Or were we misled?
[The approach of the Thanksgiving holiday (which this year will coincide with Hanukkah, making it Thanksgivukkah), got me thinking of the late great Jimi Hendrix, who was born in Seattle on November 27, 1942. And though that’s over 2,300 miles away, there is a Baltimore connection (albeit tenuous) to the guitar maestro. – TW, Baltimore Or Less]
I found this curious pro-literacy poster of a smiling (and obviously stoned) Jimi Hendrix buried in the Maryland Department vertical files of the Enoch Pratt Central Library. It was probably unauthorized (hence its unadvertised location at the bottom of a drawer), but what an endorsement for reading it would have been had it been legit – and had Hendrix lived.
It came to my attention when a friend spotted someone selling a copy online at Live Auctioneers (liveauctioneers.com), along with an unrelated Hendrix autograph: “Lot 1159 Jimi Hendrix signature with poster.” Bids started at £400! Wonder what it sold for? (According to Crosstown Torrents, “An Essential Jimi Hendrix Torrent Website,” two previous UK auctions of this poster-with-unrelated-signature fetched £750 and £1,100 pounds!)
Probably for a pretty penny, as Hendrix fanatics will seemingly buy anything associated with the man (I know this from experience, having for many years known Pratt Library regular Jerome, aka “The Hendrix Guy,” who comes in periodically to ask if we have anything new on his idol). In fact, somehow a copy of this obscure library poster came into the possession of collector Bob Terry’s prized Hendrix memorabilia, as quoted in Eddie Dean’s Washington City Paper feature “The Jimi Hendrix Re-Experience” (October 21, 1994).
A recent foray into Pratt’s heavily weeded Vertical Files came up empty trying to relocate this poster, but I seemed to recall a 1971 Baltimore Sun clipping about it in which they profiled a Pratt youth librarian’s reading program and mentioned how she created the celebrity literacy poster of Hendrix as an attempt to find attractive role models to motivate young readers. I subsequently found the article, “Pratt Library Swings Focus on the Ghetto” by Thomas Hasler (July 30, 1971), from which I’ve excerpted the following passage:
Would Jimi Hendrix wear a “Go Places with Books” button? Given a little poetic license, maybe.
The Enoch Pratt Free Library took this small liberty last year when it put the hip black hard rock star on the front of its poster-sized book list.
It proved a “tremendous” success, Miss Sara L. Siebert, coordinator of work with young adults, recalled.
The fact that he was a known drug user, who later died of an overdose didn’t seem to blunt the reception, she added.
This was one of the more obvious successes achieved by Miss Siebert as she has tried to swing the focus of the library’s youth service from the middle class youngster to the black ghetto youth who makes up an increasing proportion of the city’s young people.
Her contribution was recognized last month by the American Library Association, which presented Miss Siebert with the 1971 Golier award for her improvements in for her improvements in the library’s service to young adults.
I recall hearing that Siebert later got some stick about it due to the nature of Hendrix’s well-known affinity for drugs and his tragic drug-related death in September 18, 1970. But for music fans in 1970, was there anyone more admired than James Marshall Hendrix?
That admiration continues to this day, regardless of Hendrix’s lifestyle or personal life. In fact, back in 2000 the Pratt was host to a Thanksgiving Weekend celebration of Hendrix – in association with author Heru-ka Anu and Morgan State University Radio, among others – called “Suite Purple Haze,” which was chronicled by soulpatrol.com.
The weekend featured a talk by Hendrix biographer Dave Henderson (‘Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky), poetry readings and musical performances, as well as a Pratt film screening of Monterey Pop (where the Hendrix legend was made) and Hendrix: The Biography.
But, getting back to “Go Places with Books,” it’s fascinating to me that this innocent attempt to promote reading became a much sought-after collector’s item to Hendrix fanatics!