Randy Hansen had never even heard of legendary rocker Jimi Hendrix when he started playing the guitar in high school.
In truth, Hansen said, Hendrix's music kind of found him.
"While carrying my guitar to school one day, some guy says to me, 'Who do you think you are, Jimi Hendrix?' All I could say is, 'Who?' "
But that encounter led Hansen to discover the magic of Hendrix's guitar savvy.
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"Most people think of Jimi as an amazingly exceptional and crazy guitar player who died of a drug overdose (in 1970)," Hansen said in a telephone interview. "Well, I found out there was a lot more to this man than a drug overdose. There was a bit of the prophet in Jimi Hendrix song-writing."
Hansen, 54, will bring his Jimi Hendrix Tribute show to the Tri-Cities on March 26 at The Roxy Wine Bar in downtown Kennewick. Showtime is 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door, and you must be 21 or older to attend.
Hansen carries off his tribute with much the same showmanship as Hendrix, complete with playing the guitar with his teeth and behind his head, but he also adds his own flair to the music and jumps from the stage to play in the audience for while. He even looks a little like Hendrix.
"Everything Jimi did, I do too, and then some," Hansen said. "I did high jumping when I was in school so it comes in handy when I jump off the stage to play among the audience."
And there's this thing he does when getting back on the stage that looks as if he's going a back flip, he said. "This job definitely keeps me limber."
Hansen tours with his show worldwide and recently returned from an Italian tour. And his Hendrix style of playing also caught Hollywood's attention in 1979, when he was asked to compose 17 minutes of the soundtrack for the film Apocalypse Now .
He made his debut album in 1980, and Guitar Player magazine compared his guitar savvy to rocker Eddie Van Halen. But he said it's his live shows he loves doing best.
This is his first performance in the Tri-Cities, though he has visited a number of times to see his brother, Glen Hansen of Pasco.
"My brother is an excellent bass player, though he won't play with me while I'm there because I think he's still a little intimidated by his big brother," Hansen joked.
Even though Hansen, who lives in Auburn, makes his living paying tribute to the music of Jimi Hendrix, a lot of what he does is to enlighten people about the man behind the music.
"I have a calling to play this music because after I delved into his life, I discovered the intelligent thinking behind Jimi's song writing," Hansen said.
"People just remember his wild guitar playing and his drug use, but there was so much more to him. Like his song Belly Bottom Window, which is about the guilt factor attached to abortion, and in the song 1983 he sang about dangers of nuclear war.
"He was concerned about the future of mankind and I share the same feeling he had for that future."
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org