In the wild and crazy history of rock music, many strange, bizarre and quite unbelievable things have happened.
Elvis being shot "from his waist up only" on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1957, the Beatles and John Lennon's “We're more popular than Jesus" controversy of 1966, and the Bing Crosby-David Bowie duet of “The Little Drummer Boy" for Bing's 1977 Christmas TV special.
It was in this world of insanity that seems to define rock, that the most uniquely odd, almost surreal, tour in rock history took place.
From September 8th to September 16th, 1967, Jimi Hendrix went on tour with the Monkees.
In 1967, the Monkees were the hottest rock act in the country. They not only had a hugely popular hit television show, but, incredibly, they were at this time outselling the Beatles and the Rolling Stones- combined! In fact, by the end of '67, the Monkees had become the only act in the history of rock music to have had four number one albums in the same year (The Monkees, More of the Monkees, Headquarters, and Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.).
By September of 1967, the Monkees were also seasoned stage performers, having become a "touring act" in December of 1966 -and yes, playing their own instruments.
Micky Dolenz was the first Monkee to discover Jimi Hendrix. Micky was told by a friend that there was this black musician who "played the guitar with his teeth.” Fascinated and curious, Micky went to New York's famed Village and witnessed Jimi playing guitar with the John Hammel Band, indeed, with his teeth.
Micky and fellow Monkee Peter Tork were both to see Jimi play live later that year, at the Monterey Pop Festival.
Mike Nesmith first heard of Hendrix while in England, visiting the Beatles. According to Mike, he was scheduled to have dinner with Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and John Lennon, but John arrived late.
“I’m sorry I’m late,” apologized the Beatle, “But I’ve got something I want to play you boys.” He then played Jimi Hendrix's “Hey Joe" on his little tape recorder. “Isn't he wonderful?" marveled Lennon.
Being now fully acquainted with the genius of Jimi Hendrix, and needing an opening act for their tour, the Monkees avidly recommended the virtuoso to the tour's producers. Both they and Hendrix agreed, and thus, it was all set. Also on the tour would be the group The Sundowners and Australian singer Lynn Ranall.
One wonders why Hendrix would agree to tour with a band like the Monkees in the first place. At the time, although he had three hits in England, Jimi was still virtually unknown in the States. Quite simply, he knew how popular the Monkees were and he needed the exposure in America.
The first stop for Jimi on the already-in-progress tour was to be Jacksonville, Florida, on September 8th. Peter remembers how ecstatic he was because now, he "could listen to Jimi Hendrix play night after night.” Mike happily stood and listened to Jimi's sound check a few hours before the concert.
“Man, I gotta see this thing,” he recalled, and after hearing Jimi's act in rehearsal, he said to himself, “Well, this guy's from Mars. He's from some other planet. Whatever it is, thank heaven for this visitation.” Finally, it was concert time and Jimi strolled onstage.
(Image credit: Micky Dolenz)
But after the initial shock and surprise, Jimi's music was drowned out by chants of “We want Davy!" and “We want the Monkees!" Furious, embarrassed, and no doubt very shocked, Jimi left the stage. The great Jimi Hendrix had laid an egg big enough to feed a dozen hungry lumberjacks at breakfast.
This same hostile reaction from the prepubescent females occurred at every stop on the tour thereafter for poor Jimi. So what happened?
The Monkees audience were teenage, mainly white girls, many so young they had to be accompanied to their concerts by their mothers. The Jimi Hendrix crowd was much older, mainly male, and much more ethnically diverse.
As far as Jimi Hendrix bombing with their fans, Peter Tork remembered: “It didn't cross anybody's mind that it wasn't gonna fly.”
Micky recalled: "Jimi would amble out onto the stage, fire up the amps, and break into “Purple Haze,” and the kids in the audience would instantly drown him out with “We want Daaavy!" God, it was embarrassing.”
Mike added: “Our crowds didn't have any idea what he was doing. They were obsessed with the TV show. Hendrix, one of the greatest live performers of all-time, was over their head.”
Things finally came to a head at Forest Hills Stadium in New York on September 16th. After being booed and jeered by 14,000 teenyboppers, Jimi stopped playing and gave the crowd the finger. He walked offstage, leaving the young girls (and their moms) in a state of complete shock. Emcee Dick Clark was left completely speechless- for the first time.
The Monkees-Jimi Hendrix combined tour was now history, after nine days and seven concerts.
Was Jimi Hendrix bitter after this humbling experience? He was to comment about the Monkees: “Oh God. I hate them! Dishwater. I really hate somebody like that to make it so big. You can't knock anybody for making it, but not people like the Monkees.”
But the Monkees were completely unaffected in their mutual admiration of Hendrix. The three remaining Monkees (sadly, Davy Jones passed away in 2011) are all huge and devout Jimi Hendrix fans to this day.