Jimi Hendrix is the greatest guitarist of all time, there’s simply no two ways around that. In his tragically shortened career, he produced Mozart-like talent on the six-string that defied imitation, so if he likes your band and respects you as a musician, that is kind of a big deal.
During a Q&A event as part of Patricia Fripp’s Compelling Stories: The Inside Secrets documentary album, King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp was asked whether it was true that Jimi Hendrix shook his left hand. “Yes he did,” replied Fripp trying his best to downplay it, before spinning his story of the time that the paths of the two great guitar wizards crossed.
“The single time I met Jimi Hendrix was at The Revolution Club in Mayfair (London) when [King] Crimson were playing in 1969, and it was the first time I sat down,” Fripp revealed. “I have always been a seated guitarist,” continued the eternally seated guitarist, “but to be in a Rock group you couldn’t sit down.” This decision to defy rock and roll styling standards was met acrimoniously by the band’s frontman Greg Lake, who apparently yelled, “You can’t sit down, you look like a mushroom!” To which Fripp replied, “[It is my considered opinion] that the mushroom is considered a fertility symbol in many cultures.”
In 1969 King Crimson were only a matter of months into their infancy. Nonetheless, their virtuoso talent and innovative new sound had managed to stir up an excited following within the music industry. The night when Fripp became the eponymous seated musician was June 2nd, a few months before their seminal prog debut record would be released in October.
In the crowd that night, was the greatest guitarist of all time, clad all in white with his arm in a sling. After the gig Hendrix approached Fripp, who describes him as looking like one of the most “luminous men” he had ever met and, considering he collaborated with David Bowie pretty prolifically, that makes Jimi one very luminous man indeed. Hendrix said onto a humble Fripp, “Hey shake my left-hand man, it’s closer to my heart.”
For a while, that was the gilded punchline to Fripp’s anecdote and, for all intents and purposes, the greatest accolade that any guitarist could wish to receive. Hendrix’s style was original. His playing was so revolutionary and skilled to the utmost degree that when he recognised talent in others, it was like Lewis Hamilton complimenting you on a parallel park. However, the story does not stop there.
Years later, Fripp bumped into the sister-in-law of King Crimson’s first drummer, Michael Giles, in a bookstore. She was in attendance on the momentous night that Hendrix shook Fripp’s hand and, as fate would have it, she was sat on the table next to Jimi. What she revealed to Fripp about that evening probably humbled him so much that he had to sit down if she caught him on a rare occasion when he standing. “He was jumping up and down,” she told Fripp, “shouting ‘THIS IS THE BEST GROUP IN THE WORLD!’”
“In all due modesty,” Fripp concludes the story, “that is one of the best calling-cards any working musician is ever likely to be able to present.” And that is a notion that I’m sure everyone who likes guitar music would certainly second.
You can listen to the clip below.