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How Jimi Hendrix Felt Opening For The Monkees

New York, Spring of 1967: following the advice of a friend, Mickey Dolenz is headed to Greenwich Village to listen to a musician. It was here that he witnesses a guitar being played by a man’s teeth. He later learned the player’s name was Jimi Hendrix. Dolenz had another chance to witness Hendrix perform at the Monterey Pop Festival just several months later. This was just as the Monkees were set to depart for their tour in the U.S., and they were still looking for an opening act.

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The Monkees Were Excited About It

Mike Nesmith, another star of the Monkees, had also heard Hendrix prior to the tour. He got the chance to listen to a recording of “Hey Joe” while at dinner with friends, and everyone was astounded by Hendrix’s talent. Nesmith and Dolenz agreed later that night that Hendrix should be the opening act in their tour. Although Nesmith acknowledged that the musical pairing was a bit odd, having Hendrix on the tour gave them more credibility as musicians—along with a chance to see him perform in person each night.

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Hendrix was not so Enthusiastic

Simply put, Hendrix did not think highly of the Monkees’ music, even telling Melody Maker, “Oh God, I hate them!” Hendrix’s manager saw things differently. He saw this as a prime opportunity for Hendrix to gain some popularity in America. Up to this point, Hendrix had three hits in England and was pretty much unknown in America outside of some brief appearances at Monterey. Those appearances began to build Hendrix some publicity in the States, but his manager saw the tour as a chance to capitalize on publicizing Hendrix to the Americans at the time. 

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The Audience was a bit of a Problem

The tour began in July 1967 in Jacksonville, Florida, and Hendrix did not tone down his style in any way. The colorful, psychedelic clothing worn by Hendrix along with his music greatly differed from what the Monkees’ fans came to expect out of their clean-cut musicians. Consequently, a lot of fans did not respect Hendrix when he performed, chanting out “We want Daaavy.” 

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Jimi’s Final Show

Hendrix lasted for seven shows until finally blowing over. On July 16, 1967, Hendrix flipped off the Forest Hills, Queens, New York audience before throwing down his guitar and exiting the stage. Following the incident, Hendrix was asked to be released by music critic Lillian Roxon who was then traveling with the tour. She was tasked with covering up the truth with a facetious excuse that Hendrix’s music was “too erotic” and “corrupted the morals of America’s youth.”

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Jimi Found Success After the Tour

Although Jimi’s tenure with the Monkees did not last, Hendrix remained good friends with Nesmith. This was largely due to Nesmith being so impressed by Hendrix’s sound, a sound he has said could not be contained by any kind of recording. Moreover, while on tour, the Monkees played a snippet of Hendrix’s famous song “Purple Haze” nightly as a tribute to Hendrix. The debut album was later released the month following his departure, and it climbed up to the fifth spot on the Billboard 200, selling five million copies worldwide.