If we are totally honest, Jimi Hendrix is the definitive guitar hero and the first person who floods to mind when you think about the instrument. For many of us, he was the first guitarist we were aware of and someone who has been a constant presence in our lives from childhood.
Although he only was present in the industry for seven wild years, he achieved more in that short time span than most artists cram into a lifetime. He caressed his weapon of choice with care and blew the roof of any building he entered, leaving a trail of history wherever he stepped foot. It didn’t take long after his arrival in 1966 for Hendrix to be the star of London, and he had everyone from Paul McCartney to Pete Townshend admiring his mercurial ability.
Question marks continue to linger today whether any artist has ever bettered Hendrix on a technical level, and it’s not even debatable whether any one person has had a more significant impact since his death.
In truth, if you’re a guitarist, praise doesn’t come much higher than Hendrix admiring your playing ability. Interestingly, the first person that made him fall in love with music is somebody that has the respect of anyone who appreciates the evolution of rock ‘n’ roll.
Throughout his short career, Hendrix spoke at length about those who he idolised during his childhood. Muddy Waters was an artist who mattered to him more than most, and he remembered being transfixed by his playing style, which illuminated his life at an early age.
Waters was the father of the Delta Blues Scene and helped make Chicago the place to be after he arrived in the city during the 1940s. While popular taste had moved on during the period when Hendrix would rise to the top of the pile, Waters’ disciples were omnipresent. The blues legend played a monumental role in reshaping culture following the end of World War II, and without him, who knows how guitar music would look today.
Hendrix struggled to put his finger on the specifics about Waters which he found alluring, but he couldn’t help seeing him as an inspiration. Speaking to Rolling Stone in 1968, he said, “The first guitarist I was aware of was Muddy Waters. I heard one of his old records when I was a little boy, and it scared me to death because I heard all of those sounds. Wow, what is that all about? It was great.”
It’s easy to understand how Hendrix quickly became obsessed with everything guitar related after discovering Waters, and the love he had for him never dissipated as this cover of ‘Mannish Boy’ confirms the everlasting impact of his music in his life.