Jimi Hendrix: 10 Great Pre-Fame Tracks

Hear the guitar legend in his early sideman days alongside Little Richard, the Isley Brothers and others

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Buddy and Stacey, "Shotgun" (live, 1965)

The Little Richard bandwagon passed through Nashville in July 1965, affording Hendrix the opportunity to make an early television appearance on the local music program Night Train, broadcast on the CBS affiliate WLAC. Richard himself did not appear, remaining back at his hotel, giving the spotlight to Buddy Travis and Stacey Johnson to perform a cover of Junior Walker & the All Stars' recent hit, "Shotgun." Hendrix is immediately apparent in the background as one of the "Crown Jewels," handing his upside-down Fender with the ease and swagger that would soon make him famous.

But relations with his bandleader had soured. "With Little Richard, he was the guy out front and that was it," Hendrix later told Melody Maker. "The King of Rock and Rhythm: that was him. And he said that he was the only one allowed to be pretty. ... That was when I got a fancy shirt because I was dragged at wearing his uniform. 'Take off those shirts,' he told me and another guy.'" Not long after the Night Train broadcast, he and Richard parted company, although the precise circumstances remain a mystery. In a letter to his father that July, Hendrix says that Richard "didn't pay us for five and a half weeks, and you can't live on promises when you're on the road. So I had to cut that mess loose." However, Robert Penniman, Richard's brother and road manager, insists that he fired Hendrix. "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," he says in The Life and Times of Little Richard. "So when Hendrix called us in Washington, D.C., I gave him word that his services were no longer required. We had some words. I explained why we were doing this. I was running the road for Richard and we didn't accept that kind of bullshit." Despite this ignoble ending, Richard was moved in later years to dub Hendrix "the greatest guitar player I ever had. Not one of my men ever came close to him."

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