Hendrix at Woodstock

Here's some awesome footage of the one and only Jimi Hendrix performing at Woodstock. At around 11 minutes in, he plays the guitar with his teeth. Yes...with his teeth. And it still sounds great.

Some of the hippies at the event take a much-needed dip in a lake, so the film does contain a tiny bit of nudity, as well as some drug-taking.


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Well, I hadn't planned on spending an hour with Hendrix today, but that was fun. Thanks, rb

I hadn't planned on spending an hour either, but I enjoyed it as well. Thanks!

Hendrix was a pioneer of electric lead guitar, but his techniques have been imitated ad nauseum by several subsequent generations of players.

Jimi's techniques have been imitated? Where do you think he got them from? Buddy Guy was the originator of Hendrix's sound and guitar tricks, which Jimi gladly ripped off after working as his sideman and took to England. While there, the "womon tone" and distortion were pilfered from Eric Clapton. Finally, no guitarist in his 20's wanted any part of the true geniuses of the genre- Guy, Freddie King, and Ike Turner. Jimi was a very good imitator of the true greats.

By Gary Paquin (not verified) on 24 Aug 2008 #permalink

Thanks for posting this blast from the past. There are few better ways to spend an hour than watching Hendrix shortly before his demise.

I was fortunate to meet Hendrix in a hotel lobby in Houston with a group of my friends before his concert there in April, 1969. Also saw him briefly at the Denver Pop Festival before the cops decide to make us call it a night by rolling up in pickup trucks and macing the crowd for no apparent reason.

I can appreciate those who realize that every guitar god in the 60s owes a debt of gratitude and a sackful of licks to their predecessors. Of course they do, and yet I doubt if Hendrix was heavily influenced by Buddy Guy, who was a Chess session player before his first album wasn't released in 1967, well after Hendrix had achieved his unique style. Hendrix may well have seen Buddy Guy backing up one of the Chess Records stars, but it's doubtful Guy would have had a decisive influence on a guitarist who already was recognized as one of the most innovative on the scene.

To say that Jimi "pilfered" his tone from his friend, Eric Clapton, is likewise incorrect. Prior to their meeting in 1966, Clapton was achieving his fuzz tone by overdriving Gibson guitars (with their "hot" double-coil pickups) through Marshall amps, which had recently been designed by drummer-turned-engineer Jim Marshall to distort when overdriven. Hendrix, in turn, introduced Clapton to the Fuzz Face distortion box, allowing the weaker pickups in Fender guitars to create the same overdriven tone. Hendrix also pioneered such effects as the wah-wah pedal (an old swing band innovation that allowed guitarists to emulate horn players), and the Octavia (which double the tone an octave higher or lower than the note being played -- you'll hear it on the solo to Purple Haze).

Some 30 years before Hendrix played guitar behind his back, or with his teeth, electric guitar pioneer T-Bone Walker was doing both. Yet Hendrix acknowledged that instead of T-Bone, he learned to play with his teeth from Alphonso 'Baby Boo' Young, a member of one of the first bands Hendrix joined to play the Chitlin Circuit after his discharge from the Army. He kept learning similar tricks (and chord voicings) from guitarists in bands he either toured with or played studio sessions with, including Little Richard and the Isley Brothers.

By the time he was signed by Chas Chandler (1966) of the Animals and taken to England to build his material, Hendrix's style was sui generis. Especially his solos. During his early shows in London, his audiences at club dates included everyone from the Beatles to Brian Jones, Pete Townsend, Jeff Beck, and (as mentioned) Eric Clapton. All are on the record as stating their amazement at Hendrix's abilities, showmanship, and innovations.

Every good musician builds on the skills of every good musician who has come before. This progression of influences is like an unbroken chain, connecting genres and allowing musicians to stand on the shoulders of giants. But to try and diminish Jimi's contribution by accusing him of being a ripoff artist is just plain wrongheaded and disrepectful.

