Billy Gibbons, Jeff Beck and Jimmie Vaughan perform at Goodwood Festival of Speed 2010

Jeff, Billy, JimmieReport and photographs by Dawn Irwin/Video by Eddie Eustace

The Festival of Speed at Goodwood is renowned as the world’s largest celebration of motoring culture. With its idyllic setting in the immaculate grounds of Goodwood House, deep within the Sussex countryside, its exclusive Members Club, picnic hampers and champagne, it is also the most quintessentially British event on the motorsport calendar. For 2010, the theme was Viva Veloce! – The Passion for Speed, with two significant motor sport and automotive anniversaries also being commemorated. Namely, Alfa Romeo’s centenary and Formula 1’s 60th birthday with a momentous gathering of cars and drivers that have shaped the history of motor sport’s most glamorous series. Reigning World Champion Jenson Button, 2008 Champion Lewis Hamilton, and title contender and epitome of “Aussie Grit” Mark Webber demonstrated their skills and thrilled the crowd on the challenging white-knuckle 1.16 mile Hill Climb.

Considering the history of this event, you would be forgiven for thinking that it isn’t exactly the setting for a genre of music that originated in the United States in the 1950s and is characterized by electronically amplified instrumentation, a heavily accented beat, and relatively simple phrase structure. However, rock and roll has gone hand in hand with motorsport for years. Recently, Boston bad boys Aerosmith famously re-recorded their hit ’Back in the Saddle’ to launch the 2007 NASCAR series. But not all references originated Stateside. Throughout its 15 years’ existence as Jordan Grand Prix, team boss Eddie Jordan famously hosted many post-race parties with a live rock band featuring the Chef d’Equipe himself on drums. This year, however, this most inexorably British Festival of Speed decided to ditch the tweed suit and tie and adopt jeans and a t-shirt instead, as the famous hill played host to the sounds of rock and roll and the cricket pitch hosted a static exhibition of the glamour and excitement of “Cars, Stars and Guitars,” incidentally coinciding with famed guitarmaker Fender’s 60th anniversary.

The static display included 20 cars immortalized in song, such as Wilson Pickett’s ‘Mustang Sally,’ Prince’s ‘Little Red Corvette’ and Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Pink Cadillac’.

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A troupe of dancers performed around each car, as the corresponding song blasted through the speakers that surrounded the pitch, thanks to a special radio show hosted by legendary British disc jockey Johnnie Walker. In addition, visitors were also able to admire the amazing Voxmobile seen for the first time ever outside the USA. Built by California custom car building legend George Barris in the late 1960s, the guitar-shaped Voxmobile roadster seats two, and acts as a giant amplifier with 32 input jacks to plug in compatible VOX guitars.

1967 Voxmobile

The centerpiece of the display, however, had to be a rarely-seen collection of distinctive customised cars owned by some of the world’s leading guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck (Clapton’s successor in the Yardbirds in 1965), Metallica’s James Hetfield, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons and American blues legend Jimmie Vaughan (elder brother of the late Stevie Ray), along with each musician’s signature guitar.

Despite arriving very early, there were so many glorious sights to take in that we hadn’t had the opportunity to visit the cricket pitch display before the programme dictated that we’d better get ourselves into position for something that was billed as a “Cars, Stars and Guitars Moment.” Up to that point we had only listened to the glorious roar of engines as we’d wandered through the grounds and watched some classic touring car action on the hill. Everything seemed to go very quiet, then we became aware of a rather ominous-looking black covered articulated lorry looming out of the distance. It slowly made its way along the famous Hill Climb and positioned itself with Goodwood House as a backdrop. The sides opened to reveal a five-piece band on board and the asphalt began to reverberate to the sounds of rock and roll, instead of roaring 5 litre V8s.

Jimmie Vaughan's 1961 Cadillac Coupe de VilleNext to arrive onto the scene was a pistachio green 1961 Cadillac Coupe de Ville.

A quick zoom in with the lens revealed that it was Jimmie Vaughan himself. As he retrieved his white Tex-Mex Stratocaster from the back seat, a blue 1932 Ford Model B “Little Deuce Coupe” pulled up behind the truck, and out stepped the unmistakeable figure of Jeff Beck, white Stratocaster in hand.

Jeff Beck's 1932 Ford Model B 'Little Deuce Coupe'He began to stroll coolly towards the truck, slinging it over his shoulder as he went. The piece de resistance arrived seconds later in the shape of a long, sleek, black 1948 Cadillac Sedanette. The passenger window was down and the long luxurious red beard was immediately recognizable as belonging to Billy Gibbons. The door opened from the front and he stepped out grinning from ear to ear, whilst acknowledging a now very appreciative crowd.

With the three legends primed and ready, a microphone stand was placed in front of the CadZZilla and they launched into Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Foxy Lady’ where Beck threw shapes, Vaughan shredded and Gibbons changed the lyrics from ‘I wanna take you home’ to ‘I wanna take every one of these vehicles home.’ Interviewed later, he said “Man, you can’t describe it (referring to the Festival). You have to see it for yourself.” A view backed up by Vaughan, “I’m like a kid in a candy store here,” he laughed. “You walk around thinking I want that one, and that one, and… It’s brilliant. I’m a total car nut – I love street rods, race cars – and to be here is just fantastic.”

Billy GibbonsWith the all-too-brief entertainment moment over, the press swarmed around, the stars posed for a few photographs, including some with the Earl of March himself, then got back into their cars and drove majestically away. As a regular Festival of Speed attendee, this was such an unusual addition to the “norm” that I got the impression that the audience of petrol-heads was perhaps more bemused rather than ecstatic however, the rockers amongst us were left hankering for more of that kind of action, so minutes later we were racing to the cricket pitch where all my Christmases came at once and I could get a little more up close and personal with the three cars I’d just seen on the track. I was also able to apply close scrutiny to Eric Clapton’s 1949 Ford ‘Shoebox’ and James Hetfield’s 1936 Boat Tail Speedster ‘Slow Burn’.

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Another “Moment” came later in the afternoon where it became obvious that some logistics had been discussed over lunch. The mic stand was relocated to the side of the truck instead, and the three guitarists stayed closer together. There were a few minor technical hitches at the beginning of the song but if this didn’t detract in any way from the spectacle, just as they were hitting the final notes of ‘Foxy Lady,’ I became aware of a distinct increase in decibel level from the audience. Alas, it wasn’t that this afternoon audience was more appreciative of rock and roll, rather it was Lewis Hamilton’s arrival into the press box to my right that had caused a palpable increase in excitement. Oh well, you can’t legislate for timing, I suppose. Nevertheless, I loved the magic this performance added to the atmosphere of such an established and wonderful motorsport event.

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