The Noel Redding experience is a story that needs to be heard

As Clonakilty gets ready to remember its late great resident, Eoghan O’Sullivan hears tales of the Jimi Hendrix bass player from a man who knew him well.

The Noel Redding experience is a story that needs to be heard

NEXT Wednesday marks the 13th anniversary of the death of Noel Redding, who played bass with the Jimi Hendrix Experience and settled down at Dunowen House, Ardfield, West Cork, with Carol Appleby.

Here, drummer Les Sampson, who played in various bands with Redding, including a Friday night residency at De Barra’s Folk Club, remembers his friend.

On first meeting Redding, at a pub in the English countryside around 1968: We’re sitting there talking about things, enjoying a pint of bitter, and this apparition turns up on a Honda 50 motorbike and it was Noel Redding. He came into the pub and bought everyone a beer and we played darts. He was so different to everybody else, he just looked totally different, covered in bright colours.

Noel had parted company with Hendrix, they’d had a row — although Noel’s mum Margaret was still very friendly with Hendrix. He’d only seen me playing a couple times but he liked what he was seeing and thought we could do something. I was finishing an apprenticeship as a plumber, engaged to be married — and he told me to forget all that and play music. So to everyone’s shock and horror, that’s what I did.

The Hendrix fame: Most of his life, no one could let him get out of that period of his life and he was stuck in this time warp of being famous for being with Hendrix and he got to resent it towards the end of his life, because he had no other life.

Touring the US: We were doing a tour once and the promoter’s son had found out the promoter had booked Noel and he’s such a Hendrix admirer that he booked the rest of the hotel so he could move all of his friends in and be close to Noel. There was constant ‘Hey man do you want to party?’ It was like, ‘Bloody hell mate we’ve just finished rehearsing, chill out’.

Redding’s first meeting with Carol Appleby: There was a dinner one night with the head of Motown Records, Berry Gordy, and a bunch of friends. Carol was a blind date for me, they thought we’d get on really well. I went to this dinner, I was talking to somebody else, she met Noel and they got talking. I was introduced to her but I didn’t see her again for the rest of the evening. They hitched up from that.

Redding comes to West Cork: I was somebody with Noel, I was just part of Noel’s entourage as some people saw it, if they even worried about me — they were so busy gazing at Noel all the time. But then he decided to retire.

So one minute we’re in Hollywood, then we get on a plane and we’re in Rosscarbery in West Cork, in the mist. He just stuck a pin in a map and it ended up in West Cork.

On Redding’s legacy: It’s always been a really good tradition of music in West Cork. Everywhere you go, there’s always someone who’s gonna have a go at it. I think Noel just brought a massive centre of it all when he came to Ireland. He made a lot of opportunities inadvertently, brought in a lot of interest, just because of who he was.

Les Sampson plays at De Barra’s in Clonakilty on Saturday and Sunday with a variety of other musicians to celebrate the life and music of Noel Redding

One minute we’re in Hollywood, then we get on a plane and we’re in West Cork, in the mist

Set in stone?

The Noel Redding Memorial Committee has been formed with the aim of delivering a statue to Clonakilty commemorating the late musician.

The seven-person committee has secured funding from the West Cork Municipality of €5,000 towards an estimated goal of €40,000.

Chairman Ray Blackwell said: “The statue will acknowledge Noel Redding’s cultural contribution to Clonakilty and to West Cork.

It will reinforce Clonakilty’s international identity as the music centre of Munster and inspire future generations of musicians and visitors in the area.”

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