Did rock legend Jimi Hendrix visit Shoreham in the 1960s? And was he responsible for the parakeets in the village?
Rock legend Jimi Hendrix died exactly 50 years ago (18 September 1970) but ever since his death an urban myth has continued to gather momentum that he was responsible for the arrival of wild parakeets in Britain.
The story started following a claim that Hendrix released a pair of parakeets while under the influence of drugs in London’s Carnaby Street in 1968. It was also said the birds were called Adam and Eve which added more credence to the story that they were the wild parakeets that started breeding here.
The story has since been disproved by Zoology experts who confirmed parakeets had been seen in Britain as far back as 1855. Although ornithologists do believe the parakeet population in the Kent area may have risen after several escaped from damaged bird houses during the 1987 storm.
But one Shoreham resident believes there could still be a possible element of truth in the Jimi Hendrix story. Bobby Stevenson claims that when he was a boy growing up in the village in the 1960s, he met the famous guitarist by chance.
Writing on a Shoreham Facebook page, Bobby recounted his story about how Jimi Hendrix may have been partly responsible for all the parakeets which are now a feature of the village.
Does anyone else remember the rock icon’s visit the village? Another Shoreham resident has already raised some doubts, but could the story be true? Read Bobby’s account here and you can decide.
Bobby takes up the story – I met Jimi through Peter, a road manager for the group Pink Floyd who lived in the village with his partner Miv. They had a daughter, born and raised in Shoreham, who went on to become the famous actress we now know as Naomi Watts.
Peter brought Jimi Hendrix down to Shoreham to show him what an English country village looked like. Jimi was very exotic for this part of Kent, even in the 1960s.
In those days our family home was across the street from The George pub, in Church Cottages, and I would sometimes lie in my room with the window open listening to the lives of folks relaxing over a drink. On this particular day Peter and Jimi were sitting outside the pub and I could hear them talking about music.
I knew Peter well and so later followed the two men, from a distance, when they walked up to the chalk cross on the hill which overlooks the village. When they got to the top of the hill, I saw Jimi get out a strange smelling cigarette and he began to smoke it. Peter told him he didn’t smoke.
Jimi must have said something funny because it made me laugh.
“Who’s there?” shouted Jimi.
I popped my head over the hedge and smiled.
“Come sit,” Jimi said in his American accent.
Peter smiled too and said the three of us should sit and look at the beautiful village below. Jimi asked if I played the guitar or any musical instrument and I told him I didn’t.
“What do you do then, kid?” Jimi asked.
I told him she was saving up to buy a budgie.
“You like birds?” he said.
I replied ‘yes’ and then spent another hour with them chatting before I said I had to get back to eat with my family.
A week or so later, a delivery was made to my house by Peter. It was two parakeets in a beautiful cage. The card said: ‘They ain’t budgies, but they’re just as pretty – Jimi’.
On the 18 September 1970 they announced on the news that Jimi had died in Notting Hill, London.
I let the parakeets go that day. I released them to be with Jimi.
Parakeets are still flying around the village – scores of them.
And as I watch them squawking in the sky, I’ll always remember my friend, Jimi Hendrix.
* There is also a story that Jimi Hendrix did a gig, probably in the Kings Hall at Blighs in Sevenoaks, as one of his warm up performances before playing at the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival on 31 August that year. The festival was his last performance in England before his death less than three weeks later. Can anyone confirm if that Sevenoaks gig took place. Or were you there?