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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Little Richard, "I Don't Know What You've Got But It's Got Me" (Part 1 & 2) (1965)

By the fall of 1964, Hendrix decided to step out from the back line of the Isley Brothers. "It got very boring," he admitted in 1967. "Because you get very tired playing behind other people all the time. So I quit them in Nashville somewhere." To make ends meet, he joined what he later described as a "Top 40 R&B Soul Hit Parade package with the patent leather shoe and hair-dos combined." Though it initially seemed like more of the same, the production put him in contact with a dazzling array of soul stars. "We were on tour with B.B. King, Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke, and all these people ... Chuck Jackson. So I was playing guitar behind a lot of the acts on the tour, then I got stranded in Kansas City because I missed the bus."

While Hendrix was stuck in Missouri without any money or means to support himself, his friend and fellow musician "Gorgeous" George Odell did his best to set the guitarist up with a new gig by talking him up to members of Little Richard's backing band. "I told them it'd take about $150 to get Jimi's guitar and amp out of the pawnshop. So [they] gave me $175 and I put it in my sock, went back, and got Jimi. He didn't really want to tour with Little Richard at first because the Sam Cooke tour was getting ready to go back on the road in a few weeks." After some persuading – and Cooke's tragic murder that December – Hendrix wrapped his guitar in an old potato sack, boarded a bus and set off to meet the Richard in Atlanta.

He began playing with the rock pioneer soon after the New Year, using the name Maurice James. Richard was impressed, but his awe soon turned to resentment as he found himself being upstaged by Hendrix's flashy style and performance theatrics. "On the stage he would actually take the show," Richard said during an episode of VH1's Legends. "People would scream and I thought they were screaming for me. I look over and they're screaming for Jimi! So I had to darken the lights. ... He'd be playing the guitar with his teeth."

That summer they entered the studio to record several tracks for Vee-Jay Records. In addition to a relentless R&B stomper called "Dance a Go Go" (also known as "Dancing All Around The World"), the strongest song to emerge from the sessions was a ballad written by Don Covay titled "I Don't Know What You've Got but It's Got Me." It was released that November but missed the pop charts, only managing to hit Number 12 on the R&B list. 

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