All-Star Tribute Truly An Experience
What started out as a few bands sharing a stage in Seattle to honor a music legend, has blossomed into a very popular series of all-star tribute shows.
According to guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd, that show started what has become the Experience Hendrix Tour. It was put on by Jimi’s dad Al and stepsister Janie after they had regained control of the guitarist’s estate.
“It was obviously nowhere near what we do now,” Shepherd said. “I can’t even remember who took part in that show, other than my band. Then we did another show in another small place in Seattle. It has definitely grown from there!”
The Experience Hendrix concerts feature numerous talented musicians paying tribute to the left-handed guitarist who, before his death at the age of 27, had shared his musical ingenuity with the world.
Shepherd, who has participated in each of the Experience Hendrix tours, definitely enjoys the opportunity to get up onstage and play the music that inspired him and the other musicians who take part in the tours.
“What a stellar lineup!” Shepherd boasted, “This time around we have artists like Buddy Guy, Zakk Wylde, Jonny Lang, myself, and Mato Nanji. Great musicians paying tribute to the greatest guitar player of all time!”
Those who come to the Experience Hendrix shows are treated to a wide array of Hendrix material. The set lists include songs ranging from ones heard every day on classic rock stations, to some of the deeper cuts from Hendrix’s career, making these shows truly an “experience”.
“The set list for this show is a guitar player’s dream,” Shepherd pointed out. “What a catalogue of music to choose from. We get to choose the songs that we play during the shows.
“I’ve played songs like ‘Come On’ and ‘I Don’t Live Today’, which I recorded for my second album. And ‘Voodoo Child’, a song that is a staple of the encore in my shows. I am closely associated with that song. These are songs that I had been playing throughout my career.”
Shepherd joked that “It’s unfortunate for the newcomers to the tour because a lot of the great songs have already been taken (laughs).”
The first Hendrix song that Shepherd learned?
“‘Purple Haze’,” Shepherd answered. “I think it’s the first Hendrix song that a lot of guitarists learn to play. The rhythm part of that song is something that most guitarists can grasp.”
“But if you were to actually try and learn how to play every nuance that Jimi incorporated into ‘Purple Haze’ it could take years.”
The Experience Hendrix shows give the musicians who take part in the tours the opportunity to honor the man whose music helped define the cultural landscape of the late 60’s and early 70’s. And while the covers of Jimi’s songs performed on these tours are not note-for-note recreations of the original versions, they are played with the utmost respect for the man who wrote them over four decades ago.
“Unfortunately we can’t resurrect Jimi,” Shepherd lamented. “The point of the tour is to show the impact that Jimi had on all of us. Each of the musicians, who are stars in their own right, get to play their own interpretations of Jimi’s songs.
“Jimi Hendrix created timeless music. It had all the elements: the lyrics, the melodies and the killer guitar lines. Jimi had the feel and the passion. He often stepped outside the box with his ideas and concepts. What Jimi was able to accomplish with the limited amount of technology he had available to him was pretty impressive.”
While the Experience Hendrix tours have featured some great musicians over the years, Shepherd mentioned a few others whose names have come up as possible guests.
“At one point there was talk of inviting Jeff Beck to take part in an Experience Hendrix tour,” Shepherd admitted. “Of course Clapton would be killer! There are a lot of great guitar players out there. I think it would be interesting to include more people who had a connection with Jimi.
“You have Billy Cox, who played with Jimi. You have Buddy Guy, who influenced Jimi Hendrix; Jimi looked up to Buddy Guy. And you have the rest of us who were influenced by Jimi Hendrix.”
Shepherd pointed out that Stephen Stills, who is a bandmate of his in The Rides, recorded with Jimi. And yes, Stills was another artist whose name came up as a possible invite to take part in an Experience Hendrix tour.
Although Shepherd was born nearly eight years after Woodstock, he appreciates the music that came from that legendary three-day event.
“The music from Woodstock still stands up today,” Shepherd said, “even if the bands who performed the songs are no longer together or around. It was the golden era of music, especially rock ‘n’ roll music.”
The Experience Hendrix concerts give fans of all ages the opportunity to listen to music of that “golden era” that was written by a musician who seemed to have had the Midas touch.
The remaining dates of the 2017 Experience Hendrix Tour:
3/1 – Los Angeles, CA
3/3 – Indio, CA
3/4 – Valley Center, CA
3/6 – Salt Lake City, UT
3/7 – Denver, CO
3/9 – Grand Prairie, TX
3/10 – Jackson, MS
3/11 – Houston, TX
3/12 – San Antonio, TX
3/15 – New Orleans, LA
3/16 – Memphis, TN
3/17 – Tulsa, OK
3/18 – St.Louis, MO
3/19 – Louisville, KY
3/21 – Cincinnati, OH
3/22 – Indianapolis, IN
3/23 – Detroit, MI
3/24 – Milwaukee, WI
3/25 – Chicago, IL
3/26 – Prior Lake, MN
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