Jimi Hendrix Arrives in London in 1966, Asks to Get Onstage with Cream, and Blows Eric Clapton Away: “You Never Told Me He Was That F-ing Good”

Jimi Hendrix arrived on the London scene like a ton of bricks in 1966, smashing every British blues guitarist to pieces the instant they saw him play. As vocalist Terry Reid tells it, when Hendrix played his first showcase at the Bag O’Nails, arranged by Animals’ bassist Chas Chandler, “there were guitar players weeping. They had to mop the floor up. He was piling it on, solo after solo. I could see everyone’s fillings falling out. When he finished, it was silence. Nobody knew what to do. Everybody was dumbstruck, completely in shock.”

He only exaggerates a little, by all accounts, and when Reid says “everybody,” he means everybody: Keith Richards, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Jeff Beck, Paul McCartney, The Who, Eric Burdon, John Mayall, and maybe Jimmy Page, though he denies it. Mayall recalls, “the buzz was out before Jimi had even been seen here, so people were anticipating his performance, and he more than lived up to what we were expecting.” In fact, even before this legendary event sent nearly every star classic rock guitarist back to the woodshed, Jimi had arrived unannounced at the Regent Street Polytechnic, and asked to sit in and jam with Cream, where he proceeded to dethrone the reigning British guitar god, Eric Clapton.




Nobody knew who he was, but “in those days anybody could get up with anybody,” Clapton says in a recent interview, “if you were convincing enough that you could play. He got up and blew everyone’s mind.” As Hendrix biographer Charles Cross tells it, “no one had ever asked to jam” with Cream before. “Most would have been too intimidated by their reputation as the best band in Britain.” To hear the story as it’s told in the clip above from the BBC documentary Seven Ages of Rock, no one else would have ever dared to get onstage with Eric Clapton. Clapton, as the famed graffiti in London announced, was God. “It was a very brave person who would do that,” says Jack Bruce.

Actually, it was Chandler who asked the band, and who also tried to prepare Clapton. Jimi got onstage, plugged into Bruce’s bass amp, and played a version of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killin’ Floor.” Everyone was “completely gobsmacked,” Clapton writes in his autobiography. “I remember thinking that here was a force to be reckoned with. It scared me, because he was clearly going to be a huge star, and just as we are finding our own speed, here was the real thing.” Fear, envy, awe… all reasonable emotions when standing next to Jimi Hendrix as he tears through “Killin’ Floor” three times faster than anyone else played it (as you can see him play it in Stockholm above)—while doing the splits, lying on the floor, playing with his teeth and behind his head…

“It was amazing,” writes Clapton, "and it was musically great, too, not just pyrotechnics.” There’s no telling how Jimi might have remembered the event had he lived to write his memoirs, but he would have been pretty modest, as was his way. No one else who saw him felt any need to hold back. “It must have been difficult for Eric to handle,” says Bruce, “because [Eric] was ‘God,’” and this unknown person comes along, and burns.” He puts it slightly differently at the top: “Eric was a guitar player. Jimi was some sort of force of nature.”

Rock journalist Keith Altham has yet a third account, as Ed Vulliamy writes at The Guardian. He remembers “Chandler going backstage after Clapton left in the middle of the song ‘which he had yet to master himself’; Clapton was furiously puffing on a cigarette and telling Chas: ‘You never told me he was that fucking good.’" Who knows if Hendrix knew Clapton had struggled with “Killin’ Floor” and decided not to try it live. But as blues guitarist Stephen Dale Petit notes, “when Chas invited Jimi to London, Jimi did not ask about money or contracts. He asked if Chas would introduce him to Beck and Clapton.”

He had come to meet, and blow away, his rock heroes. “Two weeks after The Bag O’Nails,” writes Classic Rock’s Johnny Black, “when Cream appeared at The Marquee Club, Clapton was sporting a frizzy perm and he left his guitar feeding back against the amp, just as he’d seen Jimi do.”

Related Content:

Watch the Earliest Known Footage of the Jimi Hendrix Experience (February, 1967)

Hear the Last Time the Jimi Hendrix Experience Ever Played Together: The Riotous Denver Pop Festival of 1969

Iconic Footage of Jimi Hendrix Playing “Hey Joe” Rendered in the Style of Moebius, with the Help of Neural Network Technology

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness


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  • Robert says:

    I have heard that Kieth Richards wife told Kieth about Jimi while he was playing at a small club in the U.K.
    Kieth went to see him and I think Chas may have gone with him or Kieth told Chas about ” This black american cat” and Chas went to see him. That’s how Chas became his ” manager”.
    Jimi.was popular in the U.K. B4 he became famous in the states.
    Chas got the J.H.EXP. on tour with the hottest band in America at the time The Monkees.
    Jimi had no idea who they were because their TV show was not on the air in the U.K.
    I know he only did a few shows when there was a mutual.agreement for them to leave the tour.
    That’s why they returned to the U.K.
    ALSO He had a disastrous meeting with deep purple. He was at one of their gigs and walked on stage after several songs and was enthusiastically commenting on how much he liked their music.
    One of the band’s members looked at Jimi and said…
    “Get off the stage spade”
    No one from deep purple ever owned up to saying it.
    The J.H.EXP. did not get popular in the U.S. until they played at Papa John Phillips bash in Monterey.
    I got all of this from Bobby Keys when a friend was on your with Joe Cocker in the later 70′ s

  • Mike chipman says:

    Jimi got cheated in life……

  • Tim Basham says:

    Anyone who doesn’t believe there is a God has never watched Jimi Hendrix perform.

