One of the all-time greats of rock and roll, Little Richard handed another iconic name his first taste of life in a band when he once offered up a place in his group to a little known guitarist going by the name of Jimi Hendrix.
Two icons of the rock world in one band may have always been destined to find divisions, but Richard would only tolerate his band being on time and playing like the backing band they were.
Richard is an icon of music to this day and back in the sixties, the singer was known for not only forging the path for rock and troll on stage but also offering a leg up to artists behind the scenes too. One such artist was Hendrix.
Charles White’s The Life and Times of Little Richard: The Authorised Biography says that the two crossed paths when a young Hendrix was playing for Gorgeous George, a soul singer and a renowned tailor known for his beautiful suits. Little Richard told White that Hendrix was caught without any cash and nowhere to go. “My bus was parked on Auburn Avenue and Jimi was staying in this small hotel. And so he came by to see us,” he said. “He had watched me work and just loved the way I wore these headbands around my hair and how wild I dressed.”
Little Richard’s brother, Robert Penniman, who acted as the flamboyant rocker’s tour manager, noted that Jimi Hendrix had a habit of being late and upstaging the main act, two things that no session guitarist should ever do.
Penniman remembers: “I fired Hendrix, who was using the name Maurice James all the time I knew him. He was a damn good guitar player, but the guy was never on time. He was always late for the bus and flirting with the girls and stuff like that. It came to a head in New York, where we had been playing the Apollo and Hendrix missed the bus for Washington, DC. I finally got Richard to cut him loose.”
Penniman stated that Hendrix called them when the group arrived at DC and Penniman was not afraid to tell the young guitarist why he was being fired: “I was running the road for Richard and I didn’t accept that kind of bull****.” It’s a fair demand and likely something Hendrix needed to learn before becoming a star in his own right.
Looking at Hendrix all-too-brief time in the spotlight it’s easy to see how Richard influenced the young star. Whether it was his stage persona, dress sense or impassioned performance, Hendrix took a lot from his time with Little Richard.
Listen to the master at work below: