The guitarists that come together for the Experience Hendrix tour to play the music of Jimi Hendrix obviously all share a love and admiration for the great late guitarist.
Billy Cox brings something to the show that no one else onstage can offer: the perspective of having known and played with Hendrix himself.
Now 72, the famous bassist is the last surviving member of Hendrix’s two bands: the final lineup of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and the Band of Gypsys.
Cox met Hendrix when the two were in the Army and stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., in 1961.
One day, a group of soldiers had gone to see a John Wayne movie and were returning to base when Cox heard Hendrix playing guitar.
“He was trying to do some things, but he wasn’t quite getting there,” Cox said in a phone interview. “Something about this playing, I just couldn’t explain it. So I turned to the guy standing next to me, and I said, ‘That’s pretty unique.’ And he says, ‘That sounds like a bunch of crap.’ And I think to the human ear, it did. But I wasn’t listening with the human ear.”
Cox introduced himself to Hendrix.
“I told him, ‘You know, I play a little bit of bass.’ And he said, ‘Go turn your service card in and check out, and let’s do some jamming,’” Cox recalled. “I did that, and one thing led to another. We looked at each other, and we started grinning and just laughed because we knew we had locked into each other.”
After being discharged, Hendrix and Cox formed a band that toured throughout the Southeast until 1964, when Hendrix decided to move to New York. Two years later, he was discovered by Chas Chandler, who took Hendrix to London and made good on his promise to make the guitarist a star.