When Jimi Hendrix made his swaggering arrival onto the London scene in the late 1960s, he soon became the centre of attention and had all eyes firmly locked on his every move. While The Who’s Roger Daltrey recognised his talent, he also felt a sense of suspicion that Hendrix’s schtick wasn’t entirely original.
When Hendrix made his pilgrimage to England in 1966, The Who were one of Britain’s premier bands. However, Hendrix’s seismic skill meant it didn’t take long for him to catch up, and the two acts created history together at Monterey Pop Festival the following year.
The dynamic live shows both artists would put together at every venue they traipsed through gained them almost mythical status. However, Daltrey wasn’t convinced that Hendrix was the pioneering innovator that he gets credit for. Additionally, the singer also speculated about the influence Hendrix took from his bandmate, Pete Townshend, who undoubtedly helped reinvent the wheel when it came to showmanship. However, Daltrey also understands that this is the way music works, and even Townshend, in all likelihood, borrowed his gimmick from elsewhere.
“You watch Buddy Guy in the early days and you suddenly realise that he was, you have to really look for the inventor of all that stuff,” Daltrey told the Coda Collection. “It was probably Buddy Guy. In fact, I would give it to Buddy Guy. I’ve always stuck up for Pete. Jimi [Hendrix] stole Pete’s stage act completely, which incidentally, I think he did.”
Daltrey added: “But there again, I’m sure Jimi had seen Buddy Guy previously, as I am sure Pete had seen Buddy Guy, and embellished it. So I take my hat off to Buddy Guy and he deserves the accolade and I just love him.”
Hendrix is one of the few characters in rock ‘n’ roll that Townshend doesn’t have a bad word to say against, and the first moment he saw him live continues to roam in his mind. “Well, that was a cosmic experience,” he told Rolling Stone. “It was at Blazes, the nightclub in London. He was pretty amazing. Now I think you have to have seen Jimi Hendrix to understand what he was really about.
“He was a wonderful player,” Townshend recalled. “He wasn’t a great singer but he had a beautiful voice. A smokey voice, a really sexy voice… When you saw him in the live arena he was like a shaman. It’s the only word I can use. I don’t know if it’s the right term. Light seemed to come out of him. He would walk onstage and suddenly he would explode into light. He was very graceful.”
Interestingly, Townshend doesn’t allude to Hendrix stealing his onstage style, and ordinarily, he’s not one to usually let that kind of thing slip. In truth, if the American did model his stage persona on Townshend, there’s no greater compliment, and he’s also equally as guilty of purloining traits from others.