05.26.09

The Poor Man’s Jimi Hendrix

Posted in Rock 'n' Roll at 1:10 pm by George Smith

Traditionally, semi-famous to obscure Jimi Hendrix impersonators/tribute artists have been almost exclusively white guys. Empirically, this is because virtually the sole audience for this type of thing — and it’s almost always primarily a live experience — is white people who live in places where there aren’t many, if any, black people.

Please don’t throw shoes at the presumed tartoor. I grew up in southeastern Pennsyltucky and having seen a lot of this, that’s just the way it was.

So it’s truly a novelty’s novelty when the Los Angeles Times profiles someone completely different, here, a person who breaks the stranglehold on the genre, Anthony Aquarius of Silver Lake. Aquarius tries to look as much like Hendrix as possible and plays for many people on the sidewalk in Hollywood, a number of them not even white or from rural Republican America. As a busking version of Jimi he’s not bad, particularly broadcast through the modern marvel of a small digital battery-powered rock and roll travel amp.

“I’ve probably played ‘Hey Joe’ more times than Hendrix played it,” he tells the newspaper, which would seem beyond dispute.

Most recently, DD noted a typically white Hendrix tribute act, the Albert Schroeder Experience.

At the time, it was written:

Wouldn’t you buy a CD of four white guys doing a tribute to the Jimi Hendrix Experience for $1.25? If you like hard rock like me, you wouldn’t hesitate one moment. White guys doing Jimi Hendrix tributes are a necessary part of the lawn furniture in the great backyard of heavy rock. And I know if you’re taking this seriously, and I am sure that you are, you also probably have a copy of a Randy Hansen vinyl record, or one by Frank Marino, as proof. However, even Mahogany Rush isn’t as keen a name as The Albert Schroeder Experience, or the Stoney Curtis Band, which I bought last year.

Randy Hansen, who also made records simply redoing Hendrix material, is found here.

But the guy who was thought to have traded most famously on the Hendrix impersonation was Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush. This was an article of faith in the early rock press, which spread it. Of this, Marino commented:

“The most often heard story is that I took an overdose and woke up from a coma in the hospital and somehow became the spirit of Hendrix, or that I met this spirit and it entered me, endowing me with this amazing ability to play a guitar and magically know everything about it … They never ask me the truth and when I told them, they wouldn’t listen. The short truth about it is that I learned how to play guitar while recuperating from my trip. The guitar became a soothing help for me because of my great fear of letting my mind wander back into the trip if I wasn’t occupied and besides it was the only thing in the hospital relaxation room. I never even thought about the guitar before since I played the drums quite well anyway. I had this trip while Hendrix was still alive and began to play his music because it matched perfectly to what I was going through at the time.”

Marino’s first three albums — Maxoom, Child of the Novelty and Strange Universe — traded heavily on the psychedelic trippiness of Hendrix. In the early Seventies. And without the catchiness in the tunes.

That may sound like a dig, but if you’ve read the blog since its inception you know DD really likes stuff like that. Sometimes, tunes just get in the way of the enjoyment.

Another obvious imitator is Stoney Curtis and his Acid Blues Experience. Don’t throw a rod here, either. I like the one Stoney Curtis CD in my possession.

And there was also the Sterling Cooke Force, an act from Tamaqua, PA, near DD’s birthplace. They seemed to be more appreciated in Europe, for a year or two.

“Hey, that sounds like Hendrix, only not as good,” insist Philistines.

If you’re Googling this at some future date and you think that I’ve overlooked your favorite Hendrix impersonator or that you yourself are a cruelly unappreciated Hendrix impersonator, I beg forgiveness. I didn’t mean to do it. My abilities are not such that I can keep and maintain an international registry on the matter.


Yes, yes — Robin Trower. Trower charted big time in the US with Bridge of Sighs in 1974. An excellent album, it doesn’t really match anything in the Hendrix catalog, delivering its own unique flavor of billowing and lugubrious, heavily electric blues rock.

Terry Brooks

The outlier: Eddie Hazel.


Reader beware: The Los Angeles Times web edition hosts the interview with Anthony Aquarius. Initially, DD read it in the hard copy. The Times website will hang some browsers, even on high speed connections. In some ways, the newspaper site almost qualifies as malicious. One is certain editors don’t view it this way. However, the Times is such an intentional bandwidth hog in its desperate attempt to keep visitors on-site and squeeze money from the web, its designers do many things they shouldn’t.

3 Comments

  1. Stoney Curtis said,

    June 26, 2009 at 6:53 pm

    Hey… I like the Stoney Curtis Band too!… and The Albert Shroeder Experience, Randy Hansen, etc and I love Frank Marino… I appreciate being mentioned in your blogs… Thank you for thinking of me!… I would like to say, that originally it all starts with Hendrix.. If you’re a Blues and or Rock, Blues Rock guitarist, you can’t help but be heavily influenced by Hendrix… Just as if you were a “pop” singer, you are influenced by the Beatles, if you know it or not..
    I don’t think it’s a point where we “impersonate” Jimi.. I think now, especially as I’ve developed as a player, you still try to capture the spirit of Hendrix, along with many others.. Even for me KISS and Ace Freheley… and try to make something as original as possible in these days… Everything has pretty much been done, but I still like to think that I have SOME original thought in my head and I try to make music that makes me go… “YEAH!”…

    Thanks again for thinking of Stoney Curtis and his Band…

    SC

  2. George Smith said,

    June 26, 2009 at 9:37 pm

    Well, you keep doing the ‘yeah!’, Stoney. Hiwatt amps rule. ‘Impersonate’ is an inexact word. You do have an original addition and that’s why I like the Shrapnel record. Someone who genuinely loves hard rock could not go wrong listening to you.

  3. George Smith said,

    February 18, 2010 at 4:22 pm

    Someone commented: You’re full of [deleted].

    You earned an edit for the gratuitous slur made in absense of reading comprehension and allowance for variance in taste.

    BOS was a masterpiece on par with any of Hendrix’ studio albums.

    Didn’t say it wasn’t a ‘masterpiece.’ Stylistically, it doesn’t match anything in the Hendrix catalog, by my estimate. Which isn’t exactly a bad thing.