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November 23, 2012
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Q&A with Ralph Woodson of Purple Haze

CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. - How about some Purple Haze to go with the cranberry sauce?Ralph Woodson's Jimi Hendrix tribute, Purple Haze, performs for the sixth time in the Crystal Bay Casino Crown Room Friday, Nov. 23.Hendrix, who would have turned 70 on Tuesday, Nov. 27, remains popular today. Lake Tahoe Action interviewed Woodson about Hendrix and what type of music he might be playing today if he had lived.Q You played all the instruments on every song but one on your album "Incredible Dreamer." How difficult is it to switch from guitar to bass?A Any guitar player can pick up a bass and fill in the bass notes. But to play bass like a bass player, that takes some work. It's a different thing than just playing the little end of a guitar. You have to play bass patterns and think like a bass player. Noel Redding (original bassist in Jimi Hendrix Experience) was a guitar player who picked up the bass. Jimi put him in the band because he liked his hairdo. He got it done, but when Billy Cox got in the band, you could see what a real bass player was playing on those same songs.Q Hendrix played guitar just 12 years. People are blown away when they hear that.A He's a genius. That puts it all in perspective right there.Q How long did it take for you to get paid to play?A I was getting paying gigs after I was playing two years. We were doing R&B, like a lot of Isley Brothers. We had a chaperone because we weren't old enough to get into the clubs. We were getting all the Bay Area Army and Air Force bases and little clubs.Q How good were you after 12 years?A Not as good as Jimi.Q He was a lefty. Why didn't he play a left-handed guitar?A Back then it was really hard to find a left-handed guitar to begin with. If you did find a left-handed guitar, it wasn't built as good as a right-handed guitar was. He flipped it over and he restrung it. Albert King didn't restring it. Or Otis Rush.Q What's the hardest thing to emulate from his style?A What goes in between the notes. Not the notes themselves. It's all the stuff that he does in between the notes. That's the hardest thing to emulate. And even he couldn't do it the same every night. He pulled a lot of stuff out between the notes: the feedback, the tone, the nuances. He was the king of it.Q I've seen Buddy Guy emulate John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom" and Jimi's "Voodoo Child" without changing the tuning. How does he do that?A Most of those old blues songs are in E flat, in that key that Hendrix was in in "Voodoo Child." He's probably tuned down, too, a half-step. Sometime down a whole step to D.Q So Jimi has a brother who plays?A He's still playing around now. His name is Leon Hendrix. He's up in Seattle. He was OK. He wasn't Jimi Hendrix. It was great to meet him and talk to him.Q I say the American male instrument of choice is the electric guitar. Why is that?A I agree with you and I say the reason is Jimi Hendrix. That's who made it an instrument that came to the forefront. Before him, it was mostly a rhythm instrument, especially where I come from. R&B and Sly and the Family Stone and The Beatles. It was a rhythm instrument. Hendrix made it sing and he made it take the lead. It actually was the lead in the band.Q He would have been 70 years old this week. We know he was about to collaborate with Miles Davis just before he died. What do you think he'd be doing if he were still alive?A I think he'd be doing something like a fusion thing that you can't imagine. Whatever would be his fun project. And I also think he would be participating with the youngsters, like Santana does. Or maybe even some stuff with rap. I think he would be reaching out both ways. And by now he would be recognized as a fusion musician. He wouldn't be a popular musician in the sense of ... I think he would be considered in the category of a Miles Davis. By now he would be out of that group like anyone was pressuring him to sound like "Purple Haze" again. He would be changing immensely. Each project would be totally different. Every album he did was a different Jimi Hendrix. He definitely evolved.Q Why do fans always covet a guitar god?A It's a staple of American music now. And it's a staple for a smaller and smaller amount of people that still exist. For the youngsters, not as much. Most of the urban music, the guitar, you can take it or leave it. It's not an out-front instrument anymore. It was for a while, remember the Isley Brothers after the Jimi Hendrix influence? But now in the urban music, the guitar is more of a rhythm instrument again.Q What do you think of techno?A It doesn't work for me but obviously they're getting something out of it. I know one thing, it's cool to watch women dance. That's what I like about it.

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Nov 23, 2012 02:14PM Published Nov 23, 2012 02:09PM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.