Jimi’s Monkee Business

Remember Hendrix's disastrous boy band tour?

by Christian Toto | Updated 21 Sep 2015 at 4:40 PM

Showtime has just debuted a new documentary that recalls Jimi Hendrix’s electrifying appearance at the 1970 Atlanta Pop Festival.

The guitar legend played before 300,000 adoring fans, an event marked by scorching Georgia heat, biker gangs tasked with keeping the peace, and fans willing to trample fences to see him at any cost. The Hendrix concert footage has never been available to the public before now, making the documentary a must-see event for most music fans.

It's hard to believe that three years earlier than that Hendrix received a far different reaction when he hit the stage.

The Monkees, the "Prefab Four" fellows from the silly TV show, were about to tour with a string of hits at their back. With great power comes the ability to choose your opening act, and the boys knew who they wanted to watch perform night after night.

Hendrix was greeted with chants like, "We want Davy (Jones)," not adulation.

It was the summer of 1967, and Monkees' drummer and singer Micky Dolenz helped secured the budding guitar hero for their tour. The Monkees were mocked in the press for their artificial roots — they weren't an actual band, but four actors playing musicians. Although they learned to play their own instruments and fought for creative integrity, the press hounded them all the same.

Touring with the Jimi Hendrix Experience might change that, they hoped. Dolenz and band mate Peter Tork had caught Hendrix's act at the Monterey International Pop Festival months earlier.

“We saw Jimi do what he did, and Micky got it,” Tork told WTOP radio. “I didn’t get it.”

The pairing was short-lived. The Monkees adored watching Hendrix from the sidelines, but the crowds eager to hear the band's catchy pop hits weren't amused. The guitarist's on-stage theatrics, like his sexually suggestive moves with his guitar, were hardly a good fit for a family-centered audience.

Hendrix was greeted with chants like, "We want Davy (Jones)," not adulation.

Seven dates into the tour, Hendrix negotiated his release from the contract. Weeks later, his records started climbing the music charts.

"Electric Church," by comparison, captures Hendrix at his professional peak. He played a few more shows in the U.S. before hitting Europe after the 1970 event. Two-and-a-half months after his blistering Atlanta show, he died. He was just 27 years old.

"Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church" is appearing on Showtime.

This article has been updated.

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