‘I never believed it would have worked’: Greg Lake on how Jimi Hendrix almost became part of ELP

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Greg Lake confirms that Jimi Hendrix was considered for a spot in the earliest incarnation of Emerson Lake and Palmer — and that he was utterly aware of how that might have changed things when it came to the group’s name.

After all, had the fiery guitarist joined, their alphabetic moniker would have changed to HELP.

“It didn’t escape the notice of the press at the time,” Lake tells BackstageAxxess. “But to be honest with you, I never believed it would have worked, really, in the long run. It may have been great for a couple of days, because Jimi was fantastic, and (stalwart keyboardist) Keith (Emerson) also. But two virtuoso players in one band, it would have soon melted down.”

The issue quickly became moot, of course, because Hendrix died not long after. He passed on September 18, 1970, at just 27. Emerson Lake and Palmer’s celebrated self-titled debut followed in October.

Still, the idea of their collaborating remains a deeply intriguing talking point for rock fans.

“The first drummer we interviewed with (Hendrix band) drummer Mitch Mitchell,” Lake says, “and it was actually Mitch who suggested getting together with Jimi. At the time Jimi was working with Band of Gypsys. Mitch said: ‘He’s finishing that in two or three weeks. When he’s finished, why don’t we get together and have a play to see if it would work?’ I said OK, and we left it at that. We were waiting, really, for Jimi to finish that project.”

In the meantime, however, Lake was contacted by manager Robert Stigwood (then manager of Cream and Bee Gees), who suggested Carl Palmer as a drummer. “And of course, once we played with Carl,” Lake adds, “all three of us instantly realized: That was the band.”

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