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Q&A: Experience Hendrix Tour

An A-list of musicians from the rock, blues, metal, and fusion genres pay homage to the influence of Jimi Hendrix with Experience Hendrix Tour.

G.K. Hizer
September 28, 2019

If you’re a Jimi Hendrix fan, chances are you look forward to the annual Experience Hendrix Tour. For those who are unaware, the tour compiles a who’s who list of artists who come together for a two-month tour every spring and fall to celebrate the music of Hendrix.

For fans of Jimi Hendrix, it’s both a shot of nostalgia and a staggering display of talent when the all-star collective hits the stage to share its translations of the Hendrix catalog. And for the musicians? Well, it may be a paid gig, but it seems to be as much for them, as they’re ready and willing to put their careers on pause to take part in this extraordinary tour.

What began as a single show tribute at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000 has blossomed into a full-fledged concert experience that has thrilled countless fans across the U.S. The tour, which the Chicago Tribune called, “a testament to the legacy of the iconic guitarist,” presents a host of great artists collaborating and interpreting Hendrix’s legendary repertoire as part of a dynamic, nonstop three-hour concert experience.

It is worth noting that this is the only tour and celebration of Hendrix’s music that is both approved and endorsed by the Hendrix Family Trust. Perhaps more notable, however, is the list of musicians who have participated over the years, with most returning for repeated tours, even as the lineup rotates to inject a sense of freshness to the tour.

Although the lineup rotates slightly from tour to tour, this fall’s roster includes Jonny Lang, Dweezil Zappa, Joe Satriani, Dug Pinnick, Eric Johnson, Kenny Aronoff, Doyle Bramhall II, Buddy Guy, Calvin Cooke, Kevin McCormick, and more. Billy Cox, the bassist for both Jimi Hendrix’s Band of Gypsys and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, has been the backbone of the tour since its inception, providing a spiritual connection between the past and present.

Hendrix's mainstream career lasted only four years, but he is widely regarded as one of the most influential guitarists in history and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century.
Hendrix's mainstream career lasted only four years, but he is widely regarded as one of the most influential guitarists in history and one of the most celebrated musicians of the 20th century.

Critics have been gushing about the Experience Hendrix Tour since its inception. “Hendrix’s classic songs came one after the next, and the electric licks were delivered by a who’s who of modern guitar greats,” noted Loudwire, which went on to call it “the guitar tour of the year.” Charleston City Paper stated, “Jimi’s spirit and music could not have been honored more.”

“At the very end of the night, all the participants came back out for a final bow,” Consequence of Sound observed this past March. “And one thing you couldn’t help but realize by this point — the music of Jimi Hendrix will seemingly live on forever, and continue to inspire future generations.”

With the tour headed to The Joint: Tulsa for a stop Oct. 19, we got a chance to catch up briefly with drummer Chris Layton. Layton is best known as the drummer in Double Trouble, Stevie Ray Vaughan’s backing band.

Q. You’ve been a part of this tour since the beginning. How did you get involved?
A. Initially, I got a call from John McDermott, asking me to guest on this experimental set he was doing at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He asked if I’d be interested in playing Hendrix songs for the opening of the Jimi Hendrix exhibit. It was supposed to be a one-off type of thing, but there was a talent buyer from San Diego there who offered to buy the concept and put it on the road.

I remember seeing Mitch Mitchell, Dave Navarro, Slash, Noel Redding, and a lot of big names who were there and backstage. For me, it was a chaotic mess, but I liked working with John, and I get along well with Janie Hendrix [Jimi’s sister, and CEO of Experience Hendrix], so when I was asked to do the tour, it was pretty easy to say yes.

When I was a kid, Mitchell was a big hero of mine. He reminded me of a jazz drummer with his style and playing, and I was always fascinated by that.

Q. After so many tours, what keeps you coming back?
A. Well, it’s a pretty low-key thing. It’s kind of like a summer camp for us. It’s straightforward to do, and everybody knows the music and is influenced by Jimi in one way or another. It’s a lot of fun. I keep coming back for all the right reasons.

Q. Is there anyone you’d like to see included who hasn’t been a part of the tour?
A. I leave all of that alone, partly because that’s not my job, but also because that leaves things so wide open. It’s interesting to think of the effect Jimi Hendrix has had on people. I don’t know that there’s a single guitar player out there who he didn’t have some influence on.

Q. Outside of the Experience Hendrix Tour, you play with Kenny Wayne Shepherd and keep busy with other projects.  What else do you have coming up?
A. There were talks about the Arc Angels possibly doing a few shows, but that’s not happening. I’ll be doing a few shows with Shepherd in Europe for a couple of weeks, and then I’ve got a few shows around the holidays. At one point it looked like Billy Gibbons [ZZ Top] was going to be a part of the tour, but that didn’t work out.

Experience Hendrix Tour
The Joint: Tulsa | Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Tulsa
777 W. Cherokee St. | Catoosa
918-384-ROCK (x7625)
Oct. 19: 8 p.m.
Must be 21 or older to attend