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

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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  • VexTheVixen

    My Mother took me to see The Monkees in 1967 for my 12th birthday present and it was one of the concerts with Jimi (Greensboro, NC). Mom was absolutely fascinated with Jimi Hendrix. She grabbed the binoculars from around my neck for a closer look when she asked if he was playing the guitar with his tongue. When my own children were teenagers, I made a deal with them that I would buy any CD of their choice as long as I could buy them one of my choosing for them at the same time and they had to listen to mine first when we got home. If they didn’t like it, they never had to listen to it again. They loved my selections of Hendrix, The Doors, The Stones, the classical selections, show tunes, whatever else struck my fancy in the store, and, of course, The Monkees. It was nice to hear something I liked blasting from their rooms from time to time. I did the same thing with the neighborhood teens for Christmas presents and would crack up when I would catch the parents dancing to Steppenwolf while the music blared from down the hall.