Lonnie Youngblood, born Lonnie Thomas, is an American saxophonist and bandleader best remembered for playing with Jimi Hendrix. He cored several R&B hits while recording steadily over the '60s and '70s, but is probably best remembered for hiring a young Jimi Hendrix and thus giving him the chance to play on one of his first professional sessions. He took up the saxophone after hearing his mother's favorite artist, Louis Jordan.
He got his first professional gig backing singer Pearl Reeves in 1959, relocating to Newark, NJ; he made his first solo recording, "Heartbreak," not long after, and it became a regional hit. Youngblood struck out on his own and worked as a bandleader behind Faye "Atomic" Adams, Buster Brown, and Baby Washington before putting together his own group and playing colleges around the Northeast.
Youngblood served in the Army for a short time, and returned to Harlem in 1963, where he took over leadership of Curtis Knight's R&B band. The outfit included a talented young guitarist who called himself Jimmy James, but was born Jimi Hendrix. Later on in 1963, Youngblood took the band into the studio and recorded a total of 13 tracks (including alternate takes) with Hendrix on guitar. After Hendrix became a star, this material was bootlegged and repackaged countless times, without Youngblood's consent.
In the years that followed, Youngblood sought treatment for the drug problems he'd developed during his musical heyday, and emerged clean and sober. He continued to play R&B at small venues around Harlem, including a regular gig at the soul-food restaurant Sylvia's, and also broadened his repertoire into blues and jazz to increase his marketability. Additionally, Youngblood recorded a gospel album, In the Garden, which saw a limited release on a small New Jersey label.