He was a great musician for any era -- a central link in the unbroken chain of greats -- and at the same time a nice enough person to spend 15 minutes talking to a handful of his teenaged fans in a hotel lobby in Houston a few hours before he played a concert. Enough said.

By David Dawson (not verified) on 24 Aug 2008 #permalink

It's one of the rare treats in life when one of your childhood heroes can still inspire the same awe and joy for the duration of your adult life. I only appreciate him more every time I watch him. I couldn't sleep on a sunday night, and now I'm glad I didn't waste the time I could have spent watching this.

It's funny, when I was 15, I used to mow my lawn with my yellow, sony sports walkman with Jimi Plays Montery on it (which miraculously, Otis Reading also played). I used to practice the solo to Hey Joe and wondered how he did it. then i saw him do it on a video years later...with his teeth...oh lord.

He's pure freedom and feeling. Thanks for reminding me...

David, thanks! I was at the Denver thing too, the same year, but earlier in the summer before Woodstock. It was three days at Mile High. Big Mama Thornton was the opening act on Friday, Jimi closed it on Sunday night. As I recall it, the police harassed and gassed us (they had a new "pepper fog" machine they were anxious to try out) for two and a half days. They had given up by the time Jimi played. Do you remember how all the cops in their glossy jackboots, helmets and batons (tapping along) sat in the empty south stands to watch the show? When Jimi struck up his last number, the National Anthem, they stood as one, respectfully. After a bit, they seemed a little confused, and eventually dispersed. When the concert was over, there was only one policeman left in the area, directing traffic, and one smashed up police car. Ah, good times. rb

Arby -- Yep, late June or early July, 1969. My parents were vacationing in Estes Park, and let my brother and I drive down for the festival. If only they had known!!!

I do remember the fog machine -- that's what I was trying to describe! The cops, in their riot gear, were spraying it all over everyone crowding around at the gate. I caught a big blast of it while standing next to the guitarist for Three Dog Night (wearing his guitar, no less). He was trying to get from the dressing rooms to the stage, and had somehow ended up in the big crowd.

I do remember Big Mama Thornton kicking it off on a Friday afternoon, followed a couple of acts later by the Mothers of Invention and (if memory serves) Iron Butterfly! I think that first set alone changed my life!

The second night we got sprayed again just sitting in the stands. The wind was blowing the fog all over the place (including all over the cops!). We really caught the second night (I think Johnny Winter was playing) and had to go stand around under the stadium with a huge of crowd, everyone choking and coughing.

I only caught about 20 minutes of that closing set. My brother wanted to get out, thinking there was going to be a riot or something. I will always regret not begin able to catch the whole set -- Hendrix sounded much better than he had in Houston a few months before.

After all these years, glad to meet you!

By David Dawson (not verified) on 26 Aug 2008 #permalink

Glad you saw the comment, David, thought it might be a dead thread by now. I've met a number of people over the years who were there, though none recently. I may have my nights confused, but I think I recall Jimi pouring lighter fluid on his guitar and setting it alight. Somebody did one night as a closer. He hadn't shut off the guitar, and it continued to burn and put out a sustained note until a roady came out and unplugged it. We were all mesmerized, and as long as there was sound coming from somewhere, it wasn't over. I may have been a little over a mile high at the time.
Regarding the pepper fog machine, as the gas floated into the stadium that one night, you could hear sneezes drifting closer and closer. The first whiff (CS gas?) causes a sneeze, then come the tears and choking on the second breath. The infield fence got broken down as people tried to escape onto the field. As for the Mothers, Lord, I've never heard a tighter band in my life. I also ate the best peach of my life on one of those days, but as I said, I may have been about 6500 feet at the time. I've never forgotten it though.
Thanks for your earlier comment, I thought there was something fishy about the Clapton thing, but didn't have the knowledge to back up my intuition. You seem to know what you are talking about. Great to hear from you! rb

Jimi, Jimi, Jimi.
Even those of us who adore Buddy Guy know there's plenty of room for all the greats, and have no issues with who picks up what from whom. Bet none of you know Blaise Lucianaz, but all of you have heard the less famous but spellbinding sounds of guitar players who know their stuff and aren't shy about showing it.
Musicians aren't deaf. They listen, they absorb, they interpret, they invent - often simultaneously. All artists have to deal with predecessors and contemporaries. Art survives, if it's any good.

