When Jimi Hendrix first arrived in Europe in 1966 it wasn’t long until this American import was soon everything everyone ever wanted. The name on everybody’s lips was Jimi’s and he quickly became the talk of the musical world, engrossing every column writer and reader alike. It was only a week after the Jimi Hendrix Experience formed when they would set out on a short run of dates in France—their first performance is a triumph.
Hendrix made his way over to European turf following a chance encounter in a New York nightspot where his skills thrilled Linda Keith, the then-girlfriend of The Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards. The guitarist then recommended Hendrix to The Animals’ bassist Chas Chandler who immediately offered to be his manager and the rest, as they say, is history.
On September 24th, 1966, Hendrix took up the offer from The Animals’ bassist and moved to swinging London where he would sign a management and production contract with him and Animals manager Michael Jeffery. Chandler immediately began recruiting members for a band that would get the best out of Hendrix’s insane ability and the Jimi Hendrix Experience was born.
Hendrix then met guitarist Noel Redding at an audition for the New Animals, a meeting in which Redding’s knowledge of blues progressions impressed Hendrix and, following their meeting, Redding agreed to play bass in the new band. Drummer Mitch Mitchell was Chandler’s next recruit who he contacted through a mutual friend and alas, Hendrix finally had his perfect group as the jigsaw was completed.
As soon as the line-up was complete, Chandler used his contacts to get the band a run of dates outside of Britain where they could cut their teeth and hone their skills without the prying eyes of the press. They set sail to France for a set of four support dates for The Blackbirds, Johnny Hallyday and Long Chris — who found themselves upstaged by Hendrix on a nightly basis.
Their first show saw them perform at Évreux in Normandy before heading to Nancy and Villerupt before completing the run in emphatic style at The Olympia in Paris where they opened for Hallyday AKA “The French Elvis Presley”. It was quite the performance from the band and it showcased the power of the artist at the helm of the band.
The setlist still remains unknown, however, from what audience members have said it is clear that the Experience aired their first single ‘Hey Joe‘. They also delighted the crowds with a wonderful cover of Howlin’ Wolf’s ‘Killing Floor’, a song which would become a mainstay of Hendrix’s set.
The aim tour was about the group finding their groove and discovering if there was any palpable chemistry behind the trio which, of course, they soon found out they had in its droves and its little surprise they would become world conquerers in just a matter of months.
Check out this footage from the Jimi Hendrix Experience hanging out and getting to know each other from that very first tour of France in October 1966, below.