In 1961, Jimi Hendrix was given a choice between two years in jail or joining the Army after a run in with the law for riding in stolen cars. He decided to join the Army and that same year he was assigned to the 101st Airborne Division. He didn’t stay there for long though. Just one year later, he was discharged for ‘behavior problems, required excessive supervision while on duty, little regard for regulations, apprehended masturbating in platoon area while supposed to be detail.’ Hendrix might not have been a great fit in the U.S. Army, but the military's loss was rock music's gain.
After the army, he earned his living as a traveling musician on the Chitlin’ Circuit. The Chitlin’ Circuit was the collective name given to performance venues through-out the eastern, southern, and upper Midwest areas of the United States that were safe and acceptable for African American musicians, comedians, and other entertainers to perform in during the era of racial segregation in the United States.
He was already recognized as one of the best guitar players available so everyone wanted to hire him. He played in some well known bands, like The Isley Brothers, Junior Walker & the All Stars, Ike and Tina Turner and also backing stars like Wilson Picket and Sam Cooke. His bandmates and employers were often irritated with his bombastic behavior, successfully trying to win an audience with his famous stunts such as playing solos with his teeth and behind his head. Hendrix was not a very good ‘team player,’ all he wanted was to do his own thing.
According to Jimi Hendrix' brother Leon, he was a longtime fan of Little Richard since he was 12 years old and saw him the first time in Seattle preaching at the Goodwill Baptist Church. By the fall of 1964, while Hendrix was stuck in Missouri without any money or means to support himself, a friend did his best to set the guitarist up with a new gig by talking him up to members of Little Richard’s backing band. 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.
By the time Jimi Hendrix had joined Little Richard’s backup band, the Upsetters, he knew his role as a sideman, but his flamboyance was still evident and has caused multiple clashes with Richard. It was between 1964 and 1965 when he was touring with Little Richard and further developed the unique guitar style that would shortly electrify the world. During this period, they recorded only two songs together: ‘Dancing All Around the World.’ and “I Don’t Know What You’ve Got but It’s Got Me” which was released that November but missed the pop charts, only managing to hit Number 12 on the R&B list. By the way, Billy Preston was at the organ.
He also made his first TV appearance while a member of Little Richard’s band, backing soul duo Buddy And Stacy as they covered Junior Walker And The All Stars’ Shotgun on Night Train, filmed in Nashville in the summer of ’65. The clip shows Hendrix resplendent in his dinner suit and bow tie, digging to the horn-powered groove. Less than 18 months later, Jimi landed in London and his meteoric rise had begun tearing everyone apart.
From the beginning is was a conflicting relationship with Little Richard. 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".
Long story short, finally Jimi was fired from Richard’s band as well. Richard felt nothing should distract attention away from his star power and so Jimi shredded the role of back-line guitarist. He was born for the spotlight, and he knew it from the very beginning.
In a letter to his father that July, Hendrix says that Richard “didn’t pay us for five and a half weeks, and you can’t live on promises when you’re on the road. So I had to cut that mess loose.” However, Richard's brother, Robert Penniman, later claimed that Hendrix was fired because ‘he was always late for the bus and flirting with all the girls and stuff like that". A year later Jimi Hendrix was a rising star in the UK. The rest is history.
There is also the gossip that he was dismissed from the band because he rejected a proposal of Richard to watch him and his girlfriend making sex.
Despite this ignoble ending, Richard was moved in later years to dub Hendrix “the greatest guitar player I ever had. Not one of my men ever came close to him.”
Friends from the Beginning – Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix is an album with songs purportedly recorded by Little Richard between 1964 and its 1972 release date. Contrary to the album title and claims in the liner notes, Jimi Hendrix does not contribute anything to the recording. Even Little Richard's involvement in some of the songs has also been questioned.
The two only songs really recorded by Little Richard with Jimi Hendrix playing guitar are not included in this weird album.
AllMusic critic Joe Vilione describes the album as "totally bogus" and adds: Fraudulent recordings like Friends from the Beginning serve no purpose but to confuse the public and harm the reputations of the artists whose names appear on these travesties. It is a deception.
Even the title is false. While Hendrix was a fan of Little Richard when kid, they never were friends. Jimi Hendrix was a subordinate employee of Little Richard and treated just like that.