Published on September 1st, 2023 | by AlexandreG.0
Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton: The Meeting That Changed Rock ‘n’ Roll Forever
Jimi Hendrix, the American prodigy, made his British debut in 1966, bringing a wave of vibrant, psychedelic musical genius to England’s gloomy shores. The British audience, familiar with a more conservative style, was left awestruck by Hendrix’s audacious musical flair. At the forefront of this astonishment was Eric Clapton, the undisputed guitar maestro of the nation. To witness Clapton, a fierce contender in the music arena, willingly cede the spotlight to Hendrix was a testament to the admiration and bond that would burgeon between them.
The Reason Eric Clapton Left The Stage When Jimi Hendrix Started Playing
Their first meeting transpired in London, merely a week after Hendrix’s arrival, courtesy of Chas Chandler’s prompt orchestration of the Jimi Hendrix Experience, a band tailored to Hendrix’s unparalleled skillset. At the time, Clapton and his band, Cream, dominated London’s music scene. Yet, the landscape was about to shift.
On a significant evening, Chandler introduced Hendrix to Clapton at the London Polytechnic on Regent Street, where Cream was performing. Reflecting on that night, Clapton mentioned Hendrix’s audacious request to join them on stage. And, without hesitation, Clapton consented.
The stage was then graced by Hendrix’s rendition of the Howlin’ Wolf classic, “Killing Floor”. Clapton, reminiscing in 1989, said of the performance, “He played just about every style you could think of, and not in a flashy way. I mean he did a few of his tricks, like playing with his teeth and behind his back, but it wasn’t in an upstaging sense at all, and that was it … He walked off, and my life was never the same again“.
Keith Altham, a famous rock journalist from The Guardian at that time, recalls the meeting between Clapton and Hendrix. He remembers it well. “Chandler going backstage after Clapton left in the middle of the song ‘which he had yet to master himself’; Clapton was furiously puffing on a cigarette and telling Chas: ‘You never told me he was that f*cking good.’” Chandler had clearly discovered not just a talented artist, but also a genuine contender for a position of power.
The friendship between Jimi Hedrix and Eric Clapton
From that pivotal night, the duo’s relationship blossomed, persisting until the tragic death of Hendrix in September 1970. This tragedy sent shockwaves throughout the rock ‘n’ roll community, leaving a void that could never be filled. Clapton, especially, bore the brunt of this loss deeply.
Haunted by the loss, Clapton recalled the depth of their friendship and the plans they had for the ill-fated night of Hendrix’s death. He expressed the anguish of being constantly reminded of Hendrix by eager fans and budding musicians. The pain, so palpable, made him reluctant to discuss or even listen to Hendrix’s music.
Even after five decades, the anguish Clapton felt over Hendrix’s death lingers. Their camaraderie was not just about music but also about mutual respect and understanding. Clapton played an instrumental role in introducing Hendrix to London and aiding his assimilation into British culture. Their bond stands as a testament to their respect for each other’s craft.
Was Eric Clapton influenced by Jimi Hendrix?
From their first meeting, it was evident that Clapton was deeply impressed by Hendrix’s prowess. The American guitarist’s innovative use of the instrument, blending rock with blues in a fiery yet soulful manner, was something the British scene hadn’t witnessed before. Hendrix’s audacious stage presence, combined with his unique playing style, left a mark on many, including Clapton.
While both guitarists were heavily influenced by the blues, their approach to the genre was distinct. Clapton’s style was more rooted in traditional blues, drawing inspiration from legends like Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. Hendrix, on the other hand, took the blues to a different dimension, fusing it with rock, psychedelia, and even jazz elements.