Legendary Jimi Hendrix remembered at Sac State


Jimi Hendrix performs during his concert at Sac State in 1968. 

Courtesy of Sac State Archives

The year was 1968, the height of the Vietnam War, Richard Nixon had announced his candidacy for president, the iconic photo of General Nguyen Ngoc Loan executing a Viet Cong prisoner in Saigon was captured and LIFE magazine would soon proclaim Jimi Hendrix the “most spectacular guitarist in the world.”

The fact that a late, legendary and ingenious electric guitarist once left his footprints at Sacramento State 46 years ago, remains a remarkable aspect of yesteryear when the university was named Sacramento State College.

Jimi Hendrix’s second studio album, “Axis: Bold as Love,” had just been released. During his national tour, Hendrix performed at Sac State on February 8, 1968, gathering about 3,000 fans in the preexisting men’s basketball gymnasium.

The student-organized club, Students For The Appreciation Of Pop Music, sponsored the Hendrix concert and collaboratively made it happen. Its objective was to bring rock ‘n’ roll to Sacramento. Its first show hosted Janis Joplin with Big Brother and the Holding Company in Nov. 1967.

“(We) had to form (our) own group, and have a professor adviser, in order to hold concerts,” said Rick Schultze, co-promoter of the 1968 Hendrix concert and current freelance writer in Oregon.

It was not particularly easy to sign a contract with Hendrix and his band, also known as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, which included his fellow English band members Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell.

“We booked Jimi Hendrix through Chuck Barnett at Creative Management Agency in Los Angeles. We got him for 4,000 bucks and we sent $2,000 as a deposit but never got any signed contracts back,” Schultze said. “We [also] bought a ton of radio commercials.”

Schultze and co-promoter George Gosling, who were inexperienced marketers, attended his concert on February 4 of that same year at the Fillmore in San Francisco. Afraid that Hendrix would be a no-show, renowned promoter Bill Graham allowed them through his dressing room where they asked Hendrix to sign the contract and he kindly agreed.

“We didn’t sell any (tickets) at the door. We were sold out in advance,” Gosling said.

Around 3,000 fans overflowed the men’s gym that had a capacity of 1,000 people.

“We had to cover the floor with (a) tarp,” Schultze said. “We only had two policeman for the show who stood by the door. There was no hostility. The people were there to rock.”

Hendrix’s event was the last performance in the men’s gym. Concerts and dances were then held in the women’s gymnasium, which was half the size.

“You couldn’t stop the crush of people. I’m sure there’s never been that many people in the gym before or since,” Gosling said.

Hendrix performed his classic songs including “Hey Joe,” “Purple Haze” and “Foxy Lady.”

“Even though he was on very limited equipment and a 100-watt sound system to work on, it sounded as if you were listening to a studio mix because he played the room so well,” said Skip Maggiora, founder of Skip’s Music, a music supply business in Sacramento open since 1973. “The crowd went crazy.”

The opening acts were the Creators, a Sac State student-formed band, and the English rock group Soft Machine.

Among the Creators was Maggiora, who was seeking an engineering degree, but instead followed his musical passion after experiencing the extraordinary moment with Hendrix. Schultze and Gosling also pursued their rock ‘n’ roll dreams to book future performances in Sacramento.

Gosling as a music industry veteran who owns Tabletop Productions, a talent entertainment service in Nevada.

In 1966, Schultze and Maggiora founded a group, the Simultaneous Avalanche Light Show, along with other local musicians, and performed in Lake Tahoe.

“Afterwards, we took him out to [have] tacos,” Maggiora said. “Jimi was sitting in the back of our volkswagen bug and he was hungry. That’s how much of a rockstar he was at that time.”

This momentous concert on campus led to a book published in 1998 by Hendrix enthusiast and radio profesional Matt Taylor titled “Jimi Hendrix: The Concert at Sacramento State College Men’s Gym, February 8, 1968: an Oral History.”

Hendrix returned to Sacramento in Sept. 1968 and performed at the Memorial Auditorium. He later performed at Cal Expo in April 1970.

“[The concert] propelled Gosling as a booking agent in Nevada and everyone else who are still in the music business. It was a kickstart for everybody,” Schultze said.

A few years before Hendrix’s death in 1970, people were starting to discover his rockstar mastery, with his career being short-lived.

Today the impeccable talent brought by Hendrix continues and will never cease to thrive and inspire his listeners.

Elizabeth DeCicco can be reached at [email protected]