I walked into the kitchen last night and said to my wife that I probably should learn a few cover songs or I’ll miss my opportunity to play in a band. She said, “honey, you do play covers, they are just from Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan, not the rolling Stones or the Eagles. I begged to differ with her, and being my old lady she was ready to discuss our ‘differences’.

First off, my pal Allan can play the guitar for real, we have talked about this rhythm vibe before. To get the rhythm vibe going he suggested a couple of common rock songs to learn the rhythm sections to. He agrees that Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Pete Townsend were some rhythmical M.F.’s (I don’t mean Musicians Friend either)! He also thinks it would help a lot to do the rhythm part of some cover songs to pick up the rock and roll vibe. I don’t disagree with him and experiment with many very rhythmical sounds all the time. Allan is a wealth of Info to say the least.

My problem happens to be that within a short amount of time I drift back to playing Jimi Hendrix and SRV stuff. I just can’t help it. I defy any man, women or child to say that Hendrix and SRV are not about the most rhythmical guys in the world. Take “Foxy Lady” by Hendrix. What a cool beat, lots of R & B in that song. Or my other man SRV, the master of twelve bar blues, actually he redefined twelve bar blues and raised the notch about ten pegs while he was at it.

Back to the subject. I said to her that playing their music, meaning Hendrix and SRV, is not really a cover, in my opinion. How is that she asked?

Is it my fault that my tastes in music are very narrow? I did not have any real strong tastes for any particular music at 12 years old, until I heard a young wild guitar player named Jimi Hendrix. I was immediately stunted in my musical tastes forever, and never got past “that stage”. I simply don’t know many rock and roll songs. Especially in full, note for note. What I mean to say is that most cover bands want the songs played note for note the same way the band who ‘wrote’ the song, played it, using the exact same sheet music and notes that the song was originally written.

I love still being in “that stage” of life. I don’t want to grow out of it. For the record I have no problem with players that play covers. The type of guitar music you play has nothing to do with talent, it is a personal vibe. Allan can play more than covers, that is for sure, but he really does justice to the cover songs his jam band has on their play list. He plays some cooool blues too. But, I’m sure he ups the quality level of the band.

My argument concerning my idea that Hendrix is not cover-able is anchored by my the fact that rarely did Jimi or Stevie Ray Vaughan play any songs the same way two times. They were not confined to in the box thinking patterns. Jimi used every trick in the book. He used scales and scales he modified, unknowingly at the time in so many ways it boggles my mind. Whether he knew it or not, he turned the way scales and chords are used into magical,out of the box maneuvers,‘ no one had even began to think of back then. Improvisational artists, if you will. Play what you feel, no set script..

His mind ran free and wild, his imagination was limitless, there was nothing sacred to him, except being different. With that in mind, there are many ways Hendrix played “Foxy Lady”. He squeezed every bit out of the Key F#, in every way possible to play his vibe in Foxy Lady. He constantly changed his positioning on the fretboard and used chords in a magical way, like no one else. His timing on bends and unorthodox guitar techniques make it look easy, but in reality only a unique person from the planet Venus has the magical power to do that.

Improvisation fits my style, I like to pick my Fender VooDoo Stratocaster up and play what sounds good to me. Whatever rhythmical Hendrix or Stevie Ray tune is on my mind. Since any way you play one of these songs is fair play, I play it the way I want to. Using open note scales often, as Jimi and Stevie did to obtain different voicings’ of the same notes and chords one would play when fretting them. No one can tell me I played it wrong. There is no wrong way to play it as long as it sounds the way you want it to.

Re-reading and then listening to the SRV “Texas Flood” guitar lick lesson by Stevie Snacks, you will hear the teacher, Stevie Snacks mention that he (SRV) only played that particular walk around lick that way one time in public. SRV played “Texas Flood” about a million times in public, so there must have been a variety of ways SRV played that lick. Get the idea?

