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Axes Bold as Love: The Gear of Experience Hendrix Tour 2010

PG goes behind the scenes on the Experience Hendrix Tour to talk gear with the gods and demigods of guitar

Photography by Chris Kies

Tribute tours. The idea isn’t exactly revolutionary. If you live near a city of significant size, it’s probably normal to see everything from Beatles, Pink Floyd, and Queen tribute bands, Elvis impersonators, Django Reinhardt festivals, and Van Halen cover bands pass through at any time of the year. But there’s only one tour with the kind of cachet to prompt the gods of guitar to kneel down in mutual reverence: The Experience Hendrix Tribute Tour.

This year marks the fourth that the all-star concert traveled the US to celebrate the short but revolutionary career of James Marshall Hendrix. The first incarnation of the idea was the Jimi Hendrix Electric Guitar Festival, the headlining attraction at Seattle’s 1995 Bumbershoot festival. The festival was held again in 1998, and it was followed by two Jimi Hendrix Electric Guitar Competition tours, and then three all-star tribute tours under the Experience Hendrix moniker. This year’s tour included guitarists who inspired Hendrix—Hubert Sumlin (who gained fame in 1955 as Howlin’ Wolf’s sideman)—those who actually knew Hendrix—Billy Cox and Ernie Isley—and big-name ax slingers whose styles simply wouldn’t exist as we know them if it weren’t for Hendrix’s influence—Eric Johnson, Joe Satriani, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, Robert Randolph, Brad Whitford, Vernon Reid, and Susan Tedeschi. But while this who’s-who lineup of guitar gods and demigods joined the tour to honor the original Voodoo Chile, they all did so in true Hendrix fashion—by flying the flag of their own uniqueness high the way Jimi would’ve wanted them to.

When you combine their incredible playing with the fact that we—and you—are as gaga for gear as they are, it was a no-brainer that PG had to check in with them. So our team packed up the cameras and mics to head north and go behind the scenes at the March 21st show in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. There we got the lowdown on all the guitars, amps, and effects being used to revere Jimi and his legendary tones.

But we soon realized we had to talk about more than just the gear. It was also about the relationship these guitarists had with their gear—how they got their known tones—as well as how they approached the daunting task of covering Hendrix properly. Some used Strats, Marshalls, and vintage effects, while others used the same gear they’ve been using for years. But no matter the formula, the result was original and unique renditions of tunes from Hendrix’s illustrious catalog.

The following pages chronicle our fly-on-the-wall encounters during the soundchecks, backstage hangs, and the epic performances that night in Milwaukee. For one night, Jimi was alive and well in the form of 10 guitarists sharing a stage to achieve a single goal—to experience Hendrix:

Billy Cox

Pictured here with his well-worn ‘70s Fender Jazz bass, Cox opened the show with the famed Ernie Isley on guitar. Double Trouble drummer Chris Layton joined them for a great rendition of “Stone Free.”

Out of everyone in the 2010 Experience Hendrix lineup, none had a closer relationship to Hendrix than Billy Cox. They met at Fort Campbell in Kentucky in the early ’60s when they enlisted in the US Army. Cox was Hendrix’s original choice for the bassist slot in the Experience, but Cox had several other musical projects going at the time so he declined. History would eventually be made when Hendrix and Cox reunited to form Band of Gypsys. The combination of the two, with the late Buddy Miles on drums, gave the world some of Hendrix’s best compositions, including “Machine Gun” and “Changes.”

Cox ripped through the Milwaukee set with cuts like “Stone Free,” “Message to Love,” “Them Changes,” and the closing “Red House” using a classic combination of a ’70s Fender Jazz bass rumbling through an Ampeg SVT Classic head and a matching Ampeg 8x10 cabinet. The setup was simple yet legendary, just like Cox’s thumping bass work.

Cox’s amp setup consisted of an Ampeg SVT Classic tube head with a matching Ampeg 8x10 cabinet.

Ernie Isley

Ernie Isley started off the Milwaukee show by playing “Stone Free” on his Custom Shop Strat. His pedalboard included a Dunlop Rotovibe, Voodoo Lab Proctavia, Boss BF-2 Flanger, ProCo Rat, and a Dunlop Crybaby wah.