All these years and the chords still hang in the air. And we all get to spark those associative music-triggered embedded memories into life and time travel just by hitting Play.

As for the teeth. The ladies can attest to some tongue action there.

Just watched another bit of history on TV from Mile High Stadium -- Obama's acceptance speech. I think he got a little bit louder ovation than Three Dog Night!

Zappa and the Mothers of Invention were the big surprise for me. I had several of their albums, but had no idea that they were so different in concert. Frank Zappa was an excellent jazz/rock guitarist and front man, while the band was as tight as the Count Basie Orchestra. I never was a huge fan, but that one performance was great.

Luci, I've been thinking about your post in light of two books I read last year "This is Your Brain on Music" (Daniel J. Levitin) and Oliver Sacks' "Musicology." There's so much going on, neurophilosopically, with music that it really is like a language transmitted from person to person, through time -- just as you say. I love the way you express it: "All these years and the chords still hang in the air. And we all get to spark those associative music-triggered embedded memories into life and time travel just by hitting Play."

My feelings exactly. Hence the fondness with which arby and I have been reminiscing over a music festival held almost 40 years ago! (40 years!!!)

I was not familiar with Blaise Lucianaz, but I just listened to a couple of songs on his web site and was very impressed. The influences were right up front, but the overall quality was original. He was a fine example to illustrate your point.

And I definitely like Buddy Guy a lot. Sorry that it came off like I was dissing him. I didn't mean to at all. "Damn Right I've Got the Blues," one of his latest albums, is one of my all-time rainy day favorites. He's been a great ambassador for the blues -- he's on the new Martin Scorcese film about the Rolling Stones, "Shine a Light." Buddy Guy practically steals the show just by sharing one song. (And bless his wrinkled head, Keith Richards hands him his guitar after the song and says "here, it's yours.")

What an interesting sidetrack this has been. Music working its magic once again....

By David Dawson (not verified) on 28 Aug 2008 #permalink

I've heard Hendrix for years, but never really watched him play live. Wow.

As Arby said, I hadn't planned on spending an hour with Hendrix today, but that was fun.


David and arby: you've done nothing but add to Mo's gift of music. So, if you could ferret out Blaise, you can find the online afterlife presence of another 'RB' - the late, the great Rock Bottom. One of his discs, King of the Dues, is out there in MP3, and his guitar sidemen are superb.

Happy hunting, enjoy the magic, and maybe we'll get Mo to work on musical meaning, emotional memory and the right temporal lobe and its near neighbors.

Music is not a digression - the neuro links insist on making themselves heard.

I put off watching this for a few days until I could watch it and listen with proper speakers (Love my Rega R1s). While I'm a bit younger than the *I saw Hendrix* crowd (dob 1958), Jimi is inextricably entangled in my synapses. I am a guitar player, and electronics DIY dabbler, and have a pretty good grasp on the enormity of what Jimi achieved sonically with the help of effects tech *wizards* of the day. To imply that he just *borrowed* his sound is a horribly foreshortened perspective ( to borrow a Zapp-ism. Frank, I was lucky enough to see about fifteen times between 1973-1988).

What struck me in particular in watching this clip, was how emotional Jimi appeared while delivering the national anthem. As a *child of Woodstock*, I always assumed this to be an ironic commentary on the war, but in watching him close up, it seems much more an empathic expression of support for the troops, and what they were going through.

By Kerry Maxwell (not verified) on 03 Sep 2008 #permalink

Thanks for this awesome video. I would love to find a high quality recording of this event/this clip. (if there is one)

Anyone know where some good recordings of Woodstock 69' could be found?

Good to see some rare footage for sure!