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In 1966, when Jimi Hendrix landed in London, he entered a music scene pulsating with innovation and tradition. Global icons like Cream, The Rolling Stones, and The Beatles had already written names in the pages of music’s history, creating a unique atmosphere in the London music landscape, known as the “Swinging London”. In the world of guitarists, there were the best of the world, in the name of Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton. Clapton, in particular, had attained such acclaim that fans elevated him to divine status, immortalizing him in graffiti as “CLAPTON IS GOD.”

Jimi Hendrix landed in London on Saturday, September 24. During his first week, his primary objective was to assemble a band. To make this happen, Jimi’s manager, Chas Chandler, needed to secure him a spot on stage. However, The Jimi Hendrix Experience band came together in the blink of an eye, with Noel Redding and Mitch Mitchell quickly brought on board. Just a week into his London adventure, Jimi Hendrix attended a Cream performance at Polytechnic.


Jimi Hendrix Jam Session With Eric Clapton’s Cream


Chas Chandler had already spoken with Eric Clapton earlier that week before the concert, mentioning that he had a new gem from America and one of the reasons Jimi Hendrix had flown from New York to London was to meet Eric Clapton. Clapton accepted the invitation and extended it to Jimi Hendrix.

Jimi Hendrix made sure to attend the concert, of course, but with his indispensable guitar in hand! Jimi Hendrix calmly watched the first part of the performance, and later, Chandler questioned Clapton if Jimi Hendrix could join in to play with Cream. It was a surprising request to which the band awkwardly agreed.

Jimi asked if they could play “Killing Floor” by Howlin’ Wolf, simply leaving Eric Clapton and the rest of the band in awe. Years later, when Eric Clapton recalled the moment to NME, he said, “I thought, ‘My God, this is like Buddy Guy on acid.’” But Jack Bruce had a different perspective on that night, especially in Eric Clapton’s reaction to the event: “It must be difficult for Eric to handle because Eric was ‘God,’ and this unknown person comes along and burns.”

Jeff Beck was also in the audience that night and later remarked that Jimi had been in London for just one week, and he had already met God and burned him.


Eric Clapton’s Favorite Jimi Hendrix Song


Like all of us, Clapton reflects on Jimi Hendrix’s legacy through the music he left behind. With a profound connection to the man behind the music, Clapton’s choice of his favorite Jimi Hendrix song is intriguing. Selecting the song Jimi Hendrix performed when they first met, a song Clapton had yet to master, is a testament to the immense respect Clapton holds. Clapton chooses Jimi Hendrix’s rendition of “Killing Floor” when asked by the BBC to pick his favorite song from the American guitar.

The first time I met Jimi, he came to see Cream play at an early Cream gig when we were playing universities and stuff like that, and the Cambridge May Ball,” reflected Clapton. “He came to the London Polytechnic, and we were playing there, we got up on stage, and then Chas Chandler came up to us and said, ‘I’ve got this friend who would love to jam.’

And I thought, ‘Well, yeah.’ And it was funny in those days anybody could get up with anybody if you were convincing enough that you could play. So he got up and blew everyone’s mind. And me too, I just thought, ‘Ah, someone that plays the stuff I love, in the flesh, on stage with me. I was actually privileged to be part of something that no one’s ever gonna be. That incident that night is historic in my mind.


Listen below to Eric Clapton‘s favorite Jimi Hendrix song of all time: “Killing Floor”


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Jimi Hendrix’s Cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor

“Killing Floor” is a 1964 song by the American blues singer-songwriter and guitarist Howlin’ Wolf. Recognized as “one of the defining classics of Chicago electric blues,” the track became a blues standard with recordings by various artists. Its popularity extends beyond the blues genre and has earned acknowledgment from the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.

Howlin’ Wolf recorded the original “Killing Floor” in Chicago in August 1964, released as a single by Chess Records. Blues guitarist and longtime Wolf associate Hubert Sumlin described the song’s metaphorical use of the killing floor—a slaughterhouse area where animals are killed—to symbolize male-female relationships. According to Sumlin, being “down on the killing floor” signifies a woman having control to the point of trying to figuratively kill a man. The lyrics capture the struggles and adversities faced in relationships.

