“Hey Joe” is Jimi Hendrix’s first single, though he didn’t actually write it. It’s a garage rock standard popularized by the California band the Leaves in 1966, though most rock fans completely forget their rendition when they heard Hendrix’s take on it. It’s a pretty sordid tale of a man who caught his wife cheating, shot her to death and then headed down to Mexico. Former Animals bassist Chas Chandler caught a largely unknown Hendrix playing the song at New York’s Cafe Wha? in 1966 and brought him over to England to cut his debut album.
“Red House” is a song written by Jimi Hendrix and originally recorded in 1966 by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It is a slow twelve-bar blues, which music writer Keith Shadwick calls “one of the most traditional in sound and form of all his official recordings”. It was developed during Hendrix’s pre-Experience days while he was performing in Greenwich Village, and was inspired by earlier blues songs. Hendrix recorded several studio and live versions of the song during his career. “Red House” has also been recorded by a variety of blues and other artists.
“Red House” was inspired by blues songs Hendrix was performing with Curtis Knight and the Squires in 1965 and 1966. Music critic Charles Shaar Murray calls the Hendrix/Knight version of “California Night” as “a dead ringer, both in structure and mood, for his 1967 perennial ‘Red House'”. “California Night” (sometimes misidentified as “Every Day I Have the Blues” – both songs use the verse “nobody loves me”) was originally recorded by Albert King in 1961 as “Travelin’ to California”.[a]”Travelin’ to California” is a slow (70 beats per minute) twelve-bar blues in the key of B♭ with lyrics that follow the common blues theme of the rambling man and his lost love.
“California Night” features an early vocal performance by Hendrix and uses Albert King’s lyrics and arrangement. Two versions were recorded live and issued on European bootleg albums in the 1970s and 1980s. Hendrix biographer Harry Shapiro notes that these were recorded December 26, 1965, at George’s Club 22 in Hackensack, New Jersey, and in one, Hendrix reminded the band “B♭” before counting off the song. Shadwick describes it as “a staggering display of blues guitar playing that is worthy of mention in the same breath as his later efforts with the Experience”. Although Shadwick compares his guitar tone and phraseology to that of Buddy Guy, he adds that his techniques “simply transcend any previous models, and breaks new ground” and shows that “his ability to spin out long and consistently surprising lines across the standard blues changes is already full grown”. In 1966, during his residency as Jimmy James and the Blue Flames at the Cafe Wha? in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Hendrix continued to develop his slow blues number that became “Red House”.