A Young Jimi Hendrix Was Once Heckled By Monkees Fans

It's hard to imagine that a musician as influential as Jimi Hendrix would ever be heckled on stage, but that's exactly what happened when he briefly opened for the Monkees, according to Monkees drummer and singer Micky Dolenz. In a 2023 appearance on "The Tonight Show" to promote his book "I'm Told I Had a Good Time," Dolenz spoke to Jimmy Fallon about the incident (via YouTube). Looking back, Hendrix's innovative approach to the electric guitar does seem a strange pairing with the Monkees' pop songwriting. 

It was 1967, and on the strength of "The Monkees" TV show, and their chart-topping "The Monkees" debut, Dolenz's band was a smash success. That same year, The Jimi Hendrix Experience put out their "Are You Experienced?" album, marking the arrival of a massive new talent on the scene. According to Dolenz, it was his idea to tap the boundary-pushing guitarist as a support act. Dolenz had previously seen Hendrix play at the famed New York club Cafe Au Go Go.

"I went down there and sure enough, they said he was known as this guy that plays guitar with his teeth. We were looking for an opening act, and I suggested them [Hendrix's band] opening for the headlining act," Dolenz told Fallon on his show. (When Dolenz saw Hendrix at the Go Go, Hendrix still performed as Jimmy James and the Blue Flames, Forbes reports).

At that point, Hendrix was better known in the U.K.

In 1967, Jimi Hendrix was not the legend he would one day become, and he was much more well known in Great Britain than he was in the U.S., Mental Floss writes. (Hendrix died three years later in 1970 from an overdose at the age of 27). But that year, Hendrix and his band performed at the Monterey Pop Festival, and his feral approach to guitar playing captured headlines stateside, The Guardian reports.

Other Monkees members, Peter Tork and Michael Nesmith, were Hendrix fans, and each thought Hendrix's critical credibility might improve their band's sugary reputation. Hendrix, however, thought differently. Before he agreed to open for the Monkees' major 1967 tour, Hendrix was asked by the British music publication Melody Maker his opinion on the Los Angeles hit-makers. "Oh God, I hate them! Dishwater ... You can't knock anybody for making it, but people like the Monkees?" the Seattle musician said (via History).

Still, at Dolenz and his bandmates' urging, Hendrix and Monkees' management were on board, and the decision was made — the Jimi Hendrix Experience would warm up the crowd on the Monkees' upcoming U.S. tour. Indeed, the "Purple Haze" guitarist needed the exposure, and he might also help audiences and critics alike take Dolenz and crew more seriously. But Hendrix and his band made only a few of their 29 planned appearances.

The Experience were a bit too much for The Monkees' audience

As Micky Dolenz told Jimmy Fallon on "The Tonight Show," Jimi Hendrix's provocative guitar playing and performance style were not to the liking of the Monkees' more mainstream fans. In the middle of the Hendrix classic "Purple Haze," Dolenz said the crowd chanted (via YouTube): "We Want Davy [Jones, the Monkees singer]! We Want the Monkees!" (It was long rumored the Daughters of the American Revolution got Hendrix booted from the tour for being too controversial, but that's not true.)

On the short-lived Hendrix-Monkees tour, while The Experience were performing, the Monkees' audience reportedly shouted "Foxy Davy" instead of "Fox Lady," referring to another Hendrix song. By the July 1967 Monkees Forest Hills date in Queens, New York, the "Hey Joe" musician and his bandmates had seen enough: they walked off stage and quit the tour. Recalling what Hendrix was like, Dolenz later said (via Forbes): "He was a nice kid, early to mid-20s, a couple of years older than me, very quiet. I don't want to say he was naive, because he was street-wise in terms of the business and in other ways, but certainly not at all like his persona on stage."