‘That’s the guy who plays guitar with his teeth!’: How Jimi Hendrix ended up opening for the Monkees

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Micky Dolenz made a fashionable entrance at the Monterey Pop Festival, wearing a complete Native American costume — headress, and all. Peter Tork was there, too, of course. More interesting in Monkees history, however, is what happened when someone else took the stage on June 18, 1967.

“That is where I saw Jimi Hendrix,” Dolenz remembered after a recent concert, “and I suggested that he would be our opening act. That’s where I saw the Jimi Hendrix Experience. I’d actually seen him before, in New York, when he was a sideman for John Hammond, and he was known as Jimmy James. Actually, he was introduced as the guy who plays the guitar with his teeth. [Laughs.] Then, months later, he went to England and picked Mitch [Mitchell] and Noel [Redding], and [Hendrix manager] Chas Chandler put together the Experience. Then I was at the Monterey Pop Festival, and they came on stage. I was, like: ‘Hey, that’s the guy who plays guitar with his teeth!'”

Hendrix proceeded to do something far more memorable, setting his instrument aflame in a moment of rock ‘n’ roll frenzy. And yet, a few weeks later, when the Monkees took off for a series of Dick Clark-promoted American concert dates, Hendrix was, in fact, booked as their opening act — creating one of the more memorably strange pairings in music history. Perhaps predictably, Hendrix only lasted seven dates, as his sets were being drowned out by young ladies screaming for Davy Jones. It all ended with the guitarist flipping off the crowd at New York’s Hills Stadium.

Those dates, however, actually signalled a larger shift into more psychedelic waters for the Monkees. Dolenz first heard the Moog at Monterey; he’d immediately order one for use on the Monkees’ subsequent Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn and Jones LTD album. Tork, by the way, served as one of the Monterey Pop emcees, memorably introducing both the Buffalo Springfield and Lou Rawls.

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