The Truth About Jimi Hendrix's Problematic First Record Contract

Jimi Hendrix was a legendary musician, but his life was a short and tragic one. From his troubled early life and difficult times at the military to his liberal use of narcotics and early death, Hendrix endured more than his share of trouble. His professional life wasn't much better, either. Though his musical talent and prodigious guitar skills eventually helped him reach great success and fame, on his way there he was kicked out of Little Richard's band and banned by the BBC. 

However, all of that was just small potatoes compared to the guitar genius' worst career hindrance. We're talking, of course, about a bad record deal, as there was one particularly awful piece of paper that Hendrix was unfortunate enough to sign in 1965. What did this contract entail, and why did it have such a vast impact on the musician's life? Here's the truth about Jimi Hendrix's problematic first record contract.

A contract as bad as it can get

Combine a young, hungry artist and a business-minded fat cat, add an unwise signature by the former, and you get a story as old as rock music. As Chris Ford of Ultimate Classic Rock tells us, Jimi Hendrix fell in the time-tested "bad contract" trap on October 15, 1965, courtesy of a man called Ed Chalpin and his P.P.X. Enterprises. The contract is full of the kind of long-winded jargon you might expect, and Hendrix was still little more than the best-kept secret in the Nashville music scene, so it's possible he didn't completely realize what kind of legal beartrap he was about to sign. 

By putting his pen on the paper, Hendrix agreed to a number of unfortunate conditions that basically chained him to Chalpin for three years, as well as signed over the vast majority of the rights to his music during that time. Virtually all the aspects of the contract were heavily weighted against the artist, and for this, he received the kingly compensation of $1 and a single percent of the profits from his record sales.

Contract breaches and legal turmoil

Horrible as Jimi Hendrix' first record contract may seem, it wasn't actually too awful considering that most recording contracts for new artists tended to be similar hustles. Unfortunately, troubles arose when Hendrix realized Chalpin wanted him to keep playing R&B, a genre the artist himself was thoroughly bored with. Because Hendrix felt he had to keep on Hendrixin', he reacted to the situation by essentially ignoring the contract. According to Dave Swanson of Ultimate Classic Rock, in 1966 the guitarist relocated to London to hone his craft under former Animals bassist Chas Chandler, who introduced him to influential musicians such as Eric Clapton, and helped him put together the Jimi Henrix Experience. 

Understandably, Chalpin wasn't happy when he learned that his contracted artist was transforming the music scene on the other side of the Atlantic, with people who were decidedly not Ed Chalpin. He promptly sued Hendrix, the artist's new record company, and his management. During the case, he capitalized on the guitar magician's rising fame by releasing several random songs from his days as a session musician as genuine Jimi Hendrix singles. 

Chalpin and Hendrix ultimately settled their suit in 1968, just two years before the guitarist's untimely death.