The Truth About The Time Jimi Hendrix Was Kidnapped

In the late 1960s, at the height of his fame, guitar legend Jimi Hendrix was reportedly kidnapped by aspiring mafiosos at a nightclub. The details are a bit fuzzy — in fact, in his biography of Hendrix, Charles R. Cross reported that some believed that the kidnapping was set up by Hendrix's manager to discourage him from seeking new representation (via Mental Floss). But enough sources have relayed a version of the improbable tale that there is probably some truth to it.

Oddly enough, the most vivid version of the tale doesn't come from a Hendrix biography at all, but from "American Desperado," the biography of notorious cocaine trafficker Jon Roberts told through interviews of Roberts by his co-writer, Evan Wright, according to Rolling Stone. Wright did not believe Roberts' story about the famed rocker until he began researching Hendrix biographies, which included a version of the tale. According to Wright's research, in one version of the story, Hendrix's kidnappers included a man called John Riccobono, which was the name Roberts went by in the 1960s before changing it to hide from law enforcement.

'You let Jimi go, or you are dead'

According to Roberts, however, he was not Hendrix's kidnapper, but his savior (via Rolling Stone). Roberts was not yet a cocaine trafficker, but a mafia man and the operator of a nightclub, where, he said, he was friendly with a frequently drugged-out Hendrix. "Jimi and I were never great friends," Roberts said in his book. "He was so far gone, I don't think he was truly friends with anybody."

One night, shortly after Woodstock, the rock star was in Roberts' club looking to score when two "wannabe wiseguys" recognized him, according to Roberts' account. They grabbed Hendrix and brought him to a house, then called his manager to demand something. (According to Mental Floss, this "something" was Hendrix's contract.)

Roberts and his mob partner found out the names of Hendrix's abductors and called them up to chew them out. "You let Jimi go, or you are dead," Roberts remembers saying. "Do not harm a hair of his Afro." Jimi Hendrix was released after about two days. "Jimi was so stoned, he probably didn't even know he was ever kidnapped," Roberts said.

That drug problem, of course, also led to Hendrix's death a year later. Roberts, meanwhile, became a drug trafficker par excellence in Pablo Escobar's cartel.