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 🤗 🎸

  • 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:

    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

  • Jimmy Beck says:

    Not real­ly. They had dif­fer­ent styles and Hen­drix was a phe­nom­e­non and next lev­el, but Clap­ton is a great gui­tarist, artist and he, along with the Stones and oth­ers, brought Amer­i­can Blues back to the ears of Amer­i­cans. Lis­ten to Five Live Yard­birds 1965 for more infor­ma­tion. I don’t mind glo­ri­fy­ing the great Jimi Hen­drix. His music deserves it, but this con­stant BS about Clap­ton has to stop.

  • joe falco says:

    Hen­drix was a phe­nom­e­non and next lev­el, but Clap­ton is a great gui­tarist, artist and he, along with the Stones and oth­ers, brought Amer­i­can Blues back to the ears of Amer­i­cans. Lis­ten to Five Live Yard­birds 1965 for more infor­ma­tion. I don’t mind glo­ri­fy­ing the great Jimi Hen­drix. His music deserves it, but this con­stant tear­ing of the great Eric Clap­ton has to stop.

  • Little jack says:

    You are a blither­ing idiot 🤔

  • Tzu Sung says:

    I would say Eric influ­enced Jimi but Jimi took it to anoth­er lev­el and dimen­tion!

  • Stephen Cahill says:

    Hi,Dolph,I just read your post on Jemi Hendrix,You seem like,ya are very engaged and inter­est­ed in the music indus­try,!! Dolph,I would like to have your opin­ion on a up and com­ing gui­tar Lengend ‚His Name is Taj Farrant,a 11yr.old.kid from Australia,managed by his father,He is I beleive he is tot­taly amaz­ing, check him out,on the web,etc.Thank you ‚stevecahill12@gmail.com

  • Steve Parker says:

    You’ve been lis­ten­ing to too much dig­i­tized and “remas­tered” music. Hen­drix music is not puri­fied notes, it was pure genius, It was Hen­drix

  • Dave M says:

    Page is telling the truth…he was not there when Hen­drix played those gigs. Page was in Amer­i­ca work­ing.

  • Anthony R Gronner says:

    I was back­stage at a Decem­ber 1967 all-night con­cert in Lon­don where I was “intro­duced” to Hen­drix and his two British side­men just before they were to go on. Hen­drix did not acknowl­edge me or any­one else although the oth­er two were quite gab­by. Hen­drix faced the wall and ran silent riffs on his gui­tar. I had nev­er seen such con­cen­tra­tion. His play­ing did not just hap­pen.

  • Jack says:

    Page out­played Hen­drix in every con­cert he played dur­ing their hey­day. If you sub­tract Hen­drix’s hot­dog­ging and lighter flu­id etc, he was­n’t half the gui­tarist Page was.

  • Todd says:

    Thatvis total­ly awe­some. We have same Bday 20 years apart to the minute. He is the rea­son I play gui­tar!!!! I do a sol­id job play­ing his tunz but nobody can make it sound line him!!!!

  • Stefan says:

    All true Jimi Fans here, great. My first record ever, xmas 71 when I Was 11, are you expe­ri­enced.

  • Robert says:

    Hen­drix was great. Clap­ton was great. Why all the child­ish argu­ing? I have seen peo­ple I have nev­er heard of in clubs that are prob­a­bly bet­ter raw gui­tar play­ers than either, but its just a past time for them, not their life. It’s all about the music. Just enjoy.

  • Ken F says:

    So, how did Jimi get sus­tain and feed­back plug­ging into Jack Bruce’s amp, while Jack was play­ing in it? I nev­er read Jimi brought any Stomp Box­es with him. That’s great he could get any decent tone at all.

  • Tom Wasney says:

    You were a very lucky man to have wit­nessed the man…

  • John Morris says:

    Wow, I am a fan of all the names that were men­tioned. My wife and I took a 2 week trip this past Sep­tem­ber and stopped @ the Rock and Roll hall of fame and saw Gui­tars from all of them. Those folks you talk about made music that with­stood the test of time as one per­son wrote here when his daugh­ter asked how he knew the words to the songs. So I find it amaz­ing that any­one thought any of them were slop­py play­ers or not very good. Espe­cial­ly con­sid­er­ing how much it means to me to still hear those 50 year old songs to this day. There is only one thing I am sure of about any of the things that were writ­ten here. The folks that had any­thing bad to say about any of them? I know all the names that were men­tioned But, nev­er heard of any of you!

  • Dave says:

    Mike, didn’t Jim cheat him­self in life?

  • Dryerguy says:

    Jim­my didn’t get cheat­ed, he cheat­ed him­self.

  • Fred says:

    I think it was ’67 or ’68 when I heard first time JH’s Pur­ple Haze! I was in pur­ple haze too!!!! Man.… what a trip!

  • Donnell Robinson says:


  • Donnell Robinson says:

    Garbage take! And def­i­nite­ly not true.…guitar play­ers on the chit­tlin cir­cuit that would run rings around JPage! Eddie Kramer help shape JPs sound as well! Hell SRV would run rings around page. Stop trip­pin

  • Ace Davis says:

    You’re on the right track. Crap­ton gave his first­born sons soul to Satan to extend his deal, and make mil­lions lying that the song Will Jen­nings wrote for the Greg All­man death scene in “Rush”, was about his son. Does make sense, they are cry­ing in heav­en because crap­ton sent his inno­cents sons soul to hell…

  • Frank Oz says:

    Your nutz.

  • greg says:

    Clap­ton was a blues scale guy. Peri­od. Jimi was Picas­so by com­par­i­son.
    Clap­ton could not play any of the chords Jimi used. Major and minor 7ths
    Sus­pend­ed chords and of course the 7#9 that trig­gered a slew of wannabe cov­ers. Born to be wild, Tax­man, Back in the USSR etc. etc.

  • Paul Tatara says:

    Maybe he should­n’t have touched that hero­in. He cheat­ed him­self.

  • Chuck Roast says:

    Barn­a­by Collins- Ste­vie Ray Vaugh­an and Jimi Hen­drix mur­dered by Eric Clap­ton? That is the stu­pid­est thing I have ever heard in all my years on this plan­et

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