Rock music history brims with stories of legendary encounters and collaborations, some so remarkable they seem more like myth than reality. Among these tales, the intersection of paths between Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix stands out as a testament to the interconnected world of celebrated musicians. Their brief but impactful collaboration is a reminder of how two giants of the rock scene could influence each other profoundly.
Jimi Hendrix, already making waves with his unparalleled guitar skills in New York, was brought to London by manager Chas Chandler, who recognized his potential to revolutionize rock music. Meanwhile, Eric Clapton had been establishing his reputation as a guitar virtuoso through his work with the Yardbirds and John Mayall & the Bluesbreakers, before forming the supergroup Cream with Ginger Baker and Jack Bruce.
The pivotal moment came when Chandler introduced Hendrix to Clapton, setting the stage for an unforgettable jam session. Cream, known for their electrifying performances, was scheduled to play at the London Polytechnic, and it was there that Hendrix would share the stage with Clapton.
The encounter is vividly recounted in the book ‘Hendrix: Setting The Record Straight,’ which sheds light on Hendrix’s early days. Despite the members of Cream being forewarned of Hendrix’s talent, nothing could prepare Clapton for the reality of witnessing it firsthand. When Hendrix took the stage to perform Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Killing Floor,’ his performance was nothing short of mesmerizing, leaving Clapton stunned and momentarily unable to continue playing.
Chas Chandler’s recollection of Clapton’s reaction highlights the profound impact Hendrix had on him. Clapton himself has spoken about the experience, noting Hendrix’s versatility and the understated way he showcased his iconic stunts, such as playing with his teeth and behind his back. This encounter not only changed Clapton’s view on guitar playing but also left an indelible mark on his life.
The brief period Hendrix and Clapton shared had a lasting influence, showcasing the deep mutual respect and admiration between two of rock’s greatest guitarists. Despite Hendrix’s untimely death, his legacy and the impact of his talent on fellow musicians like Clapton endure, reminding us of the power of music to connect and inspire across generations.