The Experience Hendrix Tour makes its first stop in Detroit this weekend. And it also gives Kenny Olson a chance to come home.
Olson, the Detroit-bred former guitarist in Kid Rock’s Twisted Brown Trucker Band, has been a mainstay in the Experience Hendrix camp for nearly a decade.
“Kenny’s like part of the family,” says Janie Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix’s adopted younger sister, who runs the Experience Hendrix enterprise. “He’s a great guitar player and just a wonderful person. He’s a great fit for what we do.”
The feeling, Olson says, is mutual.
“To be part of all this, the Hendrix universe, is pretty amazing,” says the 40-year-old guitarist. He’s been part of the two previous Experience Hendrix tours, though Saturday’s show at the Fox Theatre is the only one he’s playing this time out. He also joined Chaka Khan to play “Little Wing” on “Power of Soul: A Tribute to Jimi Hendrix” in 2004.
“Jimi Hendrix was one of the people who really inspired me to want to do what I do. He was able to call on a higher power from somewhere to flow through him so he could play what he did, and that’s a bigger influence on me than anything else, just the spirit he was able to call on to become one with the guitar.”
Olson, who’s long lobbied for Experience Hendrix to bring a show to his hometown, calls the all-star Experience Hendrix shows “just a lot of amazing players coming together to celebrate Jimi and his music.” Recalling the “legends” he’s played with — including the Hendrix rhythm section of bassist Billy Cox and drummer Mitch Mitchell — Olson gushes that “for a rock ’n’ roll kid growing up in Detroit to play with people that you sat around as a kid playing air guitar to, it’s unbelievable.”
Olson has made his mark on others in the Hendrix tour camp, too. “Kenny’s great, a great guitar player,” says Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford, who’s playing dates on the current tour. “I’ve known him since back in his days with the Kid and you can tell he really has an affinity for this (Hendrix) stuff but still makes it sound like his own.”
Olson, meanwhile, is readying more of his own music. After leaving Twisted Brown Trucker in 2005, he moved to Traverse City and started a short-lived band called The Flask; in June, however, he relocated to Nashville where he’s operating his own studio and starting another, as of yet unnamed band that he says is the object of a “bidding war” between labels. He expects to release an album in early 2009 and be back on the road as well.
“Just tell everybody I’m down here doing a new masterpiece, a band that will help save rock ’n’ roll,” Olson says with a laugh. “I’m very excited about it. It was time to pull back for a minute and decide what I wanted to do, but I’m gonna bring something next year that I can assure you will just blow people away.”
The Experience Hendrix 2008 Tribute Tour plays at 8 p.m. Saturday (Oct. 25) at the Fox Theatre, 2211 Woodward Ave., Detroit. Featured players include Buddy Guy, Eric Johnson, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Jonny Lang, Brad Whitford of Aerosmith, Doyle Bramhall II and Kenny Olson. Tickets are $29.50-85. Call (313) 471-6611 or visit www.olympiaentertainment.com.
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