Jim Hendrix freaks know exactly what I’m talking about. He messed with our heads from the time that crazy guitar player appeared on the scene in the ’60’s. Perhaps one reason his music is timeless has to do with his total lack of any type of music and guitar training, which left his mind wide open for anything. No body instilled any musical parameters or boundaries in his head as a youngster. As far as he (Jimi) was concerned anything was possible.

What do you folks think? Is Guitar Players Center right about Hendrix music not being cover-able? What is your take on the opinion I personally hold and express about guitar music, both in writing and in my guitar playing style. I rarely make an ‘argument’ (statement or observation) to my wife that she agrees with. I wrote this post with great happiness that I am not alone in this thought..


6 Responses to Why is playing Hendrix on the guitar not really playing a cover?

  1. Hey Danny, great article.
    First, thanks for the props!!
    To comment on a few things, and I haven’t really thought these out carefully, so I may be off base, maybe not. Might be rum induced!!!
    In one sense, Jimi and/or SRV cannot be covered, as you pointed out, they never played the songs the same way twice. I’ve always wondered, is that because they are in the creative zone, or because they can’t remember what they did originally??? I’m not saying that to dis anyone, just something I’ve thought about many players, Clapton being another, though not in the same league. The song “Crossroads” by Cream is a prime example. EC played it differently every time they played the song, yet everyone remembers the one version that has been beat to death on the radio.
    To play devil’s advocate here, yes, both Jimi and SRV can be covered. There, I said it. My explanation is that for those patrons of a bar/club listening to a “cover” band, most of them are not musicians or guitar players. But they do know music to a certain degree. Therefore, they want to hear the version, or cover, of a song as they remember it being played on their CD player/turntable/radio, etc. So many bar bands almost have to resort to playing many of the songs as close as they can to the original, or the listeners think they suck. They don’t get or understand creative license.
    I play a lot of cover songs with the jam band, as I did back in the 70’s when I was in a real band, and many of those I play the solo note for note as the original was played. Others I add my own vibe to it, though trying to make it in the style of the original.
    Sorry to be so long winded, but wanted to add my .02 worth. I agree, and disagree, but a very good, well thought-out article.

  2. Well thought out comment. Point well taken. I see where folks love, and are loyal to their music as I am to mine.

    I appreciate the kudos. It was lot of thinking, I think I’ll hit the sack, I got a headache!

    Talk to you tomorrow.

  3. Great write up Danny! A real cerebellum java jolt! I don’t know if I have an answer not being a musician, I think both Stevie & Jimi would be amazed at the people trying to play like them, and striving to be good. I think both these guys were kissed by the angels of music when they came to us. I don’t think that talent can be defined or duplicated.

    As an artist, I find it really tough to do something the same way each time. I was asked for a sketch of a girl back awhile ago, and they wanted two originals… well, as I tried, they were both a little different. It is a feeling when I pick up that pencil, as I imagine it is a feeling when a guitar player picks up that guitar. It’s something that just is.. Buck get’s ticked at me when I am in a project or have a project ahead of me, and I don’t just jump in and DO… he’ll bring home a cool piece of junk for me to paint or draw on, and keep asking.. what are you going to do with it?

    I don’t know until that little voice in my head and that hurricane in my soul wakes up. Plain & Simple..

    The passion that Stevie and Jimi had to make music was unreal and not of this earth.

  4. Susie,
    Interesting and valid point you make about artists. I guess if you connect dots it might be the same..lol..but realistically that is such a true statement when it comes to artists. That’s the point, we are all individuals who perceive things differently. Freedom of mind..

    See ya..

  5. Your advices of learning guitar is marvelous and I really appreciate the way how you had portrait everything.

  6. Well, it seems to me that great music has always be re-played and reinterpreted. That means, I agree with you Danny–otherwise, no one would every play any music again–from Bach to Beethoven to Bartok (just to name classical composers). I don’t care for bands that just try to be another band. But, is can’t be wrong to play music you love and make it your own!

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