Chris Lamborne, left, with Jimi Hendrix, Chris Murray and Chris Gray at the at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington March 10, 1968. (N/A/Govinda Gallery Archive)

In “Eyewitness: The Illustrated Jimi Hendrix Concerts, 1968,” author Ben Valkhoff quotes a music fan named Mark Carbone, who witnessed a curious incident at the afternoon show by the Jimi Hendrix Experience in the ballroom of the Washington Hilton on March 10, 1968:

“As Jimi began to tell us all about ‘Foxy Lady,’ one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen took place. What appeared to be a six-foot chicken ran toward Jimi, who was totally unaware of its (his?) presence. The head of the ‘chicken’ fell off, revealing a very angry face.”

For decades, the story has been part of Hendrix lore: Who was the chicken? Why was it angry? Today, for the first time, the answers can be revealed, through the words of the three friends responsible.

Chris Murray (then a Georgetown University student, now the owner of the District’s Govinda Gallery): “We hear Jimi’s coming. Of course, we all really loved Jimi.”

Chris Lamborne (then about to go into the Army, now a home inspector in Warrenton, Va.): “I think someone gave me a ticket. You’d go.”

Chris Gray (then an American University student, now a writer in Vero Beach, Fla.): “I was into street theater, which is part of that ’60s vibe. . . . Downtown D.C. was another world then. They had this store where you could get all these insane costumes. I picked out this rooster head, this big, red papier-mache thing. I hatched the idea.”

Lamborne: “I knew he had a papier-mache mask. No one really knew what he was going to do. These are college kids, all daring each other.”

50 years ago, a D.C. musician sat in the hot seat as Jimi Hendrix’s drummer

Murray: “I boosted him up and boom, he’s on stage. All of a sudden the place jumped to its feet and went crazy. It was a really theatrical moment.”

Gray: “When people saw this person with a rooster head, they might have thought it was part of the act or something.”

Murray: “I didn’t know what his plan was. He just started dancing.”

Lamborne: “I think the intent was to put [Hendrix] on his shoulders. I think [Gray] stumbled is what happened.”

Gray: “No. I had the rooster head on. I couldn’t see much. I saw the knees and I went for the knees. It was the perfect psychedelic tackle. [Hendrix] went right down.”

Murray: “Jimi didn’t miss a beat. He kept playing his solo. The police grabbed [Gray]. As he goes down, he puts his hand out and touches Jimi on the leg. Somebody wrote that he tried to attack him. That can’t be further from the truth. It was more like a sacrifice to the god of rock. As they’re pulling him off the stage by his feet, the rooster head stayed on. Jimi goes, ‘I love you too, man.’ ”

Gray: “He did. Isn’t that insane? He knew it was a compliment. This was a fan who was so captivated by what was going on that he wanted to be part of the almost religious fervor. . . . I was a crazed hippie. Basically that explains it.”

Murray: “I found out where the band was staying. After the 8 o’clock show, we go to the Shoreham. . . . [I knock on Jimi’s door and] I go, ‘Jimi, this is the rooster-head man.’ Jimi goes, ‘Far out, come on in.’ That’s an exact quote: ‘Far out, come on in.’ ”

Lamborne: “We walked into another room, which was the bedroom. He was with a young lady. They had clothes on. They were drinking wine. And there was somebody else there who pulled out a [hash] pipe. We all just had a buzz. In the picture, you can tell we were all wrecked really quick. What he had was pretty good.”

Murray: “The other detail I remember was Jimi had a bottle of Mateus. For some reason in the ’60s everybody had Mateus. Maybe it was cheap.”

Gray: “He was very gracious, a humble guy. Not putting on any airs. It was a normal, welcoming, hospitable environment.”

Lamborne: “Chris [Murray] asked him, ‘How do you like D.C.?’ He said, ‘I love this place. I especially like Rock Creek Park.’ . . . It was 50 years ago. It feels like last weekend.”

And what of the rooster head? It was confiscated. Later, it was retrieved from the office of Durwood C. Settles, the promoter of the Jimi Hendrix Experience show and many others in Washington and Baltimore. Years later, Chris Murray wore the head to a Halloween party in New York City with Andy Warhol and Interview magazine editor Bob Colacello, a friend from college. Said Murray: “I leave it at our table to go dance with Tatum O’Neal. I go back to the table and it’s gone.”

Twitter: @johnkelly

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