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The obscure musical link between Jimi Hendrix and Joe Pesci

Jimi Hendrix and Joe Pesci are two names that are renowned in their own domains of the entertainment industry; Hendrix, a musician and Pesci, an actor. Given that they operate in two different worlds, how can there be any link between the two? Little known is the fact that the two popular personalities had crossed each other’s paths for a brief moment – a time before either of them gained popularity in their own professions – while they were performing in a band called Joey Dee and the Starliters.

Hendrix, a now-iconic American singer-songwriter and musician, is revered not only for his four years of mainstream success as a featured artist, but also for his brilliant and pioneering skills on the electric guitar. He was one of the most influential guitarists of the 20th century, a creative who changed the course of popular music in an instant.

Pesci, meanwhile, began life a musician too. While his skills on stage didn’t follow the same path as Hendrix, he gained soon rose to acclaim as an actor after his collaboration with Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro in films such as Raging Bull in 1980 and, ten years later, in the gangster hit Goodfellas. Given his undeniable legacy, a younger audience will associate Pesci for his now famed comedy roles in the first two films of the Home Alone series. 

In the 1960s, however, both Hendrix and Pesci were struggling to make their place in the entertainment industry. Hendrix was working as an R&B musician while Pesci was working as a barber. It was in the ’60s that they both started playing with the house band Joey Dee and the Starliters.

The band, whose most notable line-up consisted of Joey Dee, David Brigati, Larry Vernieri on vocals, Carlton Lattimore on the organ, Sam Taylor on the guitar, and Willie Davis on drums, gained popularity with the release of their record ‘Peppermint Twist’. The group was performing at the Peppermint Lounge in Manhattan, and the song was a tribute to the venue. The song drew on the twist dance craze, which they popularised with the release of their hit single.

Joe Pesci, it turns out, played the guitar with the band for a brief period in the 1960s before he released his own debut album Little Joe Sure Can Sing in 1968, while Jimi Hendrix didn’t join the group until later. In a postcard to his father in 1965, Hendrix wrote, “We’re in Boston Mass. We’ll be here for about 10 days. We’re actually playing in Revere. Tell ‘Ernie’ I’m in her home state – I’m playing up here with Joey Dee and the Starliters.”

While Hendrix and Pesci did not play with Joey Dee and the Starliters at the same time, and it was just a passing phase before their individual careers took off, they were part of something big. The ‘Peppermint Twist’ caused quite a stir amongst its audience and represented a stepping stone in the cultural evolution of the music industry.