B.B. KING ON JIIMI
by Caesar Glebbeek
UniVibes: How do you rate Jimi as a blues guitarist, let's say along the likes of Albert King, etc.?
B.B. King: How to rate them? I'm no good with that, I can just tell you that Jimi Hendrix held his own with anybody...
UV: Was Jimi from the same blues tradition, even though he wasn't born in the South?
BB: I don't think it has anything to do with where a person
is born... A lot of people play blues who have never been to the South
or even have been to the United States... I heard some people in Japan
playing blues as well as I've heard... Jimi to me was one the great explorers
if you will of the so called Delta blues... Muddy Water was playing when
I was ploughing on the plantation... I think when we are thinking in terms
of music as a whole, I think that many people just put labels on, thinking
that has a lot to do with it, but I disagree, it has to do with the person,
the inner soul of the person...
UV: Was there anything in particular you admired in Jimi's playing?
BB: Yes. He was Jimi Hendrix! He didn't sound like anybody else but himself. He was like Charlie Parker in his way of playing, he played well, he was a person that made waves. When you heard Jimi Hendrix you knew it was Jimi Hendrix, he introduced himself in his instrument... You know, many radio stations play records and a lot of the times they don't call out the names who you just listened to, but when they play Jimi Hendrix, you don't have to tell me, [you know] it's Jimi Hendrix...
UV: Could you explain why playing lead and singing simultaneously is so difficult?
BB: Hahaha! I can't, if I knew it I would do it myself! Sorry but I can't answer that one... Believe it or not I think Clapton does it well [I don't think he does! C.G.]...and Hendrix as well...
UV: And what about playing lead and rhythm guitar at the same time?
BB: Oh! I do think that a lot of that has to do with your training, it doesn't matter where you were born, what color you are, where you came from, but many people worked hard very long... We have the person that learns a little of many things and we have the specialist, and they learn all about one thing... In my case, I did and still do most of my studying on single strings, doing the things melodically instead of harmonically...
UV: Do you still practise a lot?
BB: Every day that I have time! I learn something every day...
UV: Do you recall the few shows you did with Jimi in the package tours during the 60s?
BB: I did several shows with Jimi, that's when I got to know him better, I knew of him, I met him [when he was playing] with Little Richard... And he was kind of quiet, shy, he didn't open up too much, but there were questions as we all ask each other. You know, "how do you do this" and "why do you do that..." We had very small discussions on things like that. And he was very polite, I thought [he was] a very nice guy...
UV: Where was this all? In the South?
BB: We didn't just play in the South. We played the East coast on some of the big shows, I know we did the Carolina's, up to Washington, up to Philadelphia, up to that way...
UV: Was Gorgeous George at that time on the tour as an MC?
BB: Yes he was. He's from Atlanta, Georgia...
UV: Did Jimi have his chops together at that point?
BB: I think he was trying to get it together, the same as myself and many of us. We were trying to learn our trade at that time, but he was good, though, he was great at that time, he was extraordinary then...
UV: Anything in particular your remembered of those shows?
BB: The audience liked him, I liked him, and not only was he liked by the audience, but he was well liked behind stage...
UV: De-tuning, did this have anything to with with some of the effects Jimi created on the guitar ?
BB: I don't think so, a person's tuning has a thing to do with a part of them, it makes them do what they are, not necessarily the tuning...
UV: Who actually started the de-tuning?
BB: That started a long time ago, that's before I was
born... Steel guitar players used to tune their guitar in a specific key...the
Hawaiian sound, most of these guitars sold in the Islands were tuned for
a specific key, so that goes way back. But don't take my word for it!
First publised in UniVibes #14, May 1994. Copyright UniVibes 1994 & 2003. All Rights Reserved.