When Eric Clapton Exposed Jimi Hendrix’s Scheme To Gain Popularity


After seeing Jimi Hendrix‘s performance of ‘Hey Joe’ at Cafe Wha?, The Animals’ Chas Chandler asked Jimi Hendrix to come to Britain with him. On September 24, 1966, Chandler and Hendrix were in London. Impressed by Hendrix’s talent, Chandler signed him to a contract, and this marked the beginnings of the iconic guitarist’s music career.

On October 1, 1966, Chandler brought Hendrix to the London Polytechnic. At that time, Cream was also there to perform. After the show, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix met for the first time, and they became friends after this encounter. However, Clapton believed that Hendrix exploited two things to rise in prominence before becoming famous.

Eric Clapton Argued That Jimi Hendrix Used Two Things To Be Popular


Undoubtedly, The Animals’ Chas Chandler was critical in Jimi Hendrix’s musical career. For Hendrix’s band, Chandler recruited Noel Redding due to his curly hair and suggested Mitch Michell get his hair permed so that he would look part of the Experience. Moreover, he was the one who believed meeting Eric Clapton would have a significant impact on Hendrix’s career.

Seeing that Hendrix would become a guitar icon rapidly, Chandler thought Hendrix would be hugely popular if he had a chance to perform with Eric Clapton. It was for this reason that he brought Hendrix to Cream’s performance. According to Dave Robinson, who had managed the Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Animals, Chandler planned to make Hendrix the next Clapton.

In a 1968 interview with Rolling Stone, Eric Clapton revealed his thoughts on Jimi Hendrix and his music career. Clapton stated that Hendrix sang well, although he told everyone he couldn’t. Moreover, the guitarist noted that the British audience loved black musicians and Hendrix’s magical and sexual aura. According to Clapton, Hendrix exploited this to the limit. However, he did it to impress the audience and succeeded.

Speaking to Rolling Stone, Eric Clapton said the following about Jimi Hendrix:

“I don’t want to be critical about it. I think Jimi can sing very well; he 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. I don’t like to watch him too much because I prefer to listen to him. When he first came to England, you know English people had a huge thing towards a spade. They love that magical thing, the sexual thing. They all fall for that sort of thing. Everybody and his brother in England still think that spades have big d*cks. And Jimi came over and exploited that to the limit, the f*cking tee. Everybody fell for it. Sh*t. 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 all. That stuff he does on stage; when he does that, he’s testing the audience. He’ll do many things, like fooling around with his tongue, playing his guitar behind his back, and rubbing 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. He’ll keep on doing it, putting them on. Play less music. If they don’t dig it, then he’ll play straight because he knows he has to. It’s funny. I heard that he came on and put on all that sh*t in his first set, and people were just dead towards it. And in the second set, he just played, which is great.”

He then continued:

“He had the whole combination in England. It was just what the market wanted, a psychedelic pop star who looked freaky, and they’re also still hung up about spades, and the blues thing was there. So Jimi walked in, put on all the gear, and made it straight away. It was a perfect formula. Underneath it all, he’s got an incredible musical talent. He is one of the finest musicians around on the Western scene. If you scrape away all the bullsh*t he carries around, you’ll find a fantastically talented guy and a beautiful guitar player for his age. I can’t take it all, all the plastic things.”

As Eric Clapton said, Jimi Hendrix tested the audience with his stage shows and acted accordingly; if the audience liked the show, he would put on a show in the first set and play his guitar in the second. Moreover, Clapton stated Hendrix had the perfect formula for the music market with his freaky, magical, and sensual performances, but his talent was far beyond his stage shows. So, Clapton wasn’t criticizing Hendrix for taking advantage of his appearance on stage but admitted falling for it just like hundreds of others.