Billy Gibbons to play Jimi Hendrix’s Isle of Wight Gibson Flying V on Jimmy Kimmel Live

Billy F Gibbons and Jimi Hendrix's Flying V
(Image credit: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images; Richard Ecclestone/Redferns)

Billy Gibbons will honour Jimi Hendrix this Thursday, 17 November, when he takes to the stage on Jimmy Kimmel Live to perform classic Hendrix tracks on the late guitar icon’s Gibson Flying V.

This rare public occasion of one of the world's greatest players playing one of the world's most storied electric guitars is part of the Hendrix at 80 celebrations, which will also see the release of a the Legacy Recordings live album Jimi Hendrix Experience – Los Angeles Forum April 26, 1969, on CD and LP, on 18 November. 

There is no word on what tracks Gibbons and Kimmel’s band are likely to cover, but way back in the day when the Jimi Hendrix Experience took Gibbons’ pre-ZZ Top band, the Moving Sidewalks on tour, there would be occasions when Gibbons and co would have to add a few Hendrix tunes to their opening set. 

Perhaps that might offer some clue as to what Gibbons has lined up for Thursday. His I Was There essay, included with the liner notes for the new Los Angeles Forum live album, compiles his memories of that gig in 1969, when Hendrix acknowledged him from the stage.

“In those days VIP seating was yet to be, so we angled over to side-stage,” writes Gibbons, as per Jimi Hendrix. “I stood standing with arms folded and I remember Jimi looked over and gave me a nod, the same nod that he gave me the first night that we played together when the Moving Sidewalks had to flesh out their opening set with Purple Haze and Foxey Lady.”

Gibbons has covered both tracks on many occasions over the years, including at Experience Hendrix events, at Gibson's NAMM jam, and alongside players such as Joe Bonamassa and Jeff beck.

The Hendrix V he will be playing on Kimmel was in rotation for Hendrix's 1970 tour, the highlight of which came at the Isle of Wight festival, on 31 August, where he played in front of the largest audience of his career.

Some 600,000 people were reported to be in attendance at Afton Down, Freshwater, and they witnessed a legendary set, with Hendrix opening with two quintessentially British standards – God Save The Queen and Sgt Peppers Lonely Hearts Club Band – before barreling into Spanish Castle Magic.

For many Hendrix fans, Isle of Wight was legendary for his rendition of Machine Gun – another reminder that Hendrix was approaching the instrument from another dimension. 

The Flying V, finished in Ebony with gold hardware, was a 1969 model that Hendrix had ordered direct from Gibson. It featured a Maestro short vibrola, black Witch Hat control knobs with gold inserts and silver pointers, and an ebony fingerboard with Split Diamond MOP inlays.

The guitar itself is digging its passport out for Gibbons’ performance, making its way from London, where it has been stored at Hard Rock International under the care of of Chase McCue, Hard Rock’s director of memorabilia. 

In 2020, Gibson released a super-limited run of Murphy Lab replicas, 25 left-handed, 125 right-handed, yours for $9,999. Who could possibly put a value on the Isle of Wight model? 

Hendrix would have turned 80 on 27 November. Earlier this week, JIMI, a deluxe hardcover book authored by Janie Hendrix, president and CEO of Experience Hendrix and Authentic Hendrix, and John McDermott, who is served as catalogue director of Experience Hendrix for nigh-on 30 years.

Finally, on 4 December, there will be an all-star concert held in Hendrix’s memory at the Moody Theater ACL Live, in Austin, Texas. Billy Cox, bass player in Band of Gypsys, will be playing alongside the likes of Dweezil Zappa, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Doyle Bramhall II, Zakk Wylde, Eric Johnson and more. See Jimi Hendrix for more details. See Ticketmaster  for tickets.

Gibbons will also be signing his liner notes at a post-Kimmel reception at LA’s Mr Musichead Gallery. You can get tickets for the reception here. Jimi Hendrix Experience – Los Angeles Forum April 26, 1969, is out on 18 November through Legacy Recordings.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.