Oct 27 2023
By Steven C. Pesant.
By the time Jimi Hendrix came back to America in June 1967, he had already made headlines in Europe and literally turned the British music scene upside down. Hendrix not only impressed the media—he floored his closest competition. “He was doing everything—the Blues, rock, and things I still can’t name,” explains Pete Townshend. “He was playing the guitar with his teeth, behind his back, on the floor… it was unbelievable.”
Hendrix’s meteoric rise to fame wasn’t just the result of his unparalleled musicianship, his management team of Chas Chandler and Mike Jeffery had carefully structured Hendrix’s penchant for music with their clear understanding of what it took to get Hendrix’s music played on the radio and seen live in concert.
Only part of the touring circuit for a mere nine months, Hendrix had already toured England, Germany, and France, he had made friends and instant believers with a who’s who of modern British rock including Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, The Rolling Stones and even The Beatles.
It was Paul McCartney, who sat on a Board Of Governors, during the formation of the Monterey International Pop Festival that helped bring Hendrix back to America. While McCartney’s invitation to Jimi Hendrix helped bring the artist back home in June ’67, was Jimi’s unprecedented blend of incendiary music and stage theatrics that now made him an instant hit on both sides of the Atlantic.
Shortly following The Experience’s triumphant debut at the Monterey International Pop Festival on June 18, 1967, Hendrix’s manager Mike Jeffery arranged for Hendrix to be a part of the hottest American tour of the year.
“Listen, we got you this wonderful gig that you just can’t turn down. It’s the hottest tour in America – the tour of a lifetime!!”
“Listen, we got you this wonderful gig that you just can’t turn down. It’s the hottest tour in America – the tour of a lifetime!!” exclaimed Mike Jeffery on the phone to Chas Chandler, “The Monkees!!” Stunned at the suggestion, Chandler erupted into a heated argument with Jeffery. “You can go on those ****ing dates because I ain’t going. I am totally disassociating myself from it. It’s your ****-up. You take care of it!” attacked Chandler.
Chandler’s extensive touring experience was honed during his days as the bassist for The Animals, and he knew that yet another musical mismatch such as The Experience and The Monkees on the same bill was destined for disaster. While exposure for a band can be good to get the ball rolling, as The Experience had already seen back in Britain, simply because a line-up is chalked full of talent, the audience may not necessarily appreciate certain musical pairings.
Even the band members questioned the validity of such a setup. Mitch Mitchell remembers, “Here we go again. After the Walker Brothers and Engelbert Humperdinck, we get The Monkees!”
“Jeffery couldn’t understand why Jimi and I were so angry with him,” explained Chandler. “(He) thought pairing Hendrix with The Monkees was no different than having Herman’s Hermits touring with The Animals.” Jeffery’s logic suggested that the exposure from the Walker Brothers tour in the UK helped more than it hurt; therefore, Hendrix teaming with The Monkees would undoubtedly be a ‘sure fire’ promotions success in America.
For Hendrix, he found it difficult to believe that through their recent successes at Monterey and the Fillmore West that they needed to take a giant step backwards in their playing. Teaming The Jimi Hendrix Experience – a group truly designed for a late-teen market and older – once again found themselves playing for parents with their young kids.
Regardless of the disapproval, Jeffery’s decision to tour Hendrix alongside The Monkees would go ahead. Jeffery had some reason for optimism; he was satisfied with the Walker Brothers tour and The Monkees tour promotions would fall under the watchful eye of Dick Clark whose promotions track record stretched back to 1957.
“The Jimi Hendrix Experience are meeting with phenomenal success in America. They have now been fixed to join in a nationwide tour with The Monkees tomorrow.”
Word of the upcoming event quickly spread through the media. Back in the UK, the headlines from the July 8 edition Melody Maker screamed “The Jimi Hendrix Experience are meeting with phenomenal success in America. They have now been fixed to join in a nationwide tour with The Monkees tomorrow.”
Despite their musical differences, Hendrix had already hit it off with one member of The Monkees—Peter. Following their successful debut at Monterey, The Experience were quickly welcomed to the West Coast music scene and Tork invited Jimi to stay with him at his mansion in Laurel Hills, California shortly after Monterey Pop.
During his stay, Jimi would meet up with the likes of David Crosby, Joni Mitchell, and Mike Bloomfield. It was through Tork that Jimi met Devon Wilson, a hip girl who would later become Jimi’s girlfriend, (Devon Wilson later became the subject of the song, “Dolly Dagger”).
