'60s icon was touring with Experience Hendrix

Mitch Mitchell, the drummer for the Jimi Hendrix Experience who had just finished a tour with a Hendrix tribute show, was found dead Wednesday morning in a hotel room in Portland, Ore. He was 61.

He died of natural causes, the Multnomah County medical examiner told the Portland Oregonian. Mitchell was found dead at 3 a.m. in the Benson Hotel.

Mitchell, whose birth name was John, had been performing with the Experience Hendrix Tour, which made its 18th and final stop Friday at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall. Mitchell had been taking a vacation in Portland before returning home to England.

The tour had stopped in Los Angeles on Nov. 2, and Mitchell appeared on a handful of songs, as did Billy Cox, the bassist in the final edition of the Experience and Band of Gypsys.

One of the best rock drummers of the 1960s, Mitchell was able to combine power, finesse and technique in following the lead of Hendrix, considered rock’s finest guitarist at the time of his death in 1970 as well as today. The trio’s debut album contains three prime examples of Mitchell’s inventive style: “Fire,” “Third Stone From the Sun” and “Manic Depression.”

Hendrix and Mitchell had reunited in 1970 after the Band of Gypsys broke up, and the two were plotting their next move at the time Hendrix died. After that, Mitchell rarely recorded, and only over the past decade was he active in promulgating the Hendrix legacy. At one point, Mitchell sold his rights to the Experience for about $200,000.

Prior to meeting Hendrix, Mitchell had been a child actor before taking up the drums in his native England. In 1964 and ’65, he played with the Riot Squad, Georgie Fame and the Blue Flames and the Pretty Things, leaving them after about a dozen gigs to join Hendrix’s band.

His first post-Hendrix band was a jazz-rock supergroup with Jack Bruce and Larry Coryell that never recorded.

In 1972 he formed Ramatam with Mike Pinera and lead guitarist April Lawton but then limited his recording to very few sessions, most notably ones with Muddy Waters and Robert Wyatt.

The Jimi Hendrix Experience was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993. Da Capo published “The Hendrix Experience” in 1998, which Mitchell co-wrote with John Platt.

Mitchell is survived by his mother, his wife of 24 years, a daughter and two grandchildren.

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