Pretty much everyone—including living guitar gods Eric Clapton, Zakk Wylde, Buddy Guy, Joe Satriani and beyond—has covered the music of Jimi Hendrix at one point or another, sometimes live, sometimes in the studio.
Case in point: this live 2015 performance of “Little Wing” by Steve Vai and Eric Johnson.
The clip was filmed and posted by a YouTube user named AlanGuitar at Vai Academy 2015, which took place last August at the Arrabelle at Vail Square in Vail, Colorado.
AlanGuitar had this to say via his comments on YouTube:
“This was an informal jam in a hotel meeting room in front of a bunch of guitar players. The audio is recorded on an iPhone, and I was standing right in front of Steve’s 4×12 cabinets, so that’s why there’s so much Steve in the mix. I’m sure the mix coming out of the mains was a lot better than what I managed to capture here.
“To see Steve and Eric on stage together jamming on a song we all loved was a wonderful experience.”
It’s true; the mix mostly favors Vai. In fact, at one point, Vai is clearly asking the sound crew to raise Johnson’s amp in the monitors.
Covered by artists like Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Sting, “Little Wing” is one of Hendrix’s most beautiful and enduring compositions. It’s easy to see why. The original is seductively warm, poignant and light as a feather.
“One of my favorite touches on that track is the glockenspiel part, which was played by Jimi,” said engineer Eddie Kramer. “Part of the beauty of recording at Olympic Studios in London was using instruments that had been left from previous sessions. The glockenspiel was just laying around, so Jimi used it.”
Hendrix’s rich and watery guitar solo was, says Kramer, in part the product of a secret weapon. “One of the engineers had built this miniature Leslie,” Kramer said. “It was like it was built out of an Erector set and had a small 8-inch speaker that rotated. Believe it or not, the guitar solo was fed through this tiny thing, and that’s the lovely effect you hear on the lead.”
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Metallica’s Kirk Hammett owns one of the most iconic and revered electric guitars: a 1959 Les Paul Standard that was previously owned by Fleetwood Mac founder Peter Green and, subsequently, by his disciple, Irish rocker Gary Moore.
Hammett, a fan of both guitarists, purchased the guitar for a reported $2 million. In the clip below from VH-1’s That After Show, Hammett talks about the guitar during a roundtable with guitarists Michael Schenker and Damon Johnson, of Thin Lizzy and Black Star Riders.
“It’d been on the market for a few years,” Hammett says, “but the price was just way too high. “And then I kind of waltzed into a situation where the owner of the guitar needed money. And of course I totally took advantage of the situation, worked out a deal and bought it, all within an hour’s time, because I was so friggin’ blown away by the fact that I was holding a guitar that Peter Green played in Fleetwood Mac and then Gary Moore played for, like, 25 years after.”
As Hammett notes, part of this particular guitar’s mystique is down to its distinctive warm-but-trebly tone. “It’s a unique guitar in that the pickup is turned around,” he says. “It’s facing the opposite way, so when you play with both pickups on in the middle position, it creates an out-of-phase sound that sounds like a Fender Stratocaster.” Green attributed the tone to his own tinkering, claiming he’d reversed a magnet in the neck-position humbucker. In another telling of the story, a repairmen accidentally rewound one of the pickups—it’s not certain which—in reverse.
This is the version Hammett tells in the video. In all likelihood, the alteration occurred during the guitar’s manufacture. Noted guitar designer and builder Jol Dantzig had a chance to examine the guitar firsthand in June 1984, while it was owned by Moore, and found that “the magnet was reversed on one pickup,” he wrote. “Because the pickup internals looked undisturbed, I concluded that it must have been a mistake at the factory.”
