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JIMI HENDRIX - Real Guitar Heroes - Guide To The World's Best Guitarists

Updated on March 29, 2012

No matter who it is, when you look at the influences of prominent guitarists over the last 20 years, 9 times out of 10 they will list Jimi Hendrix. Rolling Stone magazine (not too shabby a magazine, as magazines go) even listed him the best guitarist of all time, as in No. 1 in their 2003 listing.

But Hendrix also became the guitar spokesperson for a generation, took the guitar and made it into a political statement by what he did. All this—and he was one incredible performer to boot, if you listen to what those who saw him play have to say. When you come right down to it, Jimi was great because so many of the things he did were firsts: first time to use feedback (and, really, controllable distortion) as part of the song rather than an annoying distraction; first one to make a rock guitar concert into visual magic.

Jimi Hendrix

A Little Hendrix Guitar History

So what did this rock legend listen to? Who did he have in his collection that inspired him to inspire a generation after him? Nobody anyone knows today, unless they lived in the same time period as Jimmy (short for James, his real name), or play guitar themselves.

B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Holly, and Robert Johnson, according to the official website, The same guys that everyone else at the time would have been listening to, along with Elvis Presley, of course—whom Jimmy was fond of also, according to a 2002 book by Philip Deloria.

Hey Joe - The Jimi Hendrix Experience

In '65 Jimi did some work as a studio musician, under the name "Jimmy James," playing with bands as well known as Ike and Tina Turner, and even Little Richard for a while.

When former bassists for The Animals Chas Chandler heard Jimmy play at the Café Wah? in Greenwich Village, he pulled together drummer Mitch Mitchell, bassists Noel Redding, and Jimmy, dubbing them "The Jimi Hendrix Experience."

Their first single, "Hey Joe," was No. 1 on UK charts for six weeks. The follow-up album, "Are You Experienced?", was only kept from No. 1 by the Beatles' "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".

Then came the Monterey Pop Festival, and a second album, "Axis: Bold as Love", and Electric Ladyland, and Woodstock.

Voodoo Child - Jimi Hendrix

Jimi Hendrix - Little Miss Lover

A Breakdown Of The Jimi Hendrix Guitar Setup

In a day and age when there is a guitar pedal for just about every effect you can think of, it's can be hard to really understand what the big deal about Jimi Hendrix was. But Jimi basically created the market called, "guitar effects."

His use of the wah pedal in 1967, after seeing Frank Zappa use one, was so unique and became so proficient that everyone since then has referred to it a "Jimi Hendrix" Crybaby Wah pedal.

You can hear it in "Voodoo Child," on Electric Ladyland, and again in "Little Miss Lover," on Axis. So, clearly, anyone who wants to sound like Jimi must start with the Wah pedal.

Another instrument that can to be synonymous with the Jimi Hendrix name was the Fender Stratocaster. Sure, there's the requisite story of him learning to play guitar on a one-string ukelele (in this case true) and moving up to a five-dollar acoustic. But once he had the cash, it was only Strats for Jimi. He bought plenty of other guitars, according to Henry Goldrich at Manny's Music in New York, where Jimi bought a lot of his instruments:

  • a Guild 12-string acoustic
  • an Acoustic Black Widow Spide
  • a double-neck Mosrite
  • various Rickenbackers (a bass, a 6-string, and a 12-string),
  • a ’67 Gretsch Corvette
  • a left-handed Guild Starfire Deluxe fitted with a Bigsby tremolo
  • a ’67 Gibson Flying V
  • a ’55 Gibson Les Paul
  • a ’68 Gibson SG Custom…

the list goes on and on. But by and large, when Jimi performed, it was usually with a black or white Strat with a simple maple fretboard. He'd have to switch the strings around, because he was left-handed, as well as the nut at the top of the neck.

