Jimi Hendrix was able to create his own unique style that influenced generations of guitarists to come. But who were Jimi Hendrix’s influences?
Jimi Hendrix was influenced by Bud Brown, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Albert King, Bob Dylan, and Little Richard. Bud Brown was his first major influence in Seattle that provoked Hendrix to continue with blues guitar.
Continue reading to learn more about each of the major influences Jimi had and more!
Who Were Jimi Hendrix’s Influences?
Jimi was a guitar pioneer. He invented his own style by morphing the styles of various blues legends. Legends like Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, B.B. and Albert King, etc. Through the self-taught teachings of these guitarists, Hendrix was able to combine his rhythmic sensibility with various licks and styles of these guitarists. The outcome of this was guitar playing that was never been seen before.
The list below is some of his major influences both with guitar and not. Two names you will notice are Bob Dylan and Little Richard. Both of which were not known for exceptional guitar playing. Instead, these two provided other impactful influences on Hendrix which are discussed below.
“You’ve got to dig everything and get your own ideas. Too much digging, and not enough doing, will send you spinning.”Jimi Hendrix
As you may already know, Jimi Hendrix was a blues guitarist at heart. Hence why the below musicians, with the exception of Bob Dylan and Little Richard, are primarily blues musicians. Growing up, Jimi almost exclusively listened to blues.
Bud Brown is likely a name you have not heard much of or at all. He was a guitarist that played with the Dave Lewis Combo. The Dave Lewis Combo was the top rhythm and blues band in Seattle which is where Jimi grew up.
Bud Brown was a great blues guitar player that Jimi loved. Jimi would go to Birdland Hall every chance he could to watch him play, studying his licks and technique. Birdland Hall was the rhythm and blues capital of Seattle and once you play there, it was the pinnacle of blues performances in Seattle. It was Bud Brown who Jimi would see the most of live before achieving stardom.
Muddy Waters was Jimi Hendrix’s first major guitar influence. Muddy’s playing initially scared Hendrix. Hendrix mentioned how he was a little boy at the time he heard Muddy Water’s old records for the first time and it scared him to death because of all those sounds. This intrigued Hendrix to question “wow what is that all about”. His guitar journey started shortly after.
He loved that album despite it scaring him to death. He wanted to create similar sounds. Muddy was the first blues guitarist to truly catch the ear of Hendrix and set him on the path to guitar greatness.
Buddy Guy was Jimi’s blues idol. Jimi loved the Chicago style blues guitar. It was his favorite discipline as he was progressing at guitar. Buddy Guy, similar to Clapton, was not known for playing any rhythmic guitar. Instead, he would wail complex and ear engaging licks over the band.
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This wailing certainly grabbed Jimi’s ear as pieces of Buddy Guys style can certainly be heard in songs like Foxey Lady. Although Jimi adds rhythm sections in between each lick, a style that was new at the time. Buddy was not initially receptive to Hendrix in the beginning. Buddy would mention publicly how Hendrix was using all his licks, a statement that he would later go back on.
B.B. King was another major influence for Jimi Hendrix. When B.B. and Jimi first met, Jimi told B.B. how he had been listening to him for a very long time. At that time, Jimi was just a guitarist for Little Richard and not the top performer he would soon become.
It is near impossible to not be influenced by B.B. Both by his guitar playing and vocal power. He is a blues icon and one of the most influential guitarists of all time. During Hendrix’s touring career, he would often play ‘Everyday I Have The Blues’. When Hendrix was in Little Richards band, he would often play B.B. King licks, often at the expense of Little Richards admiration. B.B. King’s influence on Hendrix can be exceptionally heard on Hendrix’s rendition of Red House and Voodoo Chile.
Jimi Hendrix was majorly influenced by the guitar playing of Albert King. What Jimi admired most about Albert was his distinguishing style. Nobody at that time sounded like Albert King and Albert was the leader of the funk blues scene. Jimi loved how Albert played strict funk blues and almost nothing else.
Jimi loved the very young, funky sound to Albert’s blues playing, calling it one of the funkiest he’s ever heard. This blues funk feel had an effect on Jimi’s rhythm playing as he explored more complex chord embellishments.
One of the larger influences on Jimi’s career was surprisingly Bob Dylan. Dylan was not known for being a superb guitar player, but it was his lyrical skills that impressed and influenced Hendrix the most. The way Jimi approached music lyrically and rhythmically was heavily influenced by Bob Dylan.
Initially Jimi was not impressed by Dylan. He remarked how he was confused why he was singing out of key for most of the song. In time, Hendrix started listening intently to the lyrics and his fascination began.
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In fact, one of the first things he noticed about Noel Redding, Experience Bassist, was how similar his hair was to Dylan’s. At the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, Hendrix introduced Noel as Bob Dylan’s grandmother.
Jimi then covered All Along the Watchtower which would become one of his biggest hits. In 2015, Bob Dylan mentioned how:
“He took some small songs of mine that nobody paid any attention to and brought them up into the outer limits of the stratosphere, turned them all into classics … I have to thank Jimi. I wish he was here.”Bob Dylan, MusiCares Award Ceremony
Little Richard was not a guitarist so it may be surprising that he made this list, similar to Bob Dylan making it. Although, both artists had a tremendous effect on Jimi’s career.
Before Jimi started his own venture, he was playing behind Little Richard. Being behind Little Richard night in and out provided Jimi with a masterclass on how to perform for the crowd. Little Richard was famous for his Elvis like gyrations and ability to excite the crowd. Jimi studied this and would later implement similar performances in his shows.
Clothing was another influence from Little Richard. Little Richard would dress in colorful flowy and fun clothing. Something that catches the eye. Jimi would imitate much of this style early in his solo career.
Jimi did not have any admiration towards Little Richard personally. Little Richard was known to stiff his band on pay and stifle their creativity. He simply admired how he dressed and worked the crowd.
Who Did Jimi Hendrix Think Was the Best Guitar Player?
Jimi Hendrix believed that Rory Gallagher was the greatest guitarist in the world. In an interview, Jimi was asked what it was like to be the greatest guitarist in the world. He responded with “I don’t know, you will have to ask Rory Gallagher”.
He goes on to mention in other interviews how Rory’s playing was extremely technical and precise, two traits that Jimi did not think of his playing all too much. Although, the rest of the world thought otherwise.
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