The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame calls Jimi Hendrix “arguably the greatest instrumentalist in the history of rock music.” Though he died more than 45 years ago, Hendrix remains rock’s most influential guitarist.
In recent months we’ve asked musicians to discuss the first time they heard Bob Dylan and Janis Joplin perform. Stay tuned as some of the most respected artists in rock, jazz and blues share their recollections of Hendrix, the guitarist who re-wrote rock history.
John Kay of Steppenwolf caught an unscheduled appearance by Hendrix at Hollywood’s Whisky a Go Go. “He got up there and he did ‘Wild Thing’ and ‘Hey Joe’ and two or three other things and people were almost stunned, they were like wow, did I enter the Twilight Zone for a while?”
“I first saw Jimi at Ciro’s when he was the guitarist for Little Richard,” said Roger McGuinn of the Byrds. “He wasn’t the guy with the Afro that put the guitar on fire at that point. He was a great player but he hadn’t developed into that personality.”
Byrds bandmate David Crosby recalled Hendrix’s incendiary performance at the Monterey Pop Festival. “The first time we saw him, he was so flamboyant, he was so outrageous, and he was on two tabs of acid [laughs]. How do I know that? ‘Cause I saw him take them.”
“I first saw Hendrix when Cream were playing at the Regent Street Polytechnic in London, which was where we went to school,” said Pink Floyd’s Nick Mason. “At some point in the evening Eric [Clapton] brought Jimi on to play. I love Eric and I think he’s still great but Jimi was something to behold.”
Legendary bluesman John Mayall also met Hendrix in the U.K. “He tore us all up when he played the Flamingo Club and he quickly became one of us. I think he was quite surprised to find such a blues-appreciative audience with us.”
Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad recalls a surprise visit by Hendrix after a Fillmore East show. “Jimi is standing inside our dressing room. And I freak out. I flipped. And I can’t think of anything to say. You know what, the most intelligent thing I could come up with was, ‘Man, you’re a good guitar player.'”
Mountain guitarist Leslie West remembered the day Hendrix stopped by the studio and listened to a new track. “He looks at me, he says, ‘Nice riff, man.’ After he said that, man, you couldn’t talk to me for a year, man, I said, ‘Hey, get the fuck away from me, Hendrix told me he liked what I did.'”
A few months before his untimely death, jazz guitar great Larry Coryell told us, “I was blown away by his musicality – it was still rock and roll and blues, but he played with more command of his instrument than anyone else.”
Check back with Rock Cellar soon for the full story as these legendary musicians recall “The First Time I Heard Jimi Hendrix.”