“Killing Floor” is an upbeat twelve-bar blues featuring an instantly recognizable guitar riff provided by Sumlin. The backing musicians include Lafayette Leake on piano, Buddy Guy on acoustic guitar, Andrew “Blueblood” McMahon on bass, Sam Lay on drums, Arnold Rogers on tenor sax, and Donald Hankins on baritone sax. The song appears on various Howlin’ Wolf compilation albums, notably on his 1966 release, “The Real Folk Blues.”

Jimi Hendrix showcased “Killing Floor” early in his career, with initial vocal performances alongside Curtis Knight and the Squires in 1965 and 1966. Shortly after arriving in England in September 1966, Jimi Hendrix played the song into the set list of the newly formed Jimi Hendrix Experience, frequently chosen as the set opener. Jimi Hendrix, known for his innovative style, played the song at a faster tempo, infusing it with a distinct rhythm guitar and bass line. Early recordings of the song include live versions from October 1966 in Paris (The Jimi Hendrix Experience box set), March 1967 in the BBC studios (BBC Sessions), and June 1967 at the Monterey International Pop Festival (Jimi Plays Monterey).



Who Inspired Jimi Hendrix to Play Guitar?

Jimi Hendrix found inspiration for his guitar playing from a diverse array of musicians. Blues legends such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf profoundly influenced him, shaping the expressive and emotive qualities in his guitar work. In addition to blues, Jimi Hendrix drew inspiration from pioneers of rock ‘n’ roll, including Chuck Berry, whose innovative guitar techniques and stage presence left a lasting impact. Early rock ‘n’ roll artists like Little Richard also contributed to Jimi Hendrix’s musical influences.

Jazz played a role in shaping Jimi Hendrix’s style as well, with admiration for jazz guitarists Wes Montgomery and Johnny Smith influencing his approach to the instrument. Bob Dylan’s songwriting was another source of inspiration for Jimi Hendrix, leading him to cover several of Dylan’s songs and showcasing his versatility as an artist.


What Did Eric Clapton Call Jimi Hendrix?

Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix were good friends, and in an interview with Rolling Stone in 1968, Clapton revealed his opinion about the American guitarist. They had played together in 1966 when Jimi Hendrix joined Cream on stage. Eric Clapton was asked for his thoughts on Jimi Hendrix:

I don’t really want to be critical about it. I think Jimi can sing very well; he just puts it around that he can’t sing and everyone accepts it. I think he can sing very well, I also think he’s a great guitarist and I don’t like to watch him too much ’cause I prefer to listen to him.

When he first came to England, you know English people have a very big thing towards a spade. They really love that magic thing, the sexual thing. They all fall for that sort of thing. Everybody and his brother in England still sort of think that spades have big dicks. And Jimi came over and exploited that to the limit, the fucking tee. Everybody fell for it. Shit.

I fell for it. After a while I began to suspect it. Having gotten to know him, I found out that’s not where he’s at, not where he’s at at all. That stuff he does on stage, when he does that he’s testing the audience. He’ll do a lot of things, like fool around with his tongue and play his guitar behind his back and rub it up and down his crotch. And he’ll look at the audience, and if they’re digging it, he won’t like the audience.


What Was the Relationship Between Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton Like?

Jimi Hendrix often stated that the main reason he agreed to sign with Chas Chandler and leave New York for London was that Chas promised Jimi Hendrix he would meet Eric Clapton. Jimi Hendrix revered Eric Clapton, as did much of the world at that time. Clapton was famously dubbed “God.”

Accounts suggest there was some tension, primarily due to constant comparisons made between the two guitarists, which could be exasperating. They were individuals with different upbringings, relationships to music, and interpretations. Jimi Hendrix was somewhat critical of Clapton, albeit constructively, feeling that Clapton neglected the importance of the guitar’s rhythm in his playing. Despite these differences, there is no doubt that they had much respect for each other and challenged each other to push their respective individual creativity and craft.



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