[Slowhand] Re: BB King Tribute To EC

DeltaNick deltanick at comcast.net
Wed Mar 29 21:47:00 EST 2006

>> When I point out that he's often hailed as the second most gifted guitarist of all time, after Jimi Hendrix, he [BB King] shakes his head (http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/lifestyle/music/story.jsp?story=684477

) <<

This is sheer poppycock. At the time of his death, Hendrix was considered an excellent guitarist, but not in the same league as BB King or Clapton, and some others. Mike Bloomfield, for example, played with Hendrix in New York BEFORE he ever met Clapton. The Paul Butterfield Blues Band toured the UK in October-November 1966, and Bloomfield, their lead guitarist, eagerly sought Clapton and eventually linked up with him. On his return to the US, Bloomfield simply raved about Clapton, and never mentioned Hendrix, pronouncing Clapton the best of all. I certainly enjoyed seeing Hendrix, in 1968. But to tell the truth, I'd enjoyed seeing Bloomfield play a bunch more. Mike didn't waste his time doing "sound effects" or paying tribute to space aliens, he simply played damn great guitar. So did Clapton and a few others. And yes, I'm aware that Bloomfield claimed that he couldn't play as well as Hendrix. But I think he played better guitar, and more styles of guitar.

On one of his trips to the UK, Freddie King stayed with John Mayall. Mayall played recordings of both Clapton and Hendrix, and King much preferred Clapton's playing.

Amazing what a great PR machine -- and the myths created by that PR machine after Jimi's death -- can do. This is revisionism, pure and simple. Hendrix was a great, and a total performer. But if you were looking for the guitar player among the two, while Hendrix lived, Clapton won the awards and Hendrix didn't, and Clapton was MUCH more in demand as a player on others' records. Everyone wanted Clapton to play on their records, not Jimi Hendrix. In fact, I believe that Mike Bloomfield was in demand more than Hendrix as well.

There are several myths in the history of "rock." Here are two more.

1. There was a riot at the Blind Faith concert, 12 July 1969, at Madison Square Garden, NY. I was there, and it never happened. When I read about it in "Rolling Stone" a couple of weeks later, I remember becoming angry, because it simply was NOT true.

2. Bob Dylan was booed off stage when he went electric at the Newport Folk Festival, in July 1965. I've heard the recordings: it simply didn't happen. There was NO booing. Furthermore, Al Kooper, who was Dylan's organist at the performance, wrote the same in his biography, "Backstage Passes & Backstabbing Bastards."

There's no question that Jimi Hendrix was a great performer, songwriter, and guitarist. But the idea that Hendrix-was-the-greatest-guitarist-ever is pure myth born long after Jimi's death by the Experience Hendrix PR machine and some fans. But don't simply take my word for it. Check to see who won the best guitarist polls in the late '60s and 1970, while Hendrix was alive, and you'll see Clapton's name at the top of the list more than anyone else's.

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