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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Curtis Knight and the Squires, "Hornet's Nest" (1966)

Hendrix spent the rest of the summer of 1965 more or less at loose ends. On July 27th he signed a multi-year contract with Sue Records – home of Ike & Tina Turner and Baby Washington – but didn't record a note. He retreated back to the Isley Brothers that August for some gigs and the recording date that yielded "Move Over and Let Me Dance," but he knew this was just a temporary solution. His luck changed in October when he was introduced to singer Curtis Knight in the lobby of the Americana Hotel in New York City. The frontman of a group called the Squires, enthusiastic purveyors of Top 40 R&B in the New York metro area, Knight hit it off with Hendrix immediately. By the next day they were jamming at Studio 76, a facility run by a man named Ed Chalpin. With Hendrix's Fender Jazzmaster at the pawnshop, Knight lent him a Danelectro to record "How Would You Feel," a track that owes a major debt to Bob Dylan's recent smash "Like a Rolling Stone." The similarity was likely not an accident: Chalpin's production company, PPX Enterprises Inc., specialized in making cheap covers of hit songs for the overseas market.

Chalpin liked what he heard and offered Hendrix a one-page contract to "produce and play and/or sing exclusively for PPX Enterprises Inc. for three years" in exchange for a one percent royalty and one dollar up front. Hendrix, desperate for any opportunity to play, likely didn't even read it. ("He would sign a contract with anybody who came along that had a dollar and a pencil," Faye Pridgon later said.) Seemingly unbothered by the fact that he was already contracted to Sue Records, he put pen to paper. The move would have major ramifications in years to come, as Chalpin reissued Hendrix's PPX-era recordings in a myriad of misleading – and some would say unscrupulous – compilations. But in the short term, Hendrix earned his first label credit as arranger on "How Would You Feel" when the song was released as a single in April 1966, and his first composer credit a short time later with the release of the instrumental "Hornet's Nest."

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