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Quite the plug-in for Hendrix

Anthony Aquarius has the '60s guitar legend down pat -- the bushy hair, flamboyant clothes, even the right-hand ax played upside down. His performances on Hollywood Boulevard are full of amp.

May 26, 2009|Bob Pool

Sometimes a stroll down Hollywood Boulevard is a step back in time. To 1969, to be exact.

It's that way when Anthony Aquarius plugs in his battery-powered amplifiers, straps his electric guitar on upside down and belts out "Hey Joe" to startled passersby.

Aquarius sounds like Jimi Hendrix. He looks like him too -- right down to the lanky gait, bushy hair and flamboyantly colored clothes.

Hendrix, an iconic figure from the late 1960s, is regarded by some as the best rock guitarist ever. He still is revered for his heavily amped sound and freewheeling strumming technique.

Hendrix played left-handed but used a right-hand guitar that he held upside down. So does Aquarius. Hendrix could play with his teeth and with the guitar behind his back. Aquarius can too.

"I realized a long time ago, when I was real little, that I sounded like Jimi," Aquarius says.

"To look like him I had to draw mustaches on myself when I was 13 or 14. Back then Jimi wasn't as hot as he is today. People would tell me to stop playing like him."

Aquarius moved to Silver Lake last summer from Youngstown, Ohio. These days he performs on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, about a block from where Hendrix's own star is encased in the sidewalk's terrazzo.

"I try to stay between Highland and Las Palmas. There's too much noise up by the [Grauman's] Chinese Theatre -- too many people, too chaotic. Down here it's a little more subtle and quiet and I can get into the music more.

"This is where you get your A game. If you practice at home, you're going to practice a half hour and get something to eat and then lay down and take a nap. Out here people are watching."

Boulevard visitors seem to like what they see.

"He's good. I grew up on Janis and Jimi and Jim Morrison," says Destiny Mitchell, a 21-year-old waitress and student from San Francisco.

Thomas Gornick, 26, a student from Portland, Ore., feels Aquarius has nailed Hendrix. "I was amazed when I first heard him," he says. "I was raised on all the old stuff -- my mom and dad listened to it."

Among the passersby who have stopped to listen is Leon Hendrix, Jimi's younger brother.

According to Aquarius, Leon Hendrix now jams with his new group, the Anthony Aquarius Mystery.

Aquarius figures he knows each of the tunes Hendrix performed. "My favorite song is always the one I haven't played lately. I'm playing 'Hey Joe' maybe 30 times a day and that's boring. I've probably played 'Hey Joe' more times than Hendrix ever did."

He doesn't dwell on Hendrix's death from an accidental drug overdose in 1970 at the age of 27, Aquarius said. Or on Janis Joplin's at age 27. Or on the Doors' Jim Morrison's at age 27.

In true Hollywood fashion, Aquarius pauses when asked his age. With a grin, he says he's 27.

And that may be where the similarity between him and Hendrix ends, he says -- acknowledging that his boulevard act is for show.

"It's really not me that people are looking at when I'm out here," he concedes. He knows that those who are unfamiliar with Jimi Hendrix will pay no attention to Anthony Aquarius.

"So it's all about what people know. The more they know, the more they see when they're watching me."

--

bob.pool@latimes.com

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