Of all the guitarists on the tour, Ernie Isley holds one distinction none of the others can claim. Isley—who first found wide exposure as the guitarist for famed R&B/funk band the Isley Brothers—watched Saturday-morning cartoons with Jimi. As Isley described during his three-song set—which included “Stone Free” and “Message to Love” with Cox, as well as “Manic Depression”—he knew Hendrix before all the funky outfits and guitar antics, back when Hendrix was an Isley Brothers sideman. He recalled how he knew Hendrix would become something remarkable.

In fact, before each song in his set, Isley waxed poetic about Hendrix. He first remembered Hendrix getting a white Strat, just after joining his brothers’ band, and then he recalled seeing Hendrix after his first stint in England, dressed, as he said, like a carnival performer with bell-bottoms and several rings. But what really struck us was Isley’s last story. He remembered when Hendrix stayed at his family’s house for weeks on end and how he’d never be without that white Strat. How Hendrix would hunch over that Strat for endless hours, crafting licks and chord progressions. Isley mimicked a few of the licks on guitar while telling the story—some were unfamiliar, others recognizable. Isley then paused, looked up at the heavens, and said he recalled one riff more than the other. Then he launched into one of the most inspiring performances of the show. We won’t ever hear “Manic Depression” without thinking of that night.

These Fender Custom Shop Strats were commissioned by Isley’s wife as birthday presents. They both feature maple (right) and flamed maple (left) tops and roses handcarved by George Amicay. The rosewood fretboards have several inlays, including a hummingbird, two doves, and the word “Zeal.” Both guitars also feature custom single-coils and gold hardware. The flame maple guitar was built by Art Esparza.

Hubert Sumlin

The legendary Hubert Sumlin donned a Custom Shop Strat for an all-star jam of “Killing Floor,” in addition to helping close the show with a spectacular rendition of “Red House” with Joe Satriani and Robert Randolph. Sumlin’s Fender Custom Shop ’56 Relic Stratocaster was given to him by Mike Eldred at the 2007 Eric Clapton Crossroads Guitar Festival.

It’s difficult to sum up a player like Hubert Sumlin. Rock ’n’ roll as we know it would most certainly sound very different if he hadn’t picked up the guitar back in the ’30s. And not just because Jimi was a huge fan.

Meeting him was fascinating. He was raised in a little town called Hughes in eastern Arkansas— an area that spawned a major music revolution, one that is not simply confined to just the great blues that came from there. As Part of Howlin’ Wolf’s band this man helped change people’s perception of what music could sound like, and we could definitely feel the energy in the room when we were speaking to him. Sumlin is a walking tome of amazing musical history and knowledge, and we just sat back in awe as he recalled fond memories of Hendrix and his very own modest childhood.

“Jimi loved [the famous Howlin’ Wolf tune] ‘Killing Floor,’ and he liked the Wolf,” Sumlin calmly said. He seemed to replay some memory in his mind’s eye for a moment, and then he emphasized the point, “He recorded Killing Floor!” He seemed truly honored that Hendrix had covered the tune—including during a BBC session and at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967.

Sumlin then recalled the first time he played with Hendrix, during a gig with Howlin’ Wolf in England. “It was at this really nice, big place. He came up through the front, and the crowd just moved for him.” Sumlin’s hands were pressed together, and he spread them wide to illustrate how the crowd parted like the Red Sea when Hendrix walked to the stage. “You could drive a car through it down to the bandstand!” he laughed. The crowd gave the legend a deafening round of applause before he’d played a note. Sumlin watched Jimi go on to play “Killing Floor” with his teeth, and only one thing was running through his mind: “I’m fired. He played it so beautiful, man. I think he played it better than we recorded it.” Hendrix got a 15-minute standing ovation after his set.

