The rights to 88 studio recordings that Jimi Hendrix made between 1965 and 1967 during his stint with the R&B group Curtis Knight and the Squires now belong to his family’s music company, Experience Hendrix LLC, and Sony Music’s catalog division, Legacy Recordings. The buyout ends decades of litigation the Hendrix family had been entwined in with PPX Enterprises and Ed Chalpin, who had recorded the tracks, and means the recordings are now set for a proper release.
The masters include a live performance recorded in Hackensack, New Jersey in December 1965, as well as Curtis Knight and the Squires’ recordings with Hendrix in 1967 after the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s debut, Are You Experienced, came out. Legacy and Experience Hendrix plan on releasing properly mixed, mastered and annotated versions of these recordings in new editions under the direction of longtime Hendrix engineer Eddie Kramer over the next three years.
Prior to rising to fame, in a period that will be partially chronicled in the forthcoming biopic All Is by My Side, the guitarist had played as a sideman to artists like the Isley Brothers, Little Richard and Curtis Knight. Chalpin had signed Hendrix and Knight to a three-year recording contract for his company PPX, which created backing tracks for movies, paying him a meager $1 and a 1 percent royalty.
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The contract proved challenging when Hendrix went out on his own. Hendrix’s manager Chas Chandler was able to buy Hendrix out of every deal at the time with the exception of PPX. After Hendrix became a hit, the company issued a number of Curtis Knight recordings with covers that made it look as though Hendrix was the key member.
Hendrix was not a fan of these recordings. In February 1968, Capitol issued a record called Jimi Hendrix Plays, Curtis Knight Sings, which Rolling Stone called “an embarrassment” at the time. An A&R man for the label told RS at the time that “the record’s selling well, and nobody is bitching but a few San Francisco types.” One month later, British record label Decca attempted to put out a Curtis Knight record titled Got That Feeling, featuring Hendrix as the lead member of the group on the jacket, but its release was barred by the London High Court. Hendrix called the record “musically worthless…a confetti of tapes hastily thrown together.”
Disputes over the contract stretched into the 21st century. In 2001, a High Court in the U.K. enforced a 1973 consent decree that limited Chalpin’s rights to Hendrix’s Curtis Knight recordings to 33 masters, and the next year a London High Court barred the company from releasing anything Hendrix played on. In 2003, Hendrix’s brother, Leon (who does not work for Experience Hendrix LLC), planned on releasing the PPX tapes but a New York court upheld the British court’s decision. Four years after that, Experience Hendrix LLC secured a nearly $1 million court order against Chalpin.