It sounds like an elaborate joke today: legendary acid rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix working as the warm-up for a teenybopper group like The Monkees? But back in 1967, the pairing actually made a little bit of sense for both acts.
Micky Dolenz was the first Monkee to “discover” Hendrix; while visiting New York in the spring of 1967, a friend advised him to check out this amazing musician in the Village who played the guitar with his teeth. Dolenz was impressed but didn’t remember the guitarist’s name until he saw The Jimi Hendrix Experience onstage at the Monterey Pop Festival several months later. The Monkees were about to embark on a U.S. concert tour and Dolenz strongly recommended hiring Jimi Hendrix and his band as their opening act. Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith supported the choice; both were anxious to be accepted as serious musicians and believed that Hendrix would lend them some credibility among rock critics and older record buyers. “Besides,” Tork would later say, “it would give us the chance to watch Jimi Hendrix perform night after night!”
Jimi, on the other hand, thought The Monkees’ music was “dishwater,” but his manager convinced him to sign on for the tour. Hendrix already had three hits in England but was virtually unknown in America. His manager wanted to capitalize on the buzz generated by his client’s Monterey Pop performance, and The Monkees were just about the biggest act in the country at that time. What could go wrong?
Plenty, as it turned out.
Photo by Micky Dolenz; Jimi Hendrix jams after a Monkees show. Mike Nesmith is sitting next to him and Peter Tork is on the floor.
The Monkees’ young fans were confused by the overtly sexual stage antics of Hendrix, and when he tried to get them to sing along to “Foxy Lady” they stubbornly screamed “Foxy Davy!” The Jimi Hendrix Experience played just eight of the 29 scheduled tour dates; then, on July 16, 1967, Jimi flipped the Forest Hills, Queens, New York, audience off, threw down his guitar and walked away from Monkeemania.