Being in the presence of a figure as influential was humbling. It was like listening to a living, breathing part of America’s musical heritage. He shared stories about playing a guitar strung with baling wire and making his brother cry with jealousy because he was so good. He retold road tales and stories of recording with Chuck Berry and the Wolf. But what was most fascinating was his energy. The man is 78 years old and has the drive and passion of a rambunctious teenager. He still lives and breathes guitar like it was the first time he played it. He’s inspiring on and off the stage. And getting to share a few moments of his time to talk about the blues, Arkansas, and Hendrix are moments we’ll cherish for the rest of our lives.

Sumlin’s amplifier setup was one of extreme simplicity: a tried-and-true Fender Bassman 4x10 combo mic’d with a Sennheiser e609.

Kenny Wayne Shepherd

Kenny Wayne Shepherd digging into his Fender Custom Shop Signature model during “I Don’t Live Today.” The Strat features an alder body, a thick maple neck with a rosewood fretboard, and custom-voiced single-coils.

Of all the players who took the stage in Milwaukee, Kenny Wayne Shepherd was the most like a man possessed of Hendrix’s spirit. He wielded an array of Strats ranging from Custom Shop models based on his ’61 to a replica of Hendrix’s Monterey guitar, but it wasn’t his gear choices that were so reminiscent of Jimi. It was the fact that he gave the most provocative and aweinspiring performance of the night.

During his four songs, he plugged his Strats into a handwired Fender ’64 Vibroverb reissue and a Tycobrahe Octavia and played with a passionate, fearless stage presence that dripped with Hendrixian charisma. Others played with their teeth and behind their back—as did Shepherd—but he raised the bar by playing under his leg, squatting down with his headstock pointed skyward (just like Jimi in the liner notes of Axis: Bold As Love), slid on his knees during solos, and covered the gamut of Hendrix-inspired moves without shame or inhibition—and without coming across as cheesy or schmaltzy.

Tonally, Shepherd lit the place on fire during “Voodoo Child (Slight Return).” The first five seconds of the song had barely reverberated through the soldout Riverside Theatre before the crowd was on its feet, pleading for him to take it to another level. And he obliged. He worked his Crybaby wah with precision to ensure the proper wah-chuk-a-wah sounds.

The extended solo contained some of the finest guitar playing of the night—it closely resembled Hendrix’s recorded rendition but also had Shepherd’s own bent. He ended the tune on his knees, reenacting Hendrix’s 1967 Strat burning at the Monterey Pop Festival. The way Shepherd owned the stage was an art form in itself. For his set, KWS was Hendrix.

Shepherd plugged into the first input of his Fender ’64 Vibroverb reissue’s Vibrato channel. The mic is a Sennheiser e609.

During “Voodoo Child (Slight Return),” Shepherd played this Fender Custom Shop Hendrix Monterey Pop Festival Strat, which has a maple neck, rosewood fretboard, and three vintage single-coils. The alder body features a recreation of Jimi’s original artwork that was hand-painted by Pamelina H.

To get Hendrix-style tones, Kenny Wayne Shepherd mixed up his pedalboard for this particular tour. He went with a Boss TU-2 Chromatic Tuner, an Analog Man AR20DL Analog Delay, Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2, an Analog Man BI-CHORUS, a handwired Ibanez TS808HW Tube Screamer, an Analog Man King of Tone overdrive, a Tycobrahe Octavia, and a Dunlop Crybaby wah.

Eric Johnson

Eric Johnson and his signature Fender Stratocaster expertly navigating the classic “Are You Experienced?”

Striking up a conversation with a player like Eric Johnson—a guy who personifies flawless tone—was one of many fantastic moments at the festival. “I don’t know if you can ever build the ‘right’ sound,” he explained, “it just has to happen serendipitously. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to manipulate my tone, but sometimes it’s like trying to capture wind in a jar. You just have to experience and enjoy it when it’s there.”

Johnson is notorious for his gear obsession— for stuff like being able to hear the difference between battery brands in his pedals. But while many guitarists know about his guitar and amp proclivities, he spoke to us about less-obvious elements of his tone. “The way [the gear] sounds is very important, but it’s more about how it responds to my picking technique. When the flow and bounce are working together just right, it just facilitates being able to move to different places musically. The amp, for better or for worse, is part of the instrument. It can be a great tool, but also an Achilles’ heel. If the amp is matching your picking technique and blooming and interpreting your fingering style well, it just helps you be a better guitarist.”

