In this much-adored clip from December 1967, Jimi Hendrix is playing a 1960 Zemaitis 12-string acoustic guitar tuned down two tones to C standard for that deep, Lead Belly-style blues box tone. Though Hendrix is synonymous with the Fender Stratocaster and is known to have used a wide variety of other electric guitar models he was also a masterful acoustic blues player.
The iconic footage was captured at photographer Bruce Fleming’s studio in Covent Garden, London for Peter Neal’s short film Experience aka See My Music Talking which was screened shortly afterwards at the National Film Theatre (now BFI Southbank) in August 1968.
On that day, Hendrix had visited Neal while he was in the process of editing some concert footage and the pair later took a walk through Central London to Fleming’s studio where they planned to film an interview hosted by the guitarist’s bandmates Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding.
As they were winding down, Neal suggested Hendrix play some acoustic blues using a Zemaitis 12-string that had conveniently just been restrung lefty-style. The boutique flat-top had evidently caught Hendrix’s eye and it didn’t take much persuasion for him to allow the camera to starting rolling.
Despite a touch of red light fever and a false start (“Don’t waste all that film there. Stop it for a second. ‘Cause I was scared to death… Can I just do it one more time?”) Hendrix pulled a spontaneous performance out of the bag which has kept generations of guitarists and music fans transfixed ever since.
Get a copy of Jimi Hendrix’s Starting at Zero: His Own Story here.
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Rod Brakes is a music journalist with an expertise in guitars. Having spent many years at the coalface as a guitar dealer and tech, Rod's more recent work as a writer covering artists, industry pros and gear includes contributions for leading publications and websites such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar World, Guitar Player and MusicRadar in addition to specialist music books, blogs and social media. He is also a lifelong musician.
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