Jimi Hendrix Plays the Delta Blues on a 12-String Acoustic Guitar in 1968, and Jams with His Blues Idols, Buddy Guy & B.B. King

“I start­ed play­ing the gui­tar about 6 or 7, maybe 7 or 8 years ago. I was influ­enced by every­thing at the same time, that’s why I can’t get it togeth­er now.”

When you lis­ten to Jimi Hen­drix, one of the last things you’re ever like­ly to think is that he couldn’t “get it togeth­er” as a gui­tarist. Hen­drix made the char­ac­ter­is­ti­cal­ly mod­est state­ment in 1968, in a free form dis­cus­sion about his influ­ences with Rolling Stone’s Jann Wen­ner and Baron Wol­man. “I used to like Bud­dy Hol­ly,” he said, “and Eddie Cochran and Mud­dy Waters and Elvin James… B.B. King and so forth.” But his great love was Albert King, who “plays com­plete­ly and strict­ly in one way, just straight funk blues.”

Since Hendrix’s death and sub­se­quent enshrine­ment in pop cul­ture as the undis­put­ed mas­ter of psy­che­del­ic rock gui­tar, a num­ber of posthu­mous releas­es have per­formed a kind of revi­sion­ism that sit­u­ates him not strict­ly in the con­text of the hip­pie scene but rather in the blues tra­di­tion he so admired and that, in a sense, he came of age with­in as a ses­sion and back­ing gui­tarist for dozens of blues and R&B artists in the ear­ly 60s.

In 1994 came the straight­for­ward­ly-titled com­pi­la­tion album Blues, which cel­e­brat­ed the fact that “more than a third of [Hendrix’s] record­ings were blues-ori­ent­ed,” writes All­mu­sic’s Richie Unter­berg­er, whether orig­i­nals like “Red House” and “Hear My Train a Comin’” or cov­ers of his heroes Mud­dy Waters and Albert King. Mar­tin Scors­ese devot­ed a seg­ment of his doc­u­men­tary series The Blues to Hen­drix, and an ensu­ing 2003 album release fea­tured even more Hen­drix blues orig­i­nals (with “pret­ty cool” lin­er notes about his blues record col­lect­ing habits). Pro­lif­ic direc­tor Alex Gib­ney has a doc­u­men­tary forth­com­ing on Hen­drix on the Blues.

It’s safe to say that Hendrix’s blues lega­cy is in safe hands, and it may be safe to say he would approve, or at least that he would have pre­ferred to be linked to the blues, or clas­si­cal music, than to what he called “freak-out psy­che­del­ic” music, as a Guardian review of Hen­drix auto­bi­og­ra­phy Start­ing at Zero quotes; “I don’t want any­body to stick a psy­che­del­ic label around my neck. Soon­er Bach and Beethoven.” Or soon­er, I’d imag­ine, blues leg­ends like Albert King, Bud­dy Guy, and B.B. King, of whom Hen­drix sat in awe. At the top of the post, you can see Hen­drix flex his Delta blues mus­cles on a 12-string acoustic gui­tar. Then in the video below it from 1968, Hen­drix gets the chance to jam with Bud­dy Guy, after watch­ing Guy work his mag­ic from the audi­ence. (Hen­drix joins Guy onstage to jam at 6:24.) Beneath, see Guy and King rem­i­nisc­ing a few years ago about those days of meet­ing and play­ing with Hen­drix.

Dur­ing their con­ver­sa­tion, you’ll learn where Hen­drix picked up one of his stage tricks, play­ing the gui­tar behind his head—and learn how lit­tle Guy knew about Hen­drix the rock star, com­ing to know him instead as a great blues gui­tarist.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jimi Hen­drix Unplugged: Two Great Record­ings of Hen­drix Play­ing Acoustic Gui­tar

The Jimi Hen­drix Expe­ri­ence Plays “Hey Joe” & “Wild Thing” on The Band’s Very First Tour: Paris, 1966

Jimi Hendrix’s Final Inter­view on Sep­tem­ber 11, 1970: Lis­ten to the Com­plete Audio

B.B. King Changes Bro­ken Gui­tar String Mid-Song at Farm Aid, 1985 and Doesn’t Miss a Beat

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

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  • Howard White says:

    Mr. James; This arti­cle is a good over view of the great­est musi­cian of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry. I saw Hen­drix play in con­cert three times in 1968 and 1969 ‚and now in 2015 can­not imag­ine how any­one would not know about him !

  • Nick Augustus says:

    When I was at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Mis­sis­sip­pi (1966–1970) in Oxford, some friends and I went to Mem­phis TN to hear Jimi Hen­drix (with a $2 tick­et!) at the Mid­South Col­i­se­um. It was a phe­nom­e­nal per­for­mance but absolute­ly deaf­en­ing­ly loud to the point that I hon­est­ly think it dam­aged (at least tem­porar­i­ly) my hear­ing! I kept the tick­et stub for decades and gave it to a teenage boy just a few years ago. He was thrilled to have it despite the fact that Hen­drix died before he was even born.

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