Brought up in a broken home in Seattle, young James Marshall Hendrix’s stint in the Army wasn’t necessarily voluntary: he was already honing his guitar skills in 1961 when a run-in with the law over stolen cars led to a choice: he could either spend two years in prison or join the Army. He enlisted on May 31, 1961 and was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, where he was stationed in Fort Campbell, Kentucky.
As you’d expect, young Private Hendrix’s rebellious attitude didn’t especially wow his commanding officers — among his many faults, he slept while on duty, required constant supervision, and wasn’t a particularly good marksman. According to reports, he was a “habitual offender” when it came to missing midnight bed checks and was unable to “carry on an intelligent conversation.” True to his calling, he continued playing guitar while off-duty, which didn’t endear him with the other men in the barracks, who just wanted a good night’s sleep. His constant noodling led one of his commanding officers to comment, “This is one of his faults, because his mind apparently cannot function while performing duties and thinking about his guitar.”
Although Hendrix had signed up for three years of service, Captain Gilbert Batchman had had enough after one year, and made the case for Hendrix to be discharged, as his problems were judged to not be treatable by “hospitalization or counseling.” An alleged ankle injury during a parachute jump gave Young Hendrix the opportunity to bow out of active duty with an honorable discharge, and he was happy to oblige.