The Photographs

Neon Grape had just won a battle of the bands' contest at Affton Jr. High a few weeks earlier. Jim Culture, a member of Neon Grape, was 14 years old when he made his way to Kiel Auditorium to see the Jimi Hendrix Experience. His mom’s boyfriend loaned him a camera and drove him to the show. Some of Jim's bandmates hitchhiked to get to the Auditorium. The night of November 3, 1968, Hendrix performed for the first and last time in St. Louis.
After Jimi came on, young Jim left his friends and his mezzanine seat behind to go to the front of the stage. “No one tried to stop me,” said Jim. “I figured with the camera I had, security thought I was with the press. The camera was a top of the line Polaroid. It even had bellows.” He pointed the camera at Jimi and snapped the photo. The print ejected and he held it for a minute to let it dry before he pulled the developing layer off. Shortly after he made it to the stage a crowd enveloped him, securing a spot a few feet from the Experience for the rest of the show and giving him the opportunity to get in a half dozen photos. Culture even remembers a short exchange between Jimi and a fan, Jimi started the notes to “Foxy Lady” and a guy shouted the title of the song. Jimi stopped and said, ‘Shut up fucker, I know what I’m doing.”’

The Discovery
Neon Grape

Over 40 years later later I walked in a guitar shop near Soulard market. Guitars hung on one wall and behind the counter, woodworking tools lined the walls. Half finished guitars and a violin rested on the benches. Mike Boggeman greeted me. The proprietor was friendly and seemed laid back. Although guitars were for sale, Mike’s shop is mainly used to teach others how to construct the instruments. As I scanned the shop, I caught a glimpse of a photo on the wall, a color print of Jimi Hendrix in a custom-made frame. Based by the outfit he was wearing I realized this photo was of Jimi at Kiel Auditorium. I asked Mike how he got the print. “Years ago a friend invited a bunch of us over to his house for a party,” he explained. “He had gotten a new fireplace and requested that each of us bring a log. And so we did and burned most of the wood in a bonfire out in the yard.” The party started a tradition in which people brought logs. Some of them started making things out of the logs and so Mike decided to make a guitar out of one along with drums. “The guitar had two pickups and played. The bark was left on the back. Jim Culture was at the party and asked if I could make him a guitar like it, “ said Mike. “And so I told him I would trade him for a print of a shot he took of Jimi Hendrix.” Mike and Jim have known each other since 1982.

Neon Grape

For 45 minutes Jimi was onstage at Kiel Auditorium, a fraction of a second in the history of KSHE’s lifetime. That night the band played tunes that they later played at Woodstock including The Star Spangled Banner. Just a handful of photographers were there to record the show. Very few people have been fortunate to see one of those photos, until now thanks to Jim and Mike.