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JOHNNY STARR

Johnny Starr (real name John Michael Arnold) worked together Jimi Hendrix (then known as Jimmy Hendrix) on Curtis Knight studio recordings in 1965 (and possibly 1966) in New York City. Johnny himself is unfortunately no longer with us and thus can't tell his side of the story.

I've assembled a small section here on Johnny Starr, his solo & band recordings and his recordings with Jimi Hendrix, based on what little information I have been able to find here and there. If you have corrections and additions or knew Johnny please do get in touch with me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


JOHNNY IN 1965

Two pictures exist of Johnny Starr in the studio with Jimi Hendrix and Curtis Knight in 1965, which for a long time was basically all there was to go on. According to Ed Chalpin the second color shot is from the 6 October 1965 session for "How Would You Feel". 1

Johnny Starr in 1965
JOHNNY STARR AT STUDIO "76"  IN 1965
(DETAIL)

Johnny Starr in 1965
JOHNNY STARR AT STUDIO "76" IN 1965
(DETAIL)

Jeff Costello described an 1969 encounter with Johnny Starr which led to Costello recording with Curtis Knight in Anderson Valley Advertizer, so the Johnny Starr & Curtis Knight association was a much longer one than just a couple of sessions in 1965. Here`s an excerpt from the Jeff Costello -article:

One night after the gig, I was getting out of the hotel elevator when I heard an electric guitar being played somewhere. I got to my room and it was louder by the window. Someone had an amp near a window below me and was playing some really tasty stuff.

I found him two floors down. He was sitting by the window, playing a Fender Jazzmaster. The amp was on a chair, aimed out at Broadway below. I stood by the open door, listening. He sounded a little like Hendrix, without the other-worldly flavor, but he was working on it.

He turned around and saw me there, broke into a big friendly grin, and said, “Hey, man, you a guitar player?”

I nodded.

“Come on in. My name’s Johnny Starr. You got a gig in town?” I introduced myself and told him I was working at the Electric Circus.

“Oh yeah,” he said, “My cousin played there. Jimi Hendrix.”

“Jimi Hendrix is your cousin?” I was skeptical, of course. He was black, he played somewhat like Hendrix, but he didn’t look like Hendrix, and there were always bullshitters around claiming famous relations.

“Yeah, he showed me this.” He played the introduction to “Wait till Tomorrow” from Axis: Bold as Love. It sounded perfect, every little inflection was just right.

“Go get your axe,” he said. “I’ll show you how to do it.”


JOHNNY IN THE 1970s
Johnny Starr was a bit of a mystery to Hendrix collectors since little more was known about him other than the name and a face in a photograph.

In 2021, however, I was contacted by "Joe the sound man" from Connecticut. Joe was a local drummer and was friends & played with Johnny in the 1970s and so was able to help with pictures and information.

Joe:
"Johnny never talked much about Curtis Knight. He had a small book that he carried with him that had a picture of him and Jimi. Being rather young and  amateur musicians we were very impressed upon meeting him. I'm sure we all wondered why he wanted to play with us. Thinking back perhaps he had to get out of NYC. The picture of the band playing outside is my friends and myself. That might have lasted 6 months, around 1975. As far as the the instruments he played, he played guitar as his primary ax, but also bass and drums too, and of course vocals. He would get on our instruments and show us our parts.We did some very funky stuff. We called ourselves the 'JS Connection'." 2

johnny starr JS connection
THE JS CONNECTION (Courtesy of Joe the soundman)


johnny starr and friends
JOHNNY STARR AND FRIENDS (Courtesy of Joe the soundman)

Joe:
"The other picture is of the band called, 'Johnny Starr and Friends'. The pic is taken at my apartment and yes, those are mattresses on the wall. It was their rehearsal space called, 'The rubber room'. These guys were very good. Two dedicated singers, a guitarist who played like Hendrix. The drummer and bass player were tight and of course Johnny and his charisma up front, high energy funk! Johnny played a gold Les Paul through an Ampeg bass amp with a small piezo that he wired in. They played on a regular basis at a place called the Sahara, a combo nightclub and motel (for all your late night weekend needs) in Hartford Ct USA. I did sound and my friend Neil lugged equipment for them. We had many wild and crazy nights." 2

johnny starr at the sahara
JOHNNY STARR AT THE SAHARA (Courtesy of Joe the soundman)



SOURCES
1 liner notes for the lp The Eternal Fire of Jimi Hendrix (Hallmark SHM 732), credited to "Ed Chalpin, London 1971"

2 email from "Joe the sound man" 14 April 2021 (with some changes to the spelling with Joe's permission)