“I was a puritanical little fool!” Ash Grunwald exclaims. “I’d taken a vow of blues!”
Music can bring out extreme passions in many people and Ash Grunwald gleefully admits to being one of them.
He recounts a time in his life when there was only room for one type of music. He’d picked up the guitar at 10 years old, discovered blues music and, by the age of 12, was hooked on the genre’s great names like Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and Son House.
His devotion was unshakeable and coursing deeply through his pre-pubescent body.
His friends tried to add new scope to his musical horizons by getting him to check out Jimi Hendrix. Ash's response showed a strong ideological stance for such a young music fan.
"'Nah, he’s just a shredder,'" Grunwald remembers saying. "'He’s just showin' off…'"
Then he had a major change of heart, an epiphany that came from hearing 'Red House', a straight blues tune that opened up his mind to Hendrix.
“There was this crossing over of all the structure and all the rules in a really knowledgeable and natural way,” he says.
“Hendrix was just blurring the boundaries the whole time. When I heard that, the reckless abandon just influenced me and I went from being skeptical to ‘I love this! This is so amazing, I was wrong, I was wrong, I was wrong!’”
From there, he heard ‘Voodoo Chile’ – the blues jam from which ‘Voodoo Child (Slight Return)’ came to be – and the song that continues to strike him with shock and awe every time he hears it.
“That was done in ’68,” Grunwald marvels. “To think that something so badass and revolutionary was done so long ago… there’s been 40 years of guitarists after that, no one’s even come close to that. So no wonder crazed out acid-trippin’ hippies were thinking he was an alien. I think he’s an alien now!”
Although Ash thinks the song is a searing display of showmanship and masculinity, the manner in which it was executed ultimately shines through as its most important quality.
“It’s done in a peaceful, celebratory way,” he says. “It’s not aggressive. The only aggression is the froth like excitement.
“It’s a pretty boastful, cheeky kinda song and even the way he played the guitar was really flashy, but it was so genuinely heartfelt that you could see music just spewing out of him – blasting out of his chest almost. That’s why you have kids, teenagers and adults always into Hendrix!”
Hear more about the song that changed it all for Ash Grunwald on Don't Look Back.