Dantzig adds that Joe Bonamassa owns an original-condition Burst with the same error. Green bought the Les Paul second-hand for the equivalent of $300 and used it during his time with John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers when he took over from Eric Clapton. He continued to play it when he formed Fleetwood Mac in July 1967 with former Bluesbreaker bassist John McVie and drummer Mick Fleetwood, using it to write and record many of the band’s greatest songs, including “Oh Well,” “The Green Manalishi (With the Two-Prong Crown),” “Albatross” and “Black Magic Woman.” Shortly before he left Fleetwood Mac in 1970, Green loaned the guitar to Moore, who at the time was in his teens and still unknown.
The Irish guitarist had been a fan of Green’s and befriended the guitarist. Moore eventually purchased the Les Paul at Green’s request—so that “it would have a good home,” Green said—for about $300, the same price Green paid for it. Moore used the guitar for much of his career, including on his 1973 solo debut, and during his 1974 stint in Thin Lizzy and his tenure with Colosseum II from 1975 to 1978. The guitar can also be heard on “Parisienne Walkways,” Moore’s best-known song, from his 1978 album, Back on the Streets. Money problems forced Moore to sell the guitar in 2006 for somewhere between $750,000 and $1.2 million, according to various reports online.
It was purchased by Phil Winfield at Maverick Music and, reportedly, later put up for sale on the company's website for $2 million. Since then it has been owned by one or more private collectors before Hammett purchased it in 2014 from Richard Henry Guitars. When a fan asked Hammett via Twitter why he bought it he replied, “The best tribute is that it’s being played again instead of being neglected by people who only bought it for the investment.” Hammett has been seen performing with the guitar to play Metallica’s cover of “Whiskey in the Jar,” the traditional Irish song popularized as a rock song by Thin Lizzy in the early Seventies.
The clip also includes a conversation with Schenker about his choice of the Gibson Flying V, the model most associated with him. In addition, below this video, you can see the Peter Green Les Paul in action in an earlier video, prior to Hammett purchasing it. It shows Phil Harris talking about the guitar’s history and doing a little performing. Harris says he is the custodian of the guitar for the owner. Take a look.
George Thorogood will release his first-ever solo album—Party of One—August 4 via Rounder Records.
The album's 14 tracks include everything from traditional blues to a cover of Hank Williams’ “Pictures from Life’s Other Side.” The disc also includes new covers of John Lee Hooker’s “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer,” Bob Dylan's "Down the Highway," Elmore James' "Got to Move" and the Rolling Stones’ “No Expectations.”
Party of One was produced by Jim Gaines (John Lee Hooker, Luther Allison and Stevie Ray Vaughan). The album’s primarily acoustic instrumentation—including slide, Dobro and harmonica—is performed entirely by Thorogood, raw and stripped down, with an intimate one-on-one feel.
“I think this is a project that’s long overdue," Thorogood says.
"Maybe it should have been the very first album I ever made. After playing with the band for all these years, I had to kind of reverse my hands and my head in order to do this thing justice. But I think Destroyers fans—and hardcore blues fans, too—are ready for the unexpected. My whole career, I’ve always said, ‘Just give them what you are, and they’re either going to dig it or not.’ This record is what I was, what I am, and what I always will be.”
“I’m a Steady Rollin’ Man” (Robert Johnson) “Soft Spot” (Gary Nicholson and Allen Shamblin) “Tallahassee Women” (John Hammond Jr.) “Wang Dang Doodle” (Willie Dixon) “Boogie Chillen” (John Lee Hooker) “No Expectations” (The Rolling Stones) “Bad News” (Johnny Cash) “Down the Highway” (Bob Dylan) “Got to Move” (Elmore James) “Born with the Blues” (Brownie McGhee) “The Sky Is Crying” (Elmore James) “The Hookers (If You Miss ‘Im…I got ‘Im”) (John Lee Hooker) “Pictures from Life’s Other Side” (Hank Williams) “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” (John Lee Hooker)* “Dynaflow Blues” (Robert Johnson); bonus track on CD version only
*Recorded in 1999 on “Rockline” and dedicated to the memory of host Bob Coburn.