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Jimi Hendrix, the iconic guitar maestro, stands tall in rock history. Yet, beneath his celebrated riffs and solos were deep influences from blues legends. He channeled the raw energy of Muddy Waters in his rendition of “Mannish Boy”, captured the slide guitar prowess of Elmore James with covers like “Bleeding Heart”, and echoed the soul of B.B. King when he tackled “Rock Me Baby”. Howlin’ Wolf’s gravitas shone through in Hendrix’s take on “Killing Floor”. Beyond just individual artists, the broader spectrum of Delta blues, electric blues, and R&B intertwined in his sound. This blues legacy was pivotal in forging Jimi Hendrix’s musical journey.

Guitarists Who Most Influenced Jimi Hendrix

Blues Titans: Echoes of Raw Power

Muddy Waters: One of the pivotal Jimi Hendrix influences was Muddy Waters. His transformation of blues from acoustic to electric resonated deeply with Hendrix. Waters’ iconic tracks, like “Mannish Boy”, not only found a place in Hendrix’s covers but also inspired his original compositions.

Elmore James: A significant music that influenced Jimi Hendrix came from the ‘King of the Slide Guitar’, Elmore James. His distinct style, especially seen in tracks like “Dust My Broom”, offered Hendrix a unique edge that was evident in many of his performances.

B.B. King: As a favorite Jimi Hendrix musician, B.B. King’s influence was undeniable. The master of the Lucille, King’s legendary vibrato techniques and soulful playing found deep resonance in Hendrix’s work, enriching his sound and style.

Howlin’ Wolf: Howlin’ Wolf’s electric performances and deep, gravelly voice were pivotal in shaping the music that influenced Jimi Hendrix. Wolf’s tracks, particularly “Killing Floor”, left an indelible mark on Hendrix’s musical journey. In fact, Hendrix’s rendition of “Killing Floor” showcased the profound impact that Howlin’ Wolf had on his style and interpretation.

The British Vanguard: A Mélange of Rock and Blues

Eric Clapton had great respect for Jimi Hendrix and enjoyed his music.
Jimi Hendrix with Eric Clapton 1966.
Credit: RockInTheHead  

Eric Clapton: A significant figure in the pantheon of Jimi Hendrix influences is Eric Clapton. Hendrix’s admiration for Clapton’s work with Cream was evident, as they often shared mutual respect and even jammed together on various occasions.

Jeff Beck: The fearless experiments with sound by Jeff Beck, especially in The Jeff Beck Group, found a place in the music that influenced Jimi Hendrix. Hendrix incorporated some of Beck’s innovative techniques into his own performances.

Pete Townshend of The Who was among Jimi Hendrix’s most admired musicians. The two shared a unique camaraderie, fueled by their onstage charisma and unparalleled musical talent. Townshend’s explosive energy, both when he was performing and outside of it, cultivated a friendly rivalry between the two iconic rockers. One of the most notable instances highlighting this dynamic was at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.

Jazz Maestros: Melodic Experimentation

Wes Montgomery: Wes Montgomery’s influence on Hendrix was profound. His thumb-picking technique and tracks like “West Coast Blues” introduced Hendrix to the smoother jazz side, becoming a significant part of the music that influenced Jimi Hendrix.

Charlie Christian: An early adopter of the electric guitar in jazz, Charlie Christian’s solos and forward-thinking style were undeniably among the Jimi Hendrix influences. Hendrix often incorporated elements of Christian’s jazz techniques into his rock compositions.

The Soulful Touch: Rhythm and Emotion

Curtis Mayfield: The rhythms and lyrical beauty of Curtis Mayfield’s tracks were deeply influential. As a favorite Jimi Hendrix musician, Mayfield’s sound offered a soulful touch to Hendrix’s rock anthems, blending the two genres seamlessly.

Did Hendrix cover songs from his favorite musicians?

  • “All Along the Watchtower” by Bob Dylan: Perhaps one of Hendrix’s most famous covers, this rendition is so iconic that many people mistakenly believe Hendrix wrote it. Dylan himself was so impressed with Hendrix’s version that he has since played it in the style of Hendrix’s arrangement in his own concerts.
  • “Hey Joe”: While the exact origins of this song are a bit murky, it had been recorded by several artists before Hendrix’s version. However, Jimi’s rendition is arguably the most famous.
  • “Catfish Blues” by Robert Petway: Jimi often played this traditional blues number live, showcasing his deep roots in the blues tradition.
  • “Wild Thing” by The Troggs: Hendrix’s performance of this song at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, where he famously set his guitar on fire, is legendary.
  • “Johnny B. Goode” by Chuck Berry: Hendrix covered this rock ‘n’ roll classic on multiple occasions, a nod to one of the genre’s pioneers.
  • “Hound Dog” made famous by Elvis Presley: Although originally recorded by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, Elvis’s version is the most well-known. Hendrix occasionally included snippets of this song in his live performances.
  • “Bleeding Heart” by Elmore James: This is another blues number that Hendrix often performed live, highlighting his deep appreciation for blues musicians and their contribution to rock music.
  • “Sunshine of Your Love” by Cream: Hendrix performed this as a tribute to the British power trio, acknowledging their mutual admiration. Cream’s guitarist, Eric Clapton, was a contemporary and friend of Hendrix.

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Music video by Jimi Hendrix performing Bleeding Heart. (C) 2009 Experience Hendrix L.L.C., under exclusive license to Sony Music Entertainment

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