashville nightclub. At first Lee thought Hendrix to be "the worst guitar player I had ever heard." (John McDermott, Interview with Larry Lee, Guitar World, October 2005) Looking for someone to practice with, Lee thought Hendrix a perfect fit: "I was just happy I wasn't the worst guitar player in Nashville." As it turned out, Hendrix had been playing a very mediocre guitar and even worse amplifier. Lee encountered Hendrix a few weeks later and was thunderstruck. Jimi had acquired a new guitar, "and man did he surprise me! His ideas were different from other players-but he was good! Once he got that guitar, he was always great." The pair played together with Joe Fisher and the Barnevilles and other acts (including the King Kasuals with Billy Cox). In late 1963, the pair parted: Jimi for the East Coast and Lee was drafted into the Army and spent some time in Vietnam where he was wounded. Lee hadn't been discharged for more than two weeks in mid July-1969 when he received a call from Billy Cox asking him to come and play with Jimi and him. Hendrix was then forming a new group to replace the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Lee accepted the invitation, and he, together with Cox on bass, Mitch Mitchell on drums, Juma Sultan on percussion and Jerry Velez on congas, formed The Gypsy Sun & Rainbows. They spent the balance of July and early August rehearsing at an eight-bedroom house that Hendrix's management had rented for him for the summer near Shokan, New York. They most famously performed at Woodstock on August 18, 1969. The combo only performed again live once, at a street festival in Harlem in September 1969 before disbanding. The same month, Lee left New York for Memphis where he established himself as a session guitarist and band director, most notably for Al Green's touring band appearing on Johnny Carson and television specials worldwide. Provenance: Lawrence Lee 1943-2007; Lee Family; Sotheby's, New York, December 17, 1991, Lot 461A (with original copy of the auction catalog included). The artifacts were part of a larger collection of Hendrix memorabilia obtained by Lee during the 1960s. Images and copies of the other pieces in the collection are included for reference.
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