The Reason Eric Clapton Left The Stage When Jimi Hendrix Started Playing

It is a widely accepted fact that the history of rock music is filled with countless great stories that often surprise us all. It is striking to find out that many prominent musicians have crossed paths during their musical journey. Some of these attention-grabbing stories may be exaggerated to some extent or even entirely fictional, but they are still interesting to discuss.

The two heroes of one of these interesting stories are Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, who are among the most outstanding figures of the rock scene. You may be astonished to hear that the two legends encountered in the early days of their music career and even shared the same stage.

How Did Eric Clapton Cross Paths With Jimi Hendrix?

It is undeniable that Jimi Hendrix and Eric Clapton considerably impacted rock guitar playing with their extraordinary talents. By 1966, Eric Clapton had already started to make his voice heard with his performance in the Yardbirds and John Mayal & the Bluesbreakers.

Eric Clapton, Ginger Baker, and Jack Bruce were impressed with each other’s playing abilities from the first moment they met. Thus, it wasn’t hard for them to come together and form the famous supergroup, Cream. Although Baker and Bruce had some conflicts, they decided to put aside their differences for the sake of Cream, which proved to be the right decision considering the band’s enormous success.

It was around the same time that Jimi Hendrix left New York and arrived in London after being convinced by the manager Chas Chandler, who played a key role in Hendrix’s future success. Chandler saw Jimi Hendrix for the first time while playing in a nightclub and instantly noticed his talent. Later on, when they made their way to London, Chandler immediately began looking for skilled musicians for the band, the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

Around this time, Chas Chandler introduced Jimi Hendrix to Eric Clapton. Hendrix was already a fan of Clapton’s playing, and he was really excited to meet him. Cream would perform at London Polytechnic at Regent Street, where the two met each other. Let’s see what happened after their first encounter and first performance together.

Eric Clapton Was Shocked When Jimi Hendrix Started Playing

The background of this great story was revealed in the book ‘Hendrix: Setting The Record Straight,’ which includes some unknown details about Jimi Hendrix’s life. According to the book, Chas Chandler had already told the Cream members about Hendrix’s extraordinary talent, and they agreed to jam with him. However, the other two band members wanted Eric Clapton to stay on stage in case something went wrong while Hendrix was playing.

It was a great opportunity for Jimi Hendrix, and he definitely wouldn’t ruin it. Hendrix took the stage with Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Killing Floor,’ and gave a terrific performance from beginning to end. Chas Chandler remembers that Eric Clapton was literally shocked when he heard Hendrix’s guitar playing because he was unbelievably good.

Here is how Chas Chandler remembers this special moment:

“Clapton stood there, and his hands dropped off of the guitar. He lurched off the stage. I thought, ‘Oh God, it’s happening now.’ I went backstage, and he was trying to get a match to a cigarette. I said, ‘Are you alright?’ and he replied, ‘Is he that fucking good?’ He had heard ten bars at the most. Within a week, he had his hair frizzed and would come by our flat anytime that he had a spare moment, to be with Hendrix.”

Later on, in an interview, Eric Clapton described Jimi Hendrix’s performance by saying that although Jimi did just a few of his playing tricks, it was enough for Clapton to be highly impressed. Eric Clapton also stated that his life has never been the same again after seeing Hendrix playing on that stage.

Eric Clapton’s words on Hendrix’s 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.”

It would be fair to say that Jimi Hendrix changed what guitar playing meant to Eric Clapton shortly after they met. He was truly mesmerized by Hendrix’s exceptional talent. Although they had a short friendship that ended with Jimi’s tragic death, it was definitely an intense one.