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

As a young gui­tar play­er, per­haps no one inspired me as much as Jimi Hen­drix, though I nev­er dreamed I’d attain even a frac­tion of his skill. But what attract­ed me to him was his near-total lack of formality—he didn’t read music, wasn’t trained in any clas­si­cal sense, played an upside-down right-hand­ed gui­tar as a lefty, and ful­ly engaged his head and heart in every note, nev­er paus­ing for an instant (so it seemed) to sec­ond-guess whether it was the right one. I knew his raw emo­tive play­ing was firm­ly root­ed in the Delta blues, but it wasn’t until lat­er in my musi­cal jour­ney that I dis­cov­ered his return to more tra­di­tion­al form after he dis­band­ed The Expe­ri­ence and formed Band of Gyp­sys with Bil­ly Cox and Bud­dy Miles. While most of the record­ings he made with them didn’t see offi­cial release, they’ve appeared since his death in com­pi­la­tion after boxset after com­pi­la­tion, includ­ing one of the most beloved of Hendrix’s blues songs, “Hear My Train A Comin’.”

Orig­i­nal­ly titled “Get My Heart Back Togeth­er” when he played it at Wood­stock in 1969, the song is pure roots, with lyrics that bespeak of both Hendrix’s lone­li­ness and his play­ful dreams of great­ness. (“I’m gonna buy this town / And put it all in my shoe.”) Sev­er­al ver­sions of the song float around on var­i­ous posthu­mous releases—both live and as stu­dio out­takes (includ­ing two dif­fer­ent takes on the excel­lent 1994 Blues).

But we have the rare treat, above, of see­ing Hen­drix play the song on a twelve-string acoustic gui­tar, Lead Belly’s instru­ment of choice. The footage comes from the 1973 doc­u­men­tary film Jimi Hen­drix (which you can watch on YouTube for $2.99). Hen­drix first plays the intro, seat­ed alone in an all-white stu­dio, play­ing folk-style with the fin­gers of his left hand. It is, of course, flaw­less, yet still he stops and asks the film­mak­ers for a redo. “I was scared to death,” he says, betray­ing the shy­ness and self-doubt that lurked beneath his mind-blow­ing abil­i­ty and flam­boy­ant per­sona. His play­ing is no less per­fect when he picks up the tune again and plays it through.

Solo acoustic record­ings of Hendrix—film and audio—are incred­i­bly rare. If like me you’re a fan of Hen­drix, acoustic blues, or both, this video will make you hunger for more Jimi unplugged. While Hen­drix did more than any­one before him to turn gui­tar amps into instru­ments with his squalls of elec­tric feed­back and dis­tort­ed wah-wah squeals, when you strip his play­ing down to basics, he’s still pret­ty much as good as it gets.

If you would like to sign up for Open Culture’s free email newslet­ter, please find it here. Or fol­low our posts on Threads, Face­book, BlueSky or Mastodon.

If you would like to sup­port the mis­sion of Open Cul­ture, con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion to our site. It’s hard to rely 100% on ads, and your con­tri­bu­tions will help us con­tin­ue pro­vid­ing the best free cul­tur­al and edu­ca­tion­al mate­ri­als to learn­ers every­where. You can con­tribute through Pay­Pal, Patre­on, and Ven­mo (@openculture). Thanks!

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Jimi Hen­drix Plays “Sgt. Pepper’s Lone­ly Hearts Club Band” Days After the Song Was Released (1967)

Jimi Hen­drix Opens for The Mon­kees on a 1967 Tour; Then After 8 Shows, Flips Off the Crowd and Quits

Behold Moe­bius’ Many Psy­che­del­ic Illus­tra­tions of Jimi Hen­drix

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

by | Permalink | Comments (4) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (4)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.