Like Hendrix, Johnson is a noted fan of plugging Fender Stratocasters into non-master-volume Marshall stacks. His rhythm tones are often projected from vintage Fender Deluxe Reverbs, but he decided to change it up a little for this tour. “For rhythm tones, I have two Fender Twins driving a semi-openback Marshall 4x12 cabinet. I’m also using my 50watt Marshalls onstage to keep the volume from getting too out of control.”

Asked about being on the tour with so many notable guitarists, Johnson couldn’t have sounded happier. “I’m so glad they got a hold of me to do it again, because it was such a blast last time when I got to meet Billy Cox and Mitch Mitchell, it was the last tour that he did before he died,” he said. “There’s a real nice, fraternal vibe to it, where you all get to concentrate together on someone else’s music, which happens to be really wonderful music, too. And the fact that everybody is a really good player, but they all have a different take on Hendrix’s music, just showcases how diverse his music is. Everybody has his or her own version of his blues style, or his psychedelic style. It’s just very powerful.” Johnson was particularly fond of a recent jam with Sacred Steel lapsteel guitarist Aubrey Ghent, who performed with Robert Randolph’s band. “We just did that a few hours ago, and that was one of the highlights of the tour for me. He’s just great, and he taught Robert a lot of stuff. He’s a wonderful player.”

What struck us most during our time with Johnson was that he is most certainly a tone chaser, but he’s not a tone snob. One might have expected him to talk only of his legendary gear and tone, but he was very cordial and personable. He was particularly interested in the vintage Marshall Super Bass head PG associate gear editor Jordan Wagner mentioned owning, and he asked several friendly questions about it during our conversation. It felt like hanging out with a regular Premier Guitar reader.

A true classic—Johnson’s 1962 Fender Stratocaster. This instrument was stolen from him almost three decades ago, but was returned in 2006.

Johnson’s Maestro Echoplex EP-3 tape delay.

The infamous pedalboard of Eric Johnson. In addition to a few custom switchers, the board houses a vintage Electro-Harmonix Deluxe Memory Man, a Boss DD-3 Digital Delay, a late ’60s Vox wah, a BK Butler Tube Driver, an early ’70s Dallas Arbiter Fuzz Face, a TC Electronic Stereo Chorus, a ToadWorks Barracuda Analog Flanger, a Prescription Electronics Experience octave fuzz, and a Maestro Echoplex EP-3.

Johnson ran his mid-’80s BK Butler Tube Driver and Maestro Echoplex EP-3 through this 1968 Marshall 50-watt Lead head, which drives the lower of two stacked Marshall 4x12 cabinets. Its cab is loaded with 80-watt Celestions. The 50-watt Lead and a Marshall Tremolo head were the core of Johnson’s dirty rhythm tones.

Johnson’ signal hits a Fuzz Face before going into his 1968 Marshall 50-watt Tremolo head. It drives the top Marshall 4x12 in his stack, which is loaded with Celestion 30-watt speakers.

A rear view of the stereo Marshall open-back 4x12 cabinet used for Johnson’s clean tones. Each side of the cabinet was fed by a mid-’60s Fender Twin Reverb. The cab was loaded with two JBL Lansing D120s and two Electro-Voice EV12L’s.

A frontal view of Johnson’s 1968 Marshall Tremolo head sitting on a specific wooden folding chair positioned at a 90° angle behind the Marshall stack.

Jonny Lang

Wielding his Gibson Custom Shop 1958 Les Paul reissue, Jonny Lang rips through the Hendrix classic “Fire.”

Jonny Lang first got attention for being something of a prodigy. Between the time he picked up the guitar at age 12 and the 2010 Experience Hendrix Tour, he’s accomplished more than most musicians twice his age. His aggressive, soulful playing and gritty vocals have earned him a Grammy nomination, tour slots with the likes of the Rolling Stones and Jeff Beck, and even a call from Eric Clapton himself to play at the Crossroads Festival. His obvious Hendrix influence makes him a perfect fit for the Experience Hendrix Tour.

