Remember When: Graham Nash Witnessed Little Richard Telling Jimi Hendrix “Don’t You Ever Play Your F—ing Guitar Behind Your Head Again”

By 1965 Jimi Hendrix was in flux. While playing with his own band, Hendrix was also making the rounds, performing as a backing musician for Ike and Tina Turner, Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, Wilson Pickett, and more before touring with the I.B. Specials, the the Isley Brothers‘s band, in 1964.

That year, Hendrix also recorded the single “Testify” with the Isleys and “Mercy Mercy” with Don Covay, which topped the Billboard R&B chart.

A year later, Hendrix landed in Little Richard‘s touring band The Upsetters and recorded the Covay-penned single “I Don’t Know What You Got (But It’s Got Me)” with Richard, who left an indelible mark on then-unknown guitarist.

Richard’s flamboyance, his sartorial robings, on-stage persona, wild hair, and electric performances were a template for Hendrix and gave him more confidence as a performer on stage. Though, Hendrix’s time in Richard’s band was short-lived. He was later fired from the group by July of 1965, just two years before the Jimi Hendrix Experience released their 1967 debut Are You Experienced.

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“Hendrix got dumped plenty of times,” wrote Charles Shaar Murray in his 1989 book Crosstown Traffic. “He would behave for as long as he could, but after a while he would either upstage the star or miss the tour bus.”

The Blow Up

Hendrix’s developing showmanship on-stage may have been one of the leading factors in getting dismissed from Richard’s band. During one show at the Paramount Theatre in Brooklyn, New York in ’65, Hendrix was feeling loose with his guitar and pulled one of his signature moves during Richard’s concert, and slid the guitar behind his head while playing. Once the concert was over, Richard reprimanded Hendrix for upstaging him.

At the time, Graham Nash was New York with his first band the Hollies, who were playing a supporting slot to Richard, and witnessed the entire scene.

“I remember watching the end of Little Richard’s show,” remembered Nash. “And he came off screaming [at his guitarist],” added Nash. “‘Don’t you ever play your f—–g guitar behind your head again. Don’t you upstage me, I’m f—–g Little Richard.’’’

“He Was a Star”

In later years, Richards praised Hendrix and said he was a rock star from the moment they started working together.

“He was a star,” said Richard in 1973 interview, three years after Hendrix’s death. “When I got him, he was a star. Jimi Hendrix could play that rock and roll. He gone. He had that thang, just rumping and thumping all up under my toes. At times he used to make my big toe shoot up in my boot. He did it so good.”

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Richard added, “He’d give it all to you. And that’s what you want. You want it all or none. But Jimi had this perseverance to go on. He didn’t mind looking freaky—like I don’t mind it. ‘Cus I was doing it before he was and I knew when he met me it gave him confidence and great recompense of reward. He always wanted to be this big star.”

Unfortunately, Richard said he never go to see Hendrix perform once he became famous. “They would never let me come back,” he said. “I said ‘Why? What did I do?’ I had something to tell him, and I never did, so now I have to talk about it and let him know. It was good.

I just wanted to let him know that I knew he was gonna make it.”

Photo: Don Paulsen/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

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