Although Tork became a close friend to Hendrix, he did have some early reservations about teaming with Jimi, explaining “I first saw Jimi Hendrix at the Monterey Pop Festival. He had the misfortune to follow The Who, who were also a pyrotechnic act. So, I was not impressed. Jimi put flame to his guitar, and I thought, ‘oh God, one pyrotechnic act after another and who cares.’”
“But it was Micky [Dolenz] who knew that this was something special,” continues Tork. “I didn’t discover this until later, it was Micky who got him to get on the road with us and he opened in Florida for us, and I think he got as far as Forest Hill Stadium before the conflict between what The Monkees fans wanted and what Jimi Hendrix was prepared to deliver.”
“In the meantime, I got to know him. He was the sweetest guy you would ever hope to meet, and I thought he was a guy who really had his eyes open. He had no problems with who we were or stardom or lack thereof. We talked of guitar playing and we went early to the shows to watch his act and I became incredibly impressed. What incredible musicianship.”
Mickey Dolenz was also an avid Hendrix fan, especially since he was familiar with his act from a gig, he’d seen Jimi perform back in London. In 1988, Dolenz remembered this initial witnessing of the Hendrix magic. “I was having dinner in London with John Lennon, Eric Clapton and a group of people. In the middle of dinner, John produced this portable tape player and requested that the restaurant turn down the piped-in music, and then proceeded to play “Hey Joe” on his recorder, saying ‘You guys gotta check this out.'” Dolenz remembers Clapton’s exclamation, “Everyone was reverential. Hendrix had taken off on his own and had done it in such an artistic and creative way. Like everybody said, ‘Gee, if we could really play music like that, we would!”
By this time in their career, The Monkees had only performed a handful of concerts, but were rallying behind their second and third charting LPs, More Of The Monkees and Headquarters. Set to start their next country-wide concert tour, it was The Monkees who persuaded, tour promoter, Dick Clark to agree to their pairing with Hendrix.
“I’m positive that there must have been some concerns and skepticism raised,” explained Dick Clark, “because anybody could have seen that it was not a compatible coupling. [The Monkees] were in the driver seat – that’s what they wanted – and the deal was made [for The Experience to join the tour].”
The tour kicked off on July 8, 1967 with The Experience joining The Monkees in New York City where they would travel together, with entourage, from New York’s JFK International Airport to Jacksonville, Florida where they would make their premier engagement at The Coliseum with support from local acts Lynne Randall and The Sundowners.
Following the opening night of the new tour, The Monkees rented a 71-foot luxury cruiser for the entire entourage to enjoy the following afternoon (July 9) on the water. Celebrations for Mitch Mitchell’s 21st Birthday took place prior to the groups performing that night at the Convention Hall in Miami.
“We want The Monkees!”
July 11, 1967 marked the next stop for the tour at The Coliseum in Charlotte, North Carolina. Although The Monkees themselves were in awe of Hendrix – going so far as to sneak into the audience to watch Hendrix perform prior to them going on stage – the audiences were not too impressed. “We want The Monkees!” and “Where’s Davy?” could be heard from the young and vocal crowds.
It was while in North Carolina that some of the almost inevitably strange happenings occurred. In 1988, Michael Nesmith depicted one such incident in the hotel they stayed in. “We would typically go in and take over a wing of a hotel. The police would come and block off the wing, and generally stand guard down the hallway, maybe just three or four of them stationed there, because we would always attract many people to the hotel.
“The hallway was lined with probably five or six of these stereotypical southern police with the big beer belly, and different color blue shirts, and a very southern kind of redneck attitude. I’d just come out of my room, guess it was about one or two in the morning. I was just standing there in the hallway for no reason, just couldn’t sleep or something. A door opening, and there was this kind of eerie blue-red light that came in from it because of the exit sign over it. Hendrix appeared in silhouette, with this light behind him, and of course his hair was out to here, and he had on what had become his famous ribbon shirt. And he took a step forward, and it was like it was choreographed.”
“Jimi was in absolute control. He had such a command of himself and of circumstances.”