However, of all the guitarists on the tour, Lang was a standout because he didn’t use Strats, single-coils, or Marshalls. “I was thinking about taking out a Fender Strat with a Marshall and a Fuzz Face, but I just couldn’t do it without feeling like I was trying to copy Jimi,” he confessed. “So, I just brought out the rig that I would normally use for my own music. It makes me interpret his music in a way that sounds like me. That’s what makes a tour like this really cool, because everybody interprets Jimi’s music in their own way.”

Still, Lang has a rather traditional rig for a blues-rock guitarist. “For guitars, I normally use my Custom Shop Fender Thinline Telecaster with humbuckers,” he said. “I’ve recently been using a ’58 Gibson Les Paul Standard reissue that was custom made for me. I’m running them through two Fender Deluxe Reverbs, and the sound of that setup kills me!” For effects, he turned away from an old friend—the Ibanez TS808— and plugged into a Route 66 Overdrive. “They’re similar, but the Route 66 has more headroom.”

Lang’s pedalboard was a rather simple one: It featured a Boss TU-2 Tuner, a Visual Sound Route 66 Overdrive, a Vox reissue wah, and a Boss DW-3 Dynamic Wah.

Lang’s amp setup consisted of two handwired Fender Deluxe Reverb reissues. This one is mic’d with a Shure SM57. He plugged into both the Normal and Vibrato channels simultaneously for extra thickness and texture.

Lang’s second Deluxe Reverb reissue was mic’d with a Shure SM27. He prefers to have the amps facing to his left, not directly to his back.

Joe Satriani
Shredder Extraordinaire and major Hendrix enthusiast Joe Satriani was fortunate that the stars aligned so he could do the full Experience Hendrix Tour. He had played the San Francisco date of the first tour, but scheduling conflicts always seemed to prevent him from joining the nationwide festivities. But after finishing the last Chickenfoot tour, Satriani finally had the time to pay homage to the man that inspired him to make guitar his life. And, going through the whole experience facilitated some new gear and tone discoveries.

“At the start of the Chickenfoot tour, I noticed that my Peavey JSX rig sounded more specialized for someone playing lead guitar all night,” he said. “I had Marshall send me some different stuff to try out in Vienna, and I ended up using a JVM410 for the rest of the tour. It made such a profound difference, because I’m playing rhythm guitar most of the time in that band.” After his last stint on the road with Chickenfoot, he decided to have an amp shootout at SIR studios in San Francisco, and there he rediscovered his love for a certain Marshall head. “I was shocked to find that using a Vox Saturator into a Marshall 6100 Anniversary head’s clean channel was really the best sound. Part of it was the fact that it was a better 6100 than the older ones I had. Plus, I didn’t have the Saturator back when I was using those amps.”

Satriani is well known for his dual-humbucker Ibanez guitars. But for the Experience Hendrix tour he decided to bring some single-coils into the picture. “I have some prototype Ibanez JS guitars with three DiMarzio singlecoils, and they sound great combined with the Marshall and Saturator. Those three work together really, really well.”

Satch’s guitar rack cradled the new Ibanez JS2400WH (the first 24-fret Ibanez JS) and two prototype JS series guitars with DiMarzio single-coilsized dual-rail pickups. His set for the night included “Third Stone from the Sun,” “Foxey Lady,” “All Along the Watchtower,” and the show closer “Red House.”

Powered by a Voodoo Lab Pedal Power 2 Plus, Satriani’s versatile pedalboard featured a Vox Big Bad Wah, Boss OC-2 Octave, Voodoo Lab Proctavia, Vox Saturator, Zvex Ringtone, Boss DM-2 Analog Delay, and two of the guitarist’s signature Vox Time Machine delay units.

Satriani’s Marshall 6100 Anniversary 100-watt head and 4x12 cab. The head and 6101 combo were released in 1992 to commemorate Marshall’s 30th year in the amp business.

Susan Tedeschi

Susan Tedeschi playing a D’Angelico NYSD-9 on “Spanish Castle Magic.”

