Inside the weird tour with Jimi Hendrix and The Monkees
Yes, Jimi Hendrix and The Monkees bizarrely toured together. It’s the musical equivalent of using milk as the mixer to your whiskey. The tour seems like an utterly ridiculous idea on the surface, however, that didn’t stop somebody in an office organising the two stars of different worlds to hit the road together despite their contrasting sounds and image.
The Monkees were the whiter than white, clean-cut kids who represented the innocent side of music and Jimi Hendrix represented the grittier, more debauched side of the industry. Hendrix earned his crust the challenging way, acting as a session musician for stars like Little Richard and cutting his teeth in the club circuit before making a move across the Atlantic to London in a bid to become a star. This, of course, was a completely different origin story for The Monkees, a band who were all cast to star in a sitcom about a fictional group, obe which saw them then become an actual entity due to the demand that the programme evoked.
They were a family-friendly group that wasn’t going to deliver anything that was going to shock the audience, and their live shows were just as pure as the TV show. How did Jimi Hendrix end up on the road with this band? The man who played the crucial role in landing Hendrix to support the band on their stadium tour in 1967, was The Monkees’ Mickey Dolenz who helped bring these two worlds together for these infamous run of dates. “I first saw [Hendrix] when he was still Jimmy James [and the Blue Flames],” Micky Dolenz told Forbes. “I was in New York, and somebody said I had to come down to [Greenwich] Village to see this guy play the guitar with his teeth [laughs].”
When Dolenz attended the Monterrey Pop Festival, he couldn’t believe it when that guy he saw in Greenwich Village was killing it and delivering a show on one of the biggest music stages. He knew from this moment that there was nobody else quite like Hendrix and that he was in the presence of greatness.
“We were about to tour, and were looking for an opening act,” Dolenz then added. “I said to the producers of the show that Jimi would be great for opening because he was very theatrical like we were. I guess my producers liked the idea, and Jimi’s producers liked the idea because sure enough, we ended up on the road together. It was wonderful.”
Whether Hendrix had a great deal of say in whether he accepted the invitation to tour with The Monkees seems up in the air, considering his extreme views on the group. Before Dolenz and Hendrix’s reunion, in an interview a few months earlier with British music magazine Melody Maker, he left his opinion of the band in no uncertain terms, “Oh God, I hate them! Dishwater. You can’t knock anybody for making it, but people like the Monkees?”
Even in his scathing comment, he said that you “can’t knock anybody for making it” and made clear that his criticism was to do with their music only. However, even if he did have nothing against the band as people, choosing to support a group that you “hate” makes little to no sense and the fact that the tour went disastrously should arrive as no surprise.
Hendrix made his first appearance in Jacksonville, Florida, on July 8th, 1967. Despite Hendrix being the most visceral talent on Planet Earth at this moment in time, the crowd couldn’t care less about him and only wanted to watch The Monkees. Dolenz later recalled, “Jimi would amble out onto the stage, fire up the amps and break out into ‘Purple Haze,’ and the kids in the audience would instantly drown him out with ‘We want Daaavy!’ God, was it embarrassing.”
Unsurprisingly, Hendrix didn’t last the whole run of shows. To his credit, he did manage to play seven dates with The Monkees, but, the performance at New York’s Forest Hills Stadium on July 17th was the final straw for him. The lack of crowd reaction towards him, which he needed to function led to Hendrix become increasingly frustrated and allegedly flicking the crowd his middle finger as his final act.