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Music

Roger Daltrey said Jimi Hendrix copied Pete Townshend’s style

There are few names in rock ‘n’ roll more iconic than Jimi Hendrix. The undeniably gifted guitarist shaped rock music from the 1950s and early ’60s rhythm and blues style, pioneered by the likes of Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley, into his own heavier and unique style. Not only was Hendrix a true innovator, but he is widely accepted as the greatest guitarist of all time. 

Hendrix became the greatest because he stepped outside of convention when teaching himself to play. Al’s love for blues and rock ‘n’ roll rubbed off on Hendrix as he was encouraged to teach himself to play the guitar by listening to his father’s music and feeling out the notes. Famously, Hendrix’s first electric guitar was a right-handed Supro Ozark that the natural lefty had to flip upside down to play, further demonstrating his innovative finesse.

While Hendrix is often considered a cut above the rest, he was also deeply inspired by contemporary acts and learned a great deal from his rock and roll peers. 

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One group Hendrix was particularly enamoured with was The Who. He saw artistic value in the group’s iconic rock ‘n’ roll style of “auto-destruction” and greatly admired Pete Townshend’s playing style. 

In 1967, when Hendrix was just 24 years old and had just released his debut album, Are You Experienced, he was interviewed by Steve Barker. Barker asked Hendrix for his thoughts on The Who’s stage presence and musical style. 

Hendrix praised the group in his response: “We don’t really break anything onstage – only a few strings. Actually, we do anything we feel like. If we wanted to break something up, we would do it. There’s a lot of times in the past I have felt like that too.”

Asserting that the destructive side of rock and roll performance isn’t purely a gimmick, Hendrix continued: “But it isn’t just for show, and I can’t explain the feeling. It’s just like you want to let loose and do exactly what you want if your parents weren’t watching. I dig The Who. I like a lot of their songs!” 

In the few years following this early interview, Hendrix began to incorporate a familiar destructive element into his performance. On a handful of occasions, he was even seen setting fire to his guitars and smashing them into the ground in true Townshend spirit – see footage below.

In a 2020 interview on the How to How podcast, The Who’s vocalist Roger Daltrey opined that while Hendrix’s performances were electrifying, he had taken much of his performance style and stagemanship from Townshend. “Jimi was an absolutely amazing performer. But what people don’t realise is that a lot of Jimi’s showmanship, when he started digging his guitar into the amps and the feedback and all that, most of that he copied from Townshend. So by the time we got to Monterey in ’67, Pete’s going, ‘Well, that’s my whole show!’ And it was always a great finale,” Roger Daltrey said.

The 1967 Monterey International Pop festival that Daltrey was referring to occurred just a month or so after Hendrix’s interview with Steve Barker. The stand-alone three-day festival saw era-defining acts take to the stage, including The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Otis Redding and The Grateful Dead. 

In friendly competition with each other, The Jimi Hendrix Experience and The Who flipped a coin to decide who would perform first for the three-day bill. The flip landed in favour of The Who, and so Townshend’s inevitable amp and guitar smashing spree came before Hendrix’s famous first flirtation with onstage pyromania. 

Although The Who managed to slip in ahead of Hendrix that weekend in 1967, it appears that the latter made more of a lasting impression with his unbridled virtuosity.