Posted March 7, 2016 by Jeff in Tunes

Billy Cox on the Transcendent Power of Hendrix

Photo: Jason Landry / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC
Photo: Jason Landry / © Authentic Hendrix, LLC

What started as the Jimi Hendrix Guitar Festival at Bumbershoot in 1995 has evolved into the Experience Hendrix Tour, a special concert featuring a who’s who list of guitar slingers playing homage to the late Hendrix. Featuring guitarists such as Zakk Wylde, Buddy Guy, Eric Johnson and Dweezil Zappa, the current tour features 27 dates in more than two dozen cities. Billy Cox, bassist for both the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Band of Gypsys, anchors a rhythm section that includes Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton. Fans can expect to hear the all-star ensemble perform Hendrix favorites as “Purple Haze” and “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” Cox recently spoke to us via phone from a San Antonio tour stop.

In 2004, the first Experience Hendrix Tour came to fruition with a three-date string of shows on the west coast, starting in Hendrix’s hometown of Seattle. What was that like?
It was maybe a little earlier. We had been working towards this for a long time and knew that it eventually would become something bigger and better. However, Experience Hendrix has done an excellent job of putting the musicians together. They all leave our egos at home and the idea is to make good music from the songs that Jimi Hendrix wrote.

What is it like for you to revisit the Hendrix catalogue in this format?
It’s good. I have my group called the Band of Gypsys Experience. I do a few Hendrix covers as well. Will be playing that music for a long time. We have some of the greatest guitar players in the world and some have participated in this music. We have Zakk Wylde and Eric Johnson and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. I don’t want to mention them because I’ll leave a few out. In the past, we’ve had guys like Joe Satriani and Slash. They’ve all participated. Jimi was an icon and a genius. He gave us his music and his music was so great. He wrote in the now like Gershwin and Bach and Mozart and Handel. I knew that eventually one day — and I made this statement in the ’80s — the resurrection of Jimi and his music would come in 100, 200 or 300. I thought it would years before it was rediscovered. Here, it’s come around 30 years later. Here we are. I’m blessed to still be around and be part of this.

You first met Hendrix when you were both in the military. Talk about that first time you met him. Did you have some sense that he was a special player?
Yes. I went to a movie and the movie let out. I wound up at the doorstep of our apartments. It was raining. The window was up a couple of inches. Inside was this practice room. I heard this guitar player. I heard the uniqueness and I realized he was not that proficient. This friend of mine was with me and he said it sounded like a bunch of noise, but I knew better.

Playing with Jimi Hendrix and Mitch Mitchell must’ve been really special. Talk about what it was like to play rock ‘n’ roll during that time period.
It was unique. Back then, people enjoyed even the small concerts. There weren’t that many guitar players in the world. There weren’t that many bass players in the world. We had no trouble playing or becoming the house band. There weren’t enough musicians to go around. Today, it’s a different ballgame. There was a lot more freedom then than there is today.

You and Chris Layton hold down the rhythm section for the shows. Talk about what it’s like to play with him?
He’s amazing. He’s a drummer extraordinaire. He’s like that Energizer bunny. He never gets tired. He’s a great person and one hell of a drummer. Stevie Ray Vaughan had the right guy.

What’s it like playing with 16-year-old Quinn Sullivan?
He’s not on the tour yet, but I have been on other tours with him. He’s a young man on his way to becoming a great guitarist.

Hendrix’ music continues to be played by new generations. Can you explain its appeal?
Everyone comes out to these shows. Jimi Hendrix’s music is unique because he wrote “in the now.” In writing in the now, it gets passed down to different generations and transcends cultural boundaries. I’m waiting right now to go to Australia and New Zealand. So much of the fan mail comes from there and from Bangkok and Russia and Brazil and South America—all over the world.

The music transcends boundaries. It’s drawn world-wide interest.

You’re 74 years old. What keeps you going?
I take care of my health. I don’t drink anything. I don’t smoke anything. I don’t shoot anything. I don’t live like that. When you’re aware of just how fragile the body is that the creator has given us, you have to take care of it. I do the best I can. I’m not a fanatic but I try to do the things that are healthy and consequently I’m still here.

Upcoming 2016 Shows

















St. Louis, MO @ Fox Theater

Milwaukee, WI @ Riverside Theater

Milwaukee, WI @ Riverside Theater

Detroit, MI @ The Fox Theater

Chicago, IL @ Chicago Theater

Cincinnati, OH @ Taft Theater

Northfield, OH @ Hard Rock Casino

Syracuse, NY @ Landmark Theatre

Wallingford, CT @ Oakdale Theater

Brooklyn, NY @ Kings Theater

Atlantic City, NJ @ Borgata Casino

Poughkeepsie, NY @ Mid Hudson Civic Center

Red Bank, NJ @ Count Basie Theater

Worcester, MA @ Hanover Theatre

New Bedford, MA @ Zeiterion

Hampton Beach, NH @ Hampton Beach Casino




Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at [email protected].