Hendrix son was to stay in will, aunt testifies

Not long before his death, Al Hendrix seemed willing to keep his second son out of the Hendrix family business at his adopted stepdaughter's request, according to a Hendrix family matriarch who testified yesterday in the civil trial over the estate of rock legend Jimi Hendrix.

But, he never intended to cut Leon Hendrix out of his will, said Delores Hamm, the maternal aunt of Leon and Jimi Hendrix. Hamm said she had remained close to Al Hendrix even after his divorce from her sister. On the stand yesterday, Hamm recalled visiting Al Hendrix in the hospital not long before his death in 2002.

He told her that Janie Hendrix, who ultimately inherited the bulk of the Hendrix estate, had advised him to pay Leon off to get him out of the family business.

"Janie said that Leon was trying to butt into their business that they were trying to run, and that he didn't know anything about it," said Hamm on the third day of the King County Superior Court trial, which will be decided by a judge rather than a jury. "She told Al he was a disgrace because he was on drugs and his kids weren't being raised right, and she said he should have Leon sign a contract ... so he'd be out of everything."

In the same conversation, though, Hamm said, the elder Hendrix, reiterated his intention to keep Leon in the will.

"He said he would always take care of Leon and his family."

Leon Hendrix is contesting the last will of his father — who inherited the rights to Jimi Hendrix's music after the rock legend died without a will in 1970 — on claims that Janie Hendrix took advantage of their father's age, infirmity and naiveté to have Leon cut off from the family's estimated $80 million fortune.

Leon also argues, along with some family members who were named in the will as beneficiaries, that Janie Hendrix has mismanaged the Hendrix companies, abused her position as the head of the estate, and greedily siphoned off money for her own personal use.

An attorney for Janie Hendrix argued in opening statements that it was not she, but Leon and his drug use, repeated demands for money and contemptible behavior that finally and irrevocably alienated the elder Hendrix from his son.

He also argued that without Janie's business savvy, there would be little left of the estate to fight over.

The trial, which is expected to last two months, has been attended by dozens of Hendrix family members, fans and friends.

Diana Carpenter, who lived with Jimi Hendrix in New York City and claims to have had a daughter with him, told a reporter at the trial the legal conflict would have made Hendrix sad.

"It's a shame," she said. "He was a sweet-hearted man, and not greedy. Not greedy at all."

Christine Clarridge: 206-464-8983 or cclarridge@seattletimes.com