Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mitch Mitchell

Wednesday night is date night. It’s a sacred night between me and Buffy that never gets disturbed. Tonight, I got a voicemail from my dear friend Chuck. It said, simply, “I’m sure you’ve heard, give me a call tomorrow“. That is a signal that something major has happened. I hit the MSN homepage and discover the Mitch Mitchell has passed. Time seemed to stop. Mitch is an intrinsic part of me and my career. The music that made want to play guitar was a song by Jimi Hendrix. Mitch played on that song, and on most of the songs I heard after that. The song was Purple Haze from the soundtrack to the documentary , “Jimi Hendrix”, it was from the1969 Royal Albert Hall concert and Mitch was the drummer. From that point on he had an indelible effect on my life. Flash-forward to 1998, I’m offered the chance to record with Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell with Eddie Kramer producing. I leap at it and we record Dark Of The Night. We were scheduled to rehearse at SIR in Nashville and I was warned not mention Hendrix around Mitch. “He’ll go crazy and probably refuse to play!” was the description I got. We met for the first time and started to play a very, very mundane, bland, blues groove that had as much soul as a jar of mayonnaise. We played for a few minutes and in my mind I was wondering if it wouldn’t be better to just give up on this idea! We stopped and as I was tuning my guitar, Mitch played the drum intro to Spanish Castle Magic. I fell in at the appropriate spot and Billy was right there. 8 bars later, I’m horrified! I’ve screwed up! Mitch will storm off the set now! I turned to the drum riser, and there’s Mitch, peeking from behind his glasses, “ I was testing you!” From that point on we were mates. I knew that he knew that I loved the music. After that period, Mitch stayed in Nashville for a time and when I would play in town, he’d peak around the door of the dressing room, periodically “Hello Scott! How are you mate?” For me, that’s the price of admission right there!
Mitch and I lost track of each other for a few years. I kept up with him in the news, but we just didn’t cross paths musically.
This last month, Keith MF Throneberry and I went to Louisville KY to see the Experience Hendrix tour. We spent the whole afternoon trying to find a bottle of Knob Creek for Mitch! (Now ya know Mitch!)I was looking forward to seeing Buddy, but our MF friend Chuck had been hanging out with Mitch and had told me that he was looking forward to seeing me, so it gave me an extra amount of excitement to think that my old friend might remember me! Mitch was amazing. I’ve shaved my head and lost 40 pounds since we last saw each other, and the first encounter, he had no idea who I was, but when I said, “ Mitch, it’s me Scott.” his eyes lit up and he hugged me and made me feel so awesome! He turned and whispered something to Eric Gales. Eric’s eyes grew wide and he said, “ He just paid you a very high compliment!“ I have no idea what Mitch said, (probably something about how cool my scarf looked!), but it was enough to know that Mitch thought of me at all! That night, he made the whole show about his joy and I felt it. He danced and shimmied across the stage and I know from reports that that had been a common theme for the whole tour, so maybe in some way, that was his farewell tour. I don’t know, I wish he was still here! He was the rock and roll Elvin Jones (look it up kids, it’ll do ya good!!) What a guy! I miss him so much already! I never met his family, but my prayers go out to them and for what it’s worth, their fathers art and soul will live in me and my playing. If you’re a drummer and you don’t know Mitch Mitchell, you don’t know shit.

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