There was a night when Greensboro, NC was cooler than the rest of the nation. It happened on 12 July 1967 at the Coliseum, when the Jimi Hendrix Experience opened for the Monkees.
In the summer of 1967, the Monkees launched a 32-stop tour across America. Trying to show the world they were real musicians and played their own instruments, the tour blazed across the nation at a breakneck pace from 30 June to 29 August.
The story of the Hendrix/Monkee association is well known. The Monkees met with Hendrix in London during their tour of England in early 1967. They became immediate fans. After seeing him play during the Monterey Pop Music Festival in June of 1967, Mickey Dolenz and Mike Nesmith talked Jimi into opening for them during their tour. Of course, this mismatched pairing did not end well. Hendrix would open his set with “Purple Haze” only to be met by jeers, hoots, and “we want Davy!” from thousands of girls in training bras. He finally walked off the stage and tour three shows later, at Forest Hills, NY.
Greensboro was a rare success for the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Instead of being the last warmup act, they were moved to first. Word had reached the college-age set, so they attended the concert for Hendrix and left before the Monkees appeared. His reception was far different. The hipper Greensboro audience was receptive and enthusiastic. One report noted that the audience nearly rushed the stage when “Foxy Lady” was played. They were rewarded with Hendrix’s signature exit – smashing his Fender to bits on stage.
Both Hendrix and the Monkees stayed at Oaks Motel in Greensboro. At the time, the Oakes was new and modern, an absolute testament to mid-century luxury. One wing was blocked off by police for the entertainers and the crew. The Monkees enjoyed the kidney-shaped pool in the humid July heat, while Hendrix remained in his air conditioned room, drinking Budweiser and playing his guitar.
Mike Nesmith commented on the surreal image of Hendrix in the newly desegrated south:
“The hallway was lined with probably five or six on either side of these stereotypical Southern police with big beer belly, and different color blue shirts, and a very Southern kind of redneck attitude. I’d just come out of my room, guess it was one or two in the morning. A door opened and there was this kind of eerie blue-red light that came in from it because of the exit sign over it. Hendrix appeared in silhouette, with this light in back of him, and of course his hair was out to here, and he had on what has become his famous ribbon shirt. And he took a step forward, and it was like it was choreographed. Noel and Mitch both came up on either side of him, and they made the perfect trio. It looked like the cover of Axis. None of these guys was very big, and all those cops were like 6’5”, and Hendrix just started walking down the hall with these pinwheels in his eyes. And to see him walk under the nose of these cops, and these guys lookin’ at him going by was something to see. Jimi was in absolute control. He had such a command of himself.”
The Oakes is still in Greensboro, a pale shadow of its mid-century glory. The pool where the Pre-Fab Four frolicked is long gone. One question that remains is where was I when all this was going on? I guess the concert news didn’t make it to the eastern part of the state. I was ten and in the middle of Monkeemania myself. I’m guessing I wasn’t paying attention. Or my mother changed the station when an ad came on the radio. July was vacation time so I might have been traveling. In any event, I feel sad I missed this concert.