His meeting with Jimi Hendrix proved to be particularly influential. The word is about the Mexican guitarist – Carlos Humberto Santana Barragán best known just as Carlos Santana.
Carlos, a new documentary in theaters, takes fans on Santana’s journey from childhood in Tijuana to his Grammy-winning fame.
Santana’s list of high-profile admirers makes for quite the read. Even considering the PRS-playing pioneering electric guitar star has boasted the likes of Miles Davis, Eric Clapton, and B.B. King as fans throughout his career.
In his recent conversation with Forbes, Santana recalled the time he met another one of his guitar heroes. Who in turn gave the emerging guitar player a much-needed confidence boost.
When asked about his experiences as an up-and-coming musician finding his own voice and melodic sensibilities, Santana reflected on the time he crossed paths with Jimi Hendrix. At the time he paid particular praise to Carlo’s approach to phrasing.
“One of the things that really gave me a lot of confidence is when I was with Jimi Hendrix,” Santana explained. “And he said, ‘Santana, right?’ I say, ‘Yes.’ He grabs my hand. And he goes, ‘I love your choice of notes.’”
Praise really doesn’t come much higher than that, and those sentiments would have no doubt been especially influential for Santana. After all, he is a well-known, die-hard Hendrix fan, and once ranked him above Eddie Van Halen during an interview with Billboard.
But at that particular point in his career, Santana was already well-versed in receiving such compliments. Elsewhere in his interview, the blues-rock veteran recalled how even as a youngster he’d be singled out for praise.
“In Tijuana, being next to my father, I remember somebody saying, ‘Well, that gentleman is really good, but his son is like something else,’” he said.
“My dad kept entering me into this radio contest and fair contest. I would play a fair or a radio contest, and I kept playing Fascination, with my violin and I kept winning. I would just win.”
As mentioned earlier, Santana received praise not only from Hendrix but also from various blues virtuosos. All that boosted his self-confidence as a young guitarist.
“So, when I’m playing Concierto de Aranjuez and Miles Davis goes, ‘You know how to do it right. A lot of people don’t know how to play it right.’ So when I get a compliment from Miles Davis and Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix and B.B. King, I must be pretty good,” he mused. “After a while you just accept that you are the real deal,” he added.
However, Santana didn’t easily embrace such praise. The compliments made him uncomfortable due to a lack of self-worth.
“At first, I felt uncomfortable because I wasn’t accustomed to receiving adulation and so much attention,” Santana confessed. “I used to think, ‘Give it to someone else.’ Like many people, I didn’t have a strong sense of self-worth.”
“When I talk about having a deep sense of self-worth, it doesn’t imply arrogance. It means recognizing your value because of God’s love and belief in you.”
While Santana and Hendrix never collaborated closely, Santana did form a musical partnership with another admirer: Eric Clapton.
They’ve performed together on several occasions over the years, including a recent performance of “Black Magic Woman” to pay tribute to Peter Green at Clapton’s Crossroads 2023 festival.