Noel David Redding was born in Folkestone, Kent. He played guitar and sang in a few cover bands including a stint in the Hamburg clubs. In late September 1966 Noel heard about an American guitarist auditioning to form a band. He turned up with his guitar but Chas Chandler asked him straight away, "Can you play a bass?" Noel was desparate for a job and said yes. "You've got a job for a few weeks touring France" - Chas liked his hair style . Chas lent him his Gibson EB2 and Noel started to learn to play bass. A week later on 5th October, John Mitchell auditioned and the legendary Jimi Hendrix Experience was formed.
|Initially Noel struggled to master the bass using the
Gibson, a six string Danelectro (actually a Baritone guitar) and finally,
on the advice of John Entwistle, a Fender Jazz with light gauge LaBella
strings. The Burns amp was quickly replaced by a Marshall Stack.
The initial work with Jimi involved playing basic bass riffs on his R&B songs. Touring began on the 13th October in France with there first studio session on the 23rd. The temporary band had become a permanent trio with a rapidly growing reputation.
Noel played the bass with a plectrum, reflecting his guitarist background. Initially it must be said that his playing was barely adequate but it provided a simple foundation for the Hendrix pyrotechnics. As his skills and confidence grew he began to extend the blues based riffs into more complex melodic counterpoints. Noel adopted a similar role to John Entwistle - the foundation for the battling drums and guitar. And like John and Jack, he filled out the sound with a more trebley bass sound.
In 1968 Jimi and Noel's relationship soured as Noel wanted more independence in his playing. He was also itching for a change in musical direction and began to rehearse with a band called Fat Mattress. 29th June 1969 was the last gig of the Experience as Noel left. One of the reason's he gave was that he was sick of the endless time wasting in the studio. It was also clear that Jimi and him were simply no longer getting on. Also Noel was not fitting into Jimi's evolving music - Jimi had ended up playing bass on a few tracks on the Electric Ladyland sessions (1983, Gypsy Eyes)
Noel continued to work with Fat Matress until they fired him. He was never able to take advantage of his reputation. He was a limited song-writer, had only a modest voice and without the rhythmic impetus of Hendrix/Mitchell, his bass playing failed to stand out. In 1978 he withdrew from the music business and he spent much of his time trying to recover his royalties from the JHE recordings.
Noel's reputation as a bass player comes from his work with Jimi. He was not a virtuosi like Jack or John, nor have an instantly recognised sound of a Jack Cassidy. He was a lithe and effective bass player for a guitar genius and his master drummer. His contribution to Hendrix's classic recordings and involvement in some incendiary concerts places him amongst the Lords of the Bass.
Finest Moments: Monterey Pop Festival, "The BBC Sessions".
Experience - one month before Noel left. Note Noel's Sunn rig
Part 2 of The Lords of the Bass: Jack Bruce's Contemporaries
Part 1: John Entwistle
ã Graeme Pattingale, 2003