After nearly two years on the circuit, the restless and flamboyant young Hendrix, chafing under the direction of strict bandleaders, finally had enough of Tennessee and moved to Harlem to strike out on his own, but he still worked as a sideman: he recorded with the Isley Brothers, toured with Little Richard, and in 1965, he made his first ever TV appearance with a pair of Long Island singers named Buddy and Stacy on Nashville’s Channel 5 program Night Train, doing the Junior Walker & the All Stars top-ten hit “Shotgun.” In the video above you can see Hendrix (to the right of the drummer), grooving behind the foppishly-dressed vocal duo. Note how his moves are out of sync with the rest of the band, all right-handed players. Note how his pompadour is slightly unkempt. Note, if you watch closely, his right hand traveling up and down the neck of his guitar, pulling off some killer runs—in a song that stays on one note for the duration—even while stuck behind the action.
This performance marks one of the last times Hendrix would stand in the shadows of other bandleaders. After working steadily in the studio as a session player in 1966, he formed his own band, the Blue Flame (as Jimmy James), and took up residence at the historic Café Wha? in Greenwich Village (where my father saw him play, he tells me, and was floored, having no idea who the guy was). ’66 is the year Hendrix fully crossed over (some said sold out; some said sold his soul) from the soul/R&B circuit to mainstream rock & roll success. He wouldn’t crack the U.S. until his legendary appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in June of 1967, but after forming the Jimi Hendrix Experience in late ’66, he wowed audiences in Europe with his first single “Hey Joe,” and appeared on UK TV shows Ready Steady Go! and Top of the Pops. Three months before Monterey, the band appeared on popular German TV program Beat Club. Check out their performance below, doing “Hey Joe” and “Purple Haze.” Hendrix doesn’t set any fires, but he does get in a solo with his teeth.