“Noel and Mitch both came up on either side of him, and they made this perfect trio; it looked like the cover of Axis: Bold As Love. They started walking down, and none of those guys was very big, and all those cops were like 6’5″, and Hendrix just started walking down the hall with these pinwheels in his eyes. And to see him walk under the nose of these cops and these guys lookin’ at him going by was something to see. They didn’t know what in the world had landed, they figured it was a spacecraft outside or something. It was really pretty spectacular, wall-to-wall hair brushing against the pot bellies of these cops. Jimi was in absolute control. He had such a command of himself and of circumstances.”
The groups moved on to Greensboro, North Carolina on the July 12 where they performed at The Coliseum. Afterwards, the entourage flew to New York City to continue the tour.
With Jimi back in the “Big Apple” there was hope that their reception there would be far better that on previous nights in the south. The Experience were a hit in New York City only a few weeks earlier when they completed a series of performances at The Scene Club (301 West 46th Street) and a massive performance at The Rheingold Festival at Central Park where more than 18,000 people in attendance.
This time around, things were not so positive. As The Experience arrived in New York, they quickly added a second roadie (Neville Chesters) to the show. Chesters previously worked with The Who during their tours and had recently had a falling out with the members of that entourage. Noel invited Neville to help the young and inexperienced Gerry Stickles who together would handle the technical productions.
On stage, The Experience fell by the wayside and the pairing of Hendrix with The Monkees was becoming more of a farce than a musical force. Increasingly annoyed with the crowd’s general disinterest in The Experience, Jimi pushed to have The Experience removed from the tour.
On July 17 Chas Chandler called tour promoter, Dick Clark to discuss the split of The Monkees and The Experience. As Clark remembers, “Chas met me in the hotel and said, ‘what are we going to do? This is not a compatible combining of talents.’ As I recall, it was the request of The Monkees that Jimi be included in the show and be the opener. They fancied themselves as being an attractive coupling. It wasn’t and the audience was totally lost. So, Chas met me and said, ‘what are we going to do?’ And I’m like, ‘I think your client’s going to get very sick – and we’ll have to announce that he can’t make it.’ And that, was the arrangement that we made.
The results of these arrangements took some time to finalize, and as a result, considerable confusion resulted immediately following the split. Through a publicity team formed for The Experience, a special story was concocted to explain the dissolving of the tour. This concocted arrangement was later reported by Melody Maker magazine in their July 22 issue.
HENDRIX IN US TOUR BAN
‘Too erotic’ for fans
Jimi Hendrix and the Experience have been asked to leave an American tour with the Monkees after protests by the Daughters of the American Revolution, that Hendrix is “too erotic.”
A London spokesman for Hendrix said on Monday: “Hendrix has been barred from the tour and he quit last weekend. The Daughters of the American Revolution decided his act was too erotic for the seven to twelve year-old audiences attracted by the Monkees.”
Hendrix himself got into the foray, and reportedly contacted New Musical Express paper to explain the situation, which they later reported on in their July 29 issue.
JIMI HENDRIX QUITS MONKEE TOUR
‘Think Mickey Mouse has replaced me’
Jimi Hendrix phoned the NME on Saturday with the sensational news that he had quit the Monkees’ American tour.
The story went on to quote Hendrix, “Firstly they gave us the ‘death’ spot on the show – right before the Monkees were due on. The audience just screamed and yelled for the Monkees. Finally, they agreed to let us go on first and things were much better. We got screams and good reaction, and some kids even rushed the stage.”
“But we were not getting any billing – all the posters for the show just screamed out – MONKEES.”
“Then some parents who brought their young kids complained that our act was vulgar. We decided it was just the wrong audience. I think they’re replacing me with Mickey Mouse!”
The Experience’s departure from The Monkees tour was inevitable. After merely eight performances, the tour was over for The Experience, and they had left the tour almost as quickly as they were added to it.
The Monkees would continue to tour on their own receiving much success and acclaim for their remaining performances. Meanwhile Jimi Hendrix and The Experience quickly rebounded and performed a series of concerts at Salvation and Café A Go Go in New York City before embarking on their own tour in August highlighted by an appearance at the Hollywood Bowl on August 18 where they were invited by and opened for The Mamas & The Papas.
“Without a doubt there was an attraction to Hendrix. He was hot!”
Despite Jimi’s early departure from the tour, Dick Clark recalled his impact, “without a doubt there was an attraction to Hendrix. He was hot!” People who were musically knowledgeable and musically sophisticated were into it. But that was definitely not The Monkees audience.”