Dagger Records has released Curtis Knight: Live at George’s Club 20 1965 & 1966 on CD, and a double vinyl LP version will be available for Record Store Day (April 21).
Never officially released in the U.S. before, these recordings showcase Jimi Hendrix's explosive guitar work and lead vocal performances that Animals bassist Chas Chandler witnessed less than a year before becoming his manager and moving him to England to form the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
Today, we present an exclusive video of former Guitar World editor-in-chief Brad Tolinski—co-author of Play It Loud: An Epic History of the Style, Sound, and Revolution of the Electric Guitar—discussing Hendrix at this phase of his career. You can check it out below.
Knight, a New York-area bandleader, met Hendrix, then known as Jimmy James, in October 1965 and recruited the budding guitarist for his pre-Squires band the Lovelights. At the cusp of turning 23, Hendrix was already somewhat of a veteran, having already toured and recorded with, among others, the Isley Brothers and Little Richard.
These raw recordings, made at George’s Club 20 in Hackensack, New Jersey, on December 26, 1965, and January 22, 1966, capture the Lovelights (filled out with bassist Ace Hall, drummer Ditto Edwards and saxophonist Lonnie Youngblood) tearing through popular rock and roll, soul and blues songs of the day. Chris Kenner’s “Land of 1000 Dances,” Ray Charles’ “What'd I Say,” “Mercy Mercy” by Don Covay and “I’ll Be Doggone,” the Marvin Gaye hit, are featured in their repertoire, in addition to two songs Jimi would go on to play with the Experience: “Driving South” by Albert Collins and Howlin’ Wolf’s “Killing Floor.”
Even in these recordings, Jimi’s personality, stagecraft and humor are evident throughout. More so was his burgeoning skill as a guitarist.
“Jimi wasn’t someone coming and learning on the gig,” Ace Hall recollects. "He was very seasoned. He had knowledge of all the hit songs. He had ‘em down. Jimi was a leader. He would play out. A lot of guitar players are just card shufflers. Jimi was playing it loud. He made sure that everybody heard what he was doing. I have to give him that. He did it very well.”
By the spring of 1966, Hendrix and Curtis Knight had parted ways. Hendrix would soon resurface in Greenwich Village, occasionally fronting his own group, the Blue Flames, as well as performing with artists such as John Hammond Jr. By the end of the year, he was in London with a fully formed Jimi Hendrix Experience, on the brink of international stardom.
Soon after Jimi Hendrix became a household name, these live Curtis Knight recordings began to surface on shoddily produced bootlegs. Longtime Hendrix recording engineer Eddie Kramer recently restored the audio by removing all overdubs and effects, so fans can hear what Chas Chandler did in that nightclub more than 50 years ago. Bernie Grundman mastered Live at George’s Club 20 1965 & 1966 for optimum audio fidelity.
“This release offers great insight into an important period in Jimi’s musical development,” says Janie Hendrix, CEO of Experience Hendrix L.L.C. and sister of Jimi Hendrix. “We’re delighted that our Dagger label is able to put these recordings in historical context.”
Curtis Knight [featuring Jimi Hendrix]: Live at George’s Club 20 1965 & 1966Track List:
2) Killing Floor
3) Last Night
4) Get Out of My Life Woman
5) Ain’t That Peculiar
6) Mercy, Mercy
7) I’m a Man
8) Driving South
9) Baby What You Want Me to Do
10) I’ll Be Doggone
11) Sweet Little Angel
12) Let’s Go, Let’s Go, Let’s Go
13) Travelin’ to California
14) What'd I Say
15) Land of 1000 Dances
16) Come On (Let the Good Times Roll)
17) Band Outtro
To order Curtis Knight: Live at George’s Club 20 1965 & 1966, head here.