  • Barnaby Collins says:

    Murder By those he trusted..
    His Manager for starters..
    Eric Clapton had a hand in it I’m sure..
    Same with Stevie Ray Vaughan was murdered
    then Clapton paid for it by losing his son

  • Rod Harris says:

    That’s why it took a whole generation of axe players like Ernie Isley,Frank Marino,SRV, Slash,Eddie Hazel,Carlos Santana ,Dennis Coffey,Prince,Vernon Reid etc etc
    to rewrite the book from where Jimi laid it down…He’s still showing us all how to dream and play from a special place inside you won’t find on any sheet music or map 🤗 🎸

  • Josh says:

    Ha, Jimmy Page denies it. Jimmy wrote great riffs, but he wasn’t THAT great of a guitar player.

  • Chas says:

    My god, I thought that for years about SRV being with Clapton that night, after read story was thinking it again….then read what you wrote….I do believe that!

  • Johndavid says:

    💫
    👁
    🕊 to Quote The EMPORER Of the QQuaZZarDDeliQQ DYNASTY Himself:
    “Play ON”

  • Deborah H says:

    I still love Jimi’s music. I just found an old CD today and played it for the whole 2 and 1/2 hrs I had to drive this afternoon.
    About 15 yrs ago, I came home and my teenage daughter was playing Jimi Hendrix. I started singing along. She asked, “how do you know …or music?” Haha….what?????!!! I had to explain to her that I’d listened to him in the 60s!!! Her music ..my ass!!!

  • Rolf says:

    Clapton has Hendrix and SRV posters on his walls.
    Who isn’t a more interesting guitar player than clapton? He’s still playing the same thing the same way after all these years.

  • Dolph Chiarino says:

    Saw JH EXP a few days after Monterey Pop in NYC @ THE Wollman Skating Rink. He was not on the bill but was in NY. The Young Rascals were the headliners and out comes Jimi and blows us all away. After Jimi’s 45 minute set, I left, went home and bought Are You Experienced the next day. After that show, I saw him every single time he played in NYC. At the Fillmore East, early show and late show two nights in a row. Was at the Band of Gypsies on New Year’s Eve. I have an autographed Axis: Bold As Love album Jimi signed, “Jimi Hendrix, Peace & Love” and he drew a small heart. I’m 70 years old & have seen every rock guitarist, Page, Clapton,Beck,Winter, Zappa,Van Halen, Gallagher, Reid, Rundgren, Derringer, Vai, Satriani and on and on but no one come close to Jimi. RIP, my friend. You changed my life forever!

  • Adam bridegroom says:

    Please leave that album to me in your will i will love it like a precious baby lol ..i have a nice collection but no autograph….

  • Thomas says:

    Some needed corrections Linda Keith was Keith Richard’s (Rolling Stones Guitar Player) girlfriend she had seen Jimi Hendrix in Summer of 1966 in NYC at the Cafe Wha?She Knew he had to leave the USA based on it’s Racism and short sighted vision for Black Musician, She knew Chas Chandler Animal’s bass player was starting his own management Co with his Ex manager Mike Jeffery. They went to the Cafe Wha? and Jimi went Midnight off on them MIND’S BLOWN Chas said hey mate you need your own Band NOW the USA has no Respect for you but LONDON Loves AXE MAN JIMI said when do we leave

  • Ben Abbott says:

    Hendrix never blew Clapton away. Hendrix had some nice licks, but he was sloppy.

  • Mr. P.C. says:

    What does that mean?

  • Peter says:

    You were smokin’ dope then and you are smokin’ dope now!
    There were and still are African American blues guitarists that could blow Eric Clapton away their and now.

  • Bruce says:

    I agree, jimi was fast, loud and sloppy, how can you compare Jeff beck and Clapton?
    Srv and Hendrix are a to be compared, both have the same style

  • Smittyt says:

    You just saw the video I know he hurt your soft white ego that your guitar God was blown away by a brother.Get over it it’s been almost 52 years ago.Plus Hendrix damn sure didn’t play sloppy.Maybe you should get the years of dirt build up in your ears cleaned.

  • Smittyt says:

    Clampton was always highly overrated the only good song he played was crossroads.

  • Fvbyx says:

    👍👍👍👍❗❗

  • Babette says:

    Jimi,1969.1970
    Hawai’i
    Honolulu, & Maui
    The man was quiet ,itrospective and loved to smoke good pakalolo.
    Yes ,he was a extradonary Talent.
    He was also getting a bit burned out
    Woodstock,was amazing
    Hawai’i was small,relaxing and much slower for Jimi.
    I made food,that was healthy for everyone.Jimi came out to me my dad
    Kid Ory
    They talked jazz,riffs and styles for over two hours.
    There is only one Jimi.
    All can enjoy what he left us

  • Jay says:

    Hey Ben jimi Hendrix was to the guitar like Bruce Lee was to martial arts nobody to this day has surpassed him .guys have came close (SRV) but no one has gone beyond him .and yeah he definitely blew Clapton Away

  • condro says:

    killing floor live in monterey is the best version

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