Before the show began, Tedeschi was bolting back and forth between instruments during soundcheck. Whether it was guitar, guitar and vocals, or drums, if it could make music she was playing it. She made sure everyone—the crew and us included—had fun and was in a great mood for the show. Later on that night, she owned the stage with her sweet, soulful vocals as she accompanied Eric Johnson on a fantastic rendition of Hendrix’s “One Rainy Wish.” She also joined in on “Killing Floor” with Hubert Sumlin and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. For her rig, she relied mainly on a D’Angelico NYSD9 loaded with Kent Armstrong humbuckers, though she also had a blue paisley Fender Telecaster in her arsenal.

For Aerosmith guitarist Brad Whitford, the Experience Hendrix Tour was a family affair. His sons Graham, 18, and Harrison, 14, jammed with Doug Wimbish and Vernon Reid of Living Colour during soundcheck, (both were quite accomplished players) and Graham even joined a jam during the show itself. “We kind of play together all of the time anyway,” Whitford explained. “Graham played a few shows on the Hendrix tour in the fall of ’08, and he has played with me in Aerosmith a few times. No fear. It’s just a ‘get me on the stage’ kind of vibe for him, because he just loves to play.”

Tedeschi’s pedalboard housed a Boss TU-2 Tuner, Moollon Overdrive, and Vox wah

As far as rigs paying tribute to Hendrix, Tedeschi’s hit the nail on the head with the loud, clean power of a reissue Marshall Super Lead 100- watt head driving a Marshall 1960BX cabinet loaded with Celestion Greenback 25-watt speakers and mic’d with a Sennheiser e906.

Brad Whitford

Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford chose Fender Stratocasters for the tour. He’s pictured here with a Mexican-made Standard.

For the tour, Whitford went with a setup he’s used for years. “Ever since I can remember playing, a 100-watt Marshall halfstack has been my frame of reference,” he said. “Being really young and listening to Eric Clapton in Cream—and, of course, Hendrix—made me think, that’s what guitar sounds like.’” Whitford drove the amp with a seafoam green Strat recently loaded with Duncan Antiquities. “You sort of have that journey that you go through, looking for whatever tone that you’re after. Then you realize that you just lost it. Everybody’s got a better mousetrap. I’ve gone through a lot of different stages with guitars and pedals, but I think the minimalistic approach is the best. The more naked it is, the more honest it is.” He’s even rethought wirelesses. “The last few shows with Aerosmith I stopped using it. Mentally, it’s hard to wrap my head around my guitar signal being some invisible thing in the air.”

Experience Hendrix has allowed Whitford to not only share the stage with his sons, but other performers he wouldn’t otherwise have had the opportunity to do so with. “Usually the show closes with ‘Red House,’ and that includes Joe [Satriani], Robert [Randolph], and Billy [Cox],” he explains. “It’s been really fun playing with Joe, he’s such a great musician. It’s not one of those competition things with him—it’s all about the music.”

Two Fender Stratocasters belonging to the Whitfords: an American Fat Strat with Gold Lace Sensors and a Mexican-made Standard.

Whitford’s sons, Harrison and Graham, joined him on the Experience Hendrix tour this year. Here Harrison holds his seafoam green Fender ’62 Stratocaster reissue.

The Whitfords depended on the time-tested—and Hendrix-approved—Marshall Super Lead and a Marshall 4x12. The head is a reissue 100-watt model, and the cabinet is a 1960BX loaded with Celestion Greenbacks. It’s mic’d with a Shure SM57.

Whitford’s pedalboard features a Dunlop Crybaby wah, Seymour Duncan Tweak Fuzz, Fulltone Deja Vibe, MXR Carbon Copy analog delay, and an original Marshall The Guv’nor overdrive.

Robert Randolph

Robert Randolph throwing down on “Purple Haze” with his Sierra 13-string pedal steel guitar.

Robert Randolph’s best friend is a wooden chair. The steel-guitar phenom doesn’t go anywhere without it. He’s even had it flown to China in a special flight case for a single show. It just goes to show that there’s so much more to a player’s tone than meets the eye.

When he sat in that special comfy chair in Milwaukee, Randolph wailed on a 13string Sierra pedal steel running through a two-of-a-kind amplifier—a ’57 Fender Twin reissue that’s one of two originally built for Jeff Beck. During his set, Randolph rocked out passionately through the Twin and an extension cab on “Purple Haze,” “Them Changes,” and a barn-burning rendition of “Red House.”

