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For Doors' Krieger, an incredible experience

Brian T. Atkinson

The Doors' guitarist Robby Krieger channels blues blistery ("Roadhouse Blues") and blissful ("Build Me a Woman").

Forty-five years ago, his former group's debut forever changed rock music. The Jimi Hendrix Experience doubled down later the same year.

Krieger and others salute the late, legendary guitarist Saturday and Sunday in Austin.

"Some of my friends have moved (to Austin)," the 66-year-old says. "They describe the music scene as how it was in Hollywood in the '60s. I think that's pretty cool."

American-Statesman: When did you discover Jimi Hendrix?

Robby Krieger: It was probably 1966. We were in New York doing a Murray the K (television) show. He had an advance copy of ("Are You Experienced") and he played it for me. I was amazed, man. I think he played "Purple Haze" and another one.

What immediately struck you?

It's kind of how I envisioned the Doors when we'd do something like "Back Door Man" or "Roadhouse Blues." It's blues but has a twist. I was just blown away and especially by the guitar playing. Man, I'd never heard sounds like that.

You've said your favorite Hendrix album is "Axis: Bold As Love."

It's true; I love that album. I think it was the sound he got on songs like "You Got Me Floatin'." The first album was great, but it didn't have the production value of "Axis."

What songs do you play on the Experience Hendrix tour?

I love to play on "Manic Depression," "Spanish Castle Magic," "You Got Me Floatin'," "Hey Joe," "Dolly Dagger." I try to get all the little nuances in there that Jimi did.

What aspect of Hendrix's playing is underrated?

Well, I think he was the best ever at singing and playing at the same time. I mean, I couldn't believe what he could do while he was singing. On the record that's one thing because you can overdub, but I'd seen him play a number of times and his hands just seemed to be on a different brain than the rest of his body. He would amaze me.

When did you first see him perform?

The first time I saw him play was at the (Los Angeles club) Whisky (a Go Go) with maybe 200 people there. Of course, everybody was standing on the tables. It was the loudest thing I'd ever heard. We never heard Marshall (amplifiers) until that time.

Was there any sense of competition between the Doors and the Experience?

Not really. Unfortunately, we never got to play with him that much on the same bill. The only time I can think of was at the Isle of Wight (festival in late August 1970).

Was that the last time you saw him?

Yeah, it sure was. In fact, we flew over (together) and I sat next to him on the plane from New York. We got to talk a little bit.

What did you talk about?

Mostly drugs (laughs). Where we were going to get the drugs when we got to England. I remember he said, "If you score first, you call me. If I score first, I'll call you."

He died just weeks later.

It was pretty horrific. Then Janis (Joplin died) shortly after and (Doors lead singer) Jim (Morrison) used to kid that he would be next. Maybe they were meant to go out in flames like that, but then again, who knows? Jim Morrison might've been president by now.