Jimi Hendrix - Purple Haze

Jimi Hendrix - Fire - Live at Woodstock

Other than that, however, his effects were really minimal compared to even a mildly successful guitarist of today. One key person Jimi met in 1967 was Roger Mayer, who would go on to produce all kinds of custom pedals for Jimi, the most notable of which were fuzz units and an Octavia that can be heard on "Purple Haze" and "Fire" from Experienced.

An effect that Hendrix added his later setup was the Univox Uni-vibe, a pedal that was meant to sound like a Leslie rotating speaker. His chain for effects would look something like this: Wah, Octavia, Fuzz Face, and Uni-Vibe.

Although he experimented with Vox and Fender amplifiers, Jimi eventually settled on up-and-coming amp manufacturer Jim Marshall, helping to make him a household name. A couple of Marshall 100-watt Super Lead amps pumping out through 4x12 Marshall cabs, custom fitted with J.B. Lansing 120 F-6 Signature Speakers, would become the usual.

Jimi Hendrix LuLu Show 1969 Full tape. Voodoo Child and Hey Joe

And who can ignore the performance that ended with Hendrix Setting His Guitar On Fire!

The Jimi Hendrix Legacy

Like a few other guitar greats from the era (Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin), Jimi died young and left quite a legacy. Fender would go on to introduce seven different models of Jimi Hendrix tribute models from 1980 to 2002:most of them Fender Stratocasters 

  • the 1980 "Hendrix Prototype Stratocaster"
  • the 1991 Custom Shop '67 Reissue
  • the 1997 Custom Shop Monterey
  • the 1997 Tribute Stratocaster
  • the 1998 Voodoo Stratocaster
  • the 2000 '68 Reverse Headstock Stratocaster
  • and the 2002 Woodstock Clone.

Get your hands on one of those, and all you have to do is master the "behind-the-back" and "playing-guitar-with-your-teeth" techniques…

Hendrix was a real guitar hero and no mistake. One of the World's best guitarists... but don't forget to check out the other hubs on the best guitarists in the world

If you're interested in Music Talent, check out Got Music for the latest up and coming YouTube music stars!

Anyone else you'd like to see a page on? More are in the pipeline but do offer me any suggestions in the comments below...


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    • hcroyo profile image

      hcroyo 6 years ago

      now thanks for making a hub for me =)

    • Samuel Songungou profile image

      Samuel Songungou 6 years ago from Bangalore, India

      A well written hub for the guitar legend. I love all of Jimmy's work...he just rocked!! I got a hub about guitars too..

    • profile image

      Gary Golio 7 years ago


      Thanks for expounding so beautifully (and knowledgeably) on Mr. Hendrix...and extra special thanks for highlighting my recent kid's book on JIMI and his own childhood, JIMI: Sounds Like A Rainbow, in your "Read More" column.

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 7 years ago from United States

      Wow! Another really great hub! I am also linking this one to my celebrity deaths hub! Great job!

    • gwinto500 profile image

      gwinto500 8 years ago

      Yes, he did a lot for Marshall Amps and Fender Strats. He was a great guitarist and song writer. Nice hub!

    • profile image

      LEWJ 8 years ago

      Another note: That should be "one of the very best rock guitarists ever." His best studio piece is probably "ALL ALONG THE WATCHTOWER", but one of his very best also is a piece called 'PALI GAP,' which is'nt often heard or applauded, but deserves to be.

    • profile image

      LEWJ 8 years ago

      Good hub on one of the very best rock guitarist ever. His music deserves more exposure. As has been said, there are sublimities in the music of Jimi Hendrix.

    • Wyldflow3r profile image

      Wyldflow3r 8 years ago

      I love Hendrix!!! Thanks for taking the time to put these segments together! Great work!!!

    • Kosmo profile image

      Kelley 8 years ago from California

      Wow! You must have taken a lot of time to put this one together! Anyway, Hendrix is my favorite rock guitarist, though I put him number three on my top ten list because his rock career only lasted about four years. However, his stage presence, swagger, personality and sense of melody topped all the others. Later!