Randolph’s handwired ’57 Fender Twin 2x12 combo stacked on a Fender 2x12 extension cab. The combo is one of two specially made amps that were originally owned by Jeff Beck.

Randolph is so proud of the fact that his ’57 Twin and 2x12 cab were owned by Beck that he left the guitar god’s ID tape on back.

Randolph’s must-have piece of gear—an old wooden table chair that he’ll never do a show without. The chair even has its own custom flight case to ensure utmost security and safety.

Randolph’s Sierra 13-string pedal steel and 2x12 extension cab mic’d with an early Sennheiser Evolution series mic.

Randolph’s pedalboard is pretty similar to what he uses with his Family Band. The Experience Hendrix setup included a Peterson VS-F StroboFlip Tuner, Boss FT-2 Dynamic Filter, Crowther Audio Prunes & Custard Harmonic Generator-Intermodulator, and Radial Engineering Tonebone JX-2 Pro Switchbone. The small box in the lower left-hand corner holds spare slides and medium and large Dunlop White Plastic Finger and Thumb picks.

Two additional foot pedals sit under Randolph’s pedal steel—a Dunlop Crybaby Multi- Wah and a Goodrich L120 Volume Pedal.

Vernon Reid

Vernon Reid and Living Colour vocalist Corey Glover rocked a high-energy rendition of “Power of Soul.” Glover’s vigorous stage persona and Reid’s articulate style were a highlight of the night. The band also played on “Crosstown Traffic,” “Third Stone from the Sun,” “Foxey Lady,” and “All Along the Watchtower.”

If there’s one word to describe Vernon Reid’s playing, it would have to be “eclectic.” The man has a masterful ability to meld musical genres, some of them polar opposites, and end up with a sound that is uniquely Reid. That’s why it’s so fitting that he and his groundbreaking band, Living Colour, were on the Experience Hendrix tour paying tribute to another legendary guitarist who had the same talent and critical ear. For this tour, Reid kept his rig simple. “I’m using a Roland VG99 with an FC300 foot controller that has a bunch of custom programs. It’s a device that has kind of a cult following.”

His axe was a Parker DF824VR Signature Dragonfly. It’s based on the DF824 Dragonfly but the company modified to fit Reid’s wild playing style. “It’s notable because it’s a big change in the Parker design,” he explained. “They changed the headstock and the body style, and my signature model is the first Parker with a Floyd Rose. The thing about Parkers is that they have kind of an angularity to their design, and there’s a delicacy there that I like.” Parker based his Dragonfly on his old Hamer, giving it a shallow V-shaped neck and an ebony fretboard. It also has EMG X pickups—an 81X in the bridge and two 81 SAX single-coils for the middle and neck positions—along with a Roland hex pickup.

As for amps, Reid was the only performer on the tour that wasn’t using a Fender or Marshall. He opted instead for a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier halfstack. The only other effect he used was an Eventide PitchFactor.

Since he’s been on the tour, Reid has noticed the effect that Hendrix’s music has had on his fellow tour mates both in terms of playing and gear. “It’s very interesting seeing all of these players together, and how they make their sound. Some are more intricate, others less, but we’re all brought together for the love of one cat. That’s what has always happened because of Hendrix. Whether you’re Robin Trower, Eddie Hazel, Ernie Isley, or Stevie Ray Vaughan, they’ve all had his influence and their own respective sounds.”

Reid’s guitar rig had a much more modern vibe than the other players on the tour. In addition to his signature Parker guitar and Roland processor, it featured a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier with a matching 4x12 loaded with Celestion Vintage 30s and mic’d with Sennheiser e906 (left) and a Shure SM57 (right).

Reid’s Roland VG-99 V-Guitar System interface, which is fed by the Roland GK pickup on his signature Parker Dragonfly.

An over-the-shoulder view of Reid controlling his VG-99 with a Roland FC-300 MIDI Foot Controller. Also pictured is an Eventide PitchFactor and a Roland expression pedal.