Highway Child: Growing Up with Jimi
Jimi Hendrix, almost 50 years after his passing, remains alive in our cultural memory like few others. At the end of his life, he was a Greenwich Village resident, living at 59 West 12th Street, about a block from the current Parsons School of Design. (You can even buy his old pad, if the current owners are looking to sell, and you have $6 million or so to spare.) And his presence in the Village lives on today in Electric Lady Studios on 8th Street, perhaps the world’s last-standing brick-and-mortar tribute to his legacy.
his legacy lives on at Electric Lady Studios on 8th Street
After Hendrix died at the Samarkand Hotel apartment of Monika Dannemann, it was two of Henrix’s U.S. managers (his main manager being Michael Jeffrey in the UK), Bob Levine and Kathy Eberth, who were tasked with clearing out his apartment.
Many items never found homes outside of the Levine family (Kathy Eberth eventually marrying Bob Levine and becoming Kathy Levine), and remained a part of the Levine’s lives for several decades.
At one point, the Levines even opened a restaurant in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania, showcasing some of their Hendrix-related items, including a 1967 Fender Jaguar given to their son, Brian Levine, and a collection of Hendrix’s psychedelic artwork given to Kathy by Jimi in Hawaii.
The artwork was auctioned off in 2003 (you can see some of it, and read more about Jimi’s process, here), and little by little the Levines have found themselves letting go of some of the items on eBay.
Although, sadly, Kathy and Bob are no longer with us, we were able to speak with Brian Levine about the collection, and his memories.
Q: Tell us about your dad, Bob Levine, and stepmother, Kathy Eberth Levine. What was their relationship with Jimi?
My stepmother Kathy was Jimi’s personal assistant. My father, Bob, was part of Jimi’s management team here in the U.S. They both considered Jimi a friend and were devastated by his untimely death.
My stepmother was Jimi’s personal assistant
Q: How did they get involved in the music business, and how did they start working on Jimi’s team?
Kathy was a model and an actress, with film and television credits to her name. After working directly with Jimi, she went on to a successful career behind the scenes, so to speak, as a lighting director and manager. She worked at Radio City, Paramount Theater, and a number of casinos in Atlantic City before retiring.
My father started in the business at the age of 13. He quit school to work as a band boy for Glenn Miller. His résumé included positions such as stage manager and tour manager for a number of venues and celebrities, such as The Beatles and Sinatra, to name just a few.
My father quit school to work as a band boy for Glenn Miller
At one point, my father was introduced to [Hendrix UK manager] Mike Jeffery.
Q: Did you ever get the opportunity to meet Jimi yourself? If so, can you tell us about your recollections of when and where, and what he was like?
Yes, I met Jim, even taking a trip to Hawaii with him, my father and Kathy for the filming of Rainbow Bridge.
My father told me we were going to Hawaii and I remember thinking it would be a great place to get pineapple. I remember the food was terrible on the plane. I still remember Kathy teaching me to swim on that trip. She also steered us clear of a school of jellyfish that day. Phew!
While quite young at the time, I remember Jimi was a regular guy, soft-spoken, kind, and very generous.
he was a regular guy, soft-spoken, kind, and very generous
Q: The day Jimi died, your parents were some of the first to hear. Can you tell us about that?
As Jimi’s personal assistant, Kathy was called with the news of Jimi’s death. Years later, both my father and Kathy expressed how devastating that day was.
Q: Which of your parents would you say were closest to Jimi? Can you recall any funny or touching or interesting anecdotes they might have shared?
I would say as Jimi’s personal assistant, Kathy was closer to Jimi. She often reminisced about him, sharing many stories over the years.
A few anecdotes that come to mind:
- There’s a picture of Jimi standing next to a horse that was taken at Woodstock that my wife, and I now have it hanging in our home. Kathy would look at that picture and comment: “Jimi was probably saying: ‘Hello, horse. Now, why are you a horse?’” She said that picture demonstrated the respect and bond he had with all creatures, and his inquisitive, deep-thinking nature.
- Because of his outrageous attire—colors, hats, women’s clothing and jewelry—he often had difficulty hailing a cab.
- Jimi often wore women’s clothing because he was attracted to the colors and design more so than that of men’s clothing. He also wore handmade stage clothing and pieces from around the world.
- Minutes before performing at Woodstock, Jimi paced the floor, unsure of what he would perform. Bob suggested, somewhat kidding, that he perform the National Anthem. The rest, as they say, is history.
Q: Jimi was also a visual artist. He gave some of that artwork to your mom. Can you tell us about that? Where is it now, and how can people see it?
The artwork was sold at a Cooper Owen auction in May 2003.
There are a few pieces left, waiting for someone to market it. But yes, Jimi gave Kathy some of his artwork in Hawaii. She said his artwork was “cool” as it gave her a look into Jimi’s soul. Kathy, like Jimi, was a very spiritual person.
Q: Some of Jimi’s items have been in your family’s possession for decades, and you’re only now letting them go. What was the reason you started liquidating your collection, and where can people get a piece of Jimi history?
People can find pieces of mine on Ebay. They should search Jimi Hendrix, then look for the items listed with the Bob and Kathy Levine Collection heading. I’ve recognized that close to 50 years after his death, Jimi is still revered by many. It’s fun to share these pieces of Jimi, and of history, with another generation.