For his part, McLaughlin grew up listening to many of the same blues greats as other young English guitarists in the fifties and early sixties: Leadbelly, Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Mississippi Fred McDowell. He was bowled over by jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, but otherwise his main influences were “horns or piano, and not guitar,” he says on the phone from New York. “In fact, the next time I was influenced by a guitar player was Jimi Hendrix, in the later sixties.”
Hendrix inspired him “not in a musical way, but in a tonal way,” he adds. Back then, McLaughlin, like many guitarists in swinging London, had been experimenting with amplifiers and effect pedals in order to broaden the electric guitar’s sonic palette. “This cool jazz guitar sound — it’s fine, but it’s not for me,” he says of the old-school guitar tone. Instead, he focused on what he describes as “research into feedback and tube distortion,” which led to the modern guitar tone. “Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix, they nailed it in terms of this kind of iconic sound of electric guitar,” he says.
“Jimi and the kind of harmonic distortion that he exemplified was, in a way, analogous to what [John] Coltrane was doing with his tenor sax,” he adds. “Not that Jimi played, musically, anything like Coltrane, but there was something in the tone that I really enjoyed from both of them.”
Source : http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/arts/music/hes-the-one-john-mclaughlins-inspiration/article1791826/