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How Eric Clapton inspired Jimi Hendrix's guitar playing


Eric Clapton shared a wealth of history with Jimi Hendrix during their short time knowing one another before the latter’s untimely death. However, it is often overlooked how significantly the Cream guitarist influenced Hendrix, a musician now considered to be the greatest artist ever to pick up the guitar.

Hendrix was famously given a helping hand from ‘Slowhand’ during his early days in England following his move across the Atlantic in 1966 after catching the eye of Chas Chandler, who took the axeman under his tutelage.

Chandler had asked Clapton if he would be happy to let his new signing take to the stage during his performance at the Regent Street Polytechnic, and what he saw blew him away. Reportedly, the Cream leader was left fuming by his rollicking display, which overshadowed the work of his group, and the guitarist allegedly despaired: “You didn’t tell me he was that fucking good!”.

Over the next four years, the two became close friends and were part of the same tight-knit circle of musicians at the heart of the British blues scene. Hendrix never forgot that first show he played with Clapton, and the warm fondness he associated with that debut outing never dissipated.

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“The first time I played guitar in England I sat in with Cream,” Hendrix once recalled. “I like the way Eric Clapton plays. His solos sound just like Albert King. Eric is just too much. And Ginger Baker, he’s like an octopus, man. He’s a real natural drummer”.

Meanwhile, Clapton later reminisced, “It was funny; in those days, anybody could get up with anybody if you were convincing enough that you could play. He got up and blew everyone’s mind. I just thought, ‘ahh, someone that plays the stuff I love in the flesh, on stage with me.’ I was actually privileged to be (on stage with him)… it’s something that no one is ever going to beat; that incident, that night, it’s historic in my mind, but only a few people are alive that would remember it”.

That famous night will forever be etched into the history books. However, that’s not the only time Clapton provided Hendrix with a helping hand. In the book Jimi Hendrix Gear, it’s stated that the Cream track ‘Tales of Brave Ulysses’ blew his mind because this was the first time he’d heard somebody use the wah-wah pedal.

Hendrix then incorporated this into his own sound and first used the effect on ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’, which he recorded later in 1967. It soon became a signature technique intrinsically linked with the American thanks to him expertly putting it to good use on ‘Up from the Skies’, ‘Little Miss Lover’, and ‘Still Raining, Still Dreaming’.

Hendrix’s mercurial use of the pedal during the opening of ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ has never been bettered. The footage below of Hendrix performing the track at Maui in 1970 is akin to watching a magician at work.

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