Rare Original Recording of Little Richard and a Then-Unknown Jimi Hendrix on the Auction Block

by Brooke Kennedy

Update: When the auction ended, the Little Richard and Jimi Hendrix concert recording earned a high bid of $51,644.

“He was a star. When I got him he was a star…The only part is some people haven’t been put in the Dipper and pulled back on the world.”

Little Richard, praising late guitarist Jimi Hendrix

Before the world knew Jimi Hendrix, there was James Marshall Hendrix. A kid from Seattle, Washington who couldn’t read music, but nonetheless developed a taste for the era’s major artists. As a kid, his father would find him strumming his broom when he was supposed to be cleaning his room. But soon enough, seeing a knack for talent in his son, his dad upgraded him to a ukulele and later an acoustic guitar.

After his stint in the United States Army, Hendrix continued to pursue his passion for music. In his quest to publicly perform, he was awarded the opportunity to back several renowned acts: Ike and Tina Turner, Sam Cooke, the Isley Brothers, and, perhaps most notably, Little Richard.1

An unstoppable force of flamboyant charisma and enduring hits, Little Richard stormed onto the scene with his first hit titled “Tutti Frutti.” Covers of his songs could be found on the discographies of acts like the Beatles, the Kinks, and the Everly Brothers (to name only a few).2 His influence on the genre inspired a long list of rock n’ roll musicians, and among those bullets you could spot Jimi Hendrix – who was also, at one point, Richard’s back-up guitarist.

It’s rare to see any artist, let alone Jimi Hendrix, perform for crowds prior to their big breakthrough. But, Hendrix’s fans are in luck. One clip shows Hendrix dressed to the nines backing Buddy and Stacey for a rendition of Shotgun alongside Little Richard’s backing band, The Upsetters.

And once again rock n’ roll enthusiasts are striking gold. A particularly electric performance by Little Richard at the Back Bay Theatre (what was then known as the Donnelly Theatre) while backed by Jimi Hendrix received the recording treatment, and that original tape is now up for auction.

The recording originates from the archives of radio personality Little Walter DeVenne who made it on a Scotch 190 reel. With his passion for rock n’ roll nurtured at a young age, Walter began his career in broadcasting at the Medford radio station WHIL. He later added DJ to his job titles, hosting MIT’s education radio show WTBS and later he began working for WBTS. As a disc jockey, DeVenne was in close contact with the biggest stars of the era, which enabled him to get this momentous occasion on tape.3

Original tape of Little Richard’s performance in Boston, complete with its original box.
Original tape of Little Richard’s performance in Boston, complete with its original box.

In the tape’s opening minutes, Hendrix can be seen noodling on his guitar alongside rock duo Don and Dewey, before the emcee proudly presents to the audience who they all came to see: “I’d like for you to get together and welcome a young man who is delicate. Prettier than Cassius Clay. Swings harder than Roger Maris. He has more hits than Willie Mays. I want you to put your hands together now and make him feel good. You make him feel good now! Some of you girls can make him feel good later. Let’s hear it now, a big hand for Little Richard!”

As the overture of horns combines with the enthusiastic crowd, Little Richard makes his appearance on stage, giving an audience a small taste of what they’re in for: “As pretty as I am…I want to say to you all that I am not conceited, I’m convinced [laughter and applause]. Thank you. And the next time you see Cassius Clay, you can tell him Little Richard is here.” He begins the show with a cover of the Beatles’ song ‘I Saw Her Standing There’ with the band following his lead. As the song reaches its end Hendrix shows the crowd what he can do – ripping a bluesy riff as Richard heads to the piano to sing his next tunes, the peppy ‘Lucille’ and the somber ‘Send Me Some Lovin’.’

For his next songs, the audience is treated to Richard’s classic flair, combining three of his big hits – ‘Rip It Up,’ ‘Tutti Frutti,’ and ‘Jenny, Jenny’ – into an energetic medley. Slowing down once again, he performs the ballad ‘Shake a Hand.’ As music writer Peter Guralnick told Rolling Stone, “for close to 10 minutes, Richard continued to sing, expound, and expand upon the classic 1950s ‘inspirational’ number… all without benefit of vocal amplification, as he and the audience entered into the kind of trance-like state that only James Brown and Solomon Burke (both of whom revered him) could equally inspire.” Richard and his band then leave fans with one last number, a cover of the rockabilly song ‘Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.’

Despite their rockin’ partnership, Hendrix and Richard’s time together was short. During their sessions they often butted heads about Hendrix’s punctuality and over-the-top showmanship.

 R&B artist Dewey Terry said: ‘Jimi would let the guitar feed back and that would piss Richard off because it would cover up his vocals.’ Graham Nash also recalls one instance of Little Richard chastising Hendrix for his off-the-cuff stage theatrics, the bandleader shouting: ‘Don’t you ever play your f*cking guitar behind your head again, don’t you upstage me, I’m f*cking Little Richard.’ Hendrix was promptly let go from the band in the summer of 1965.

Despite their less than amicable departure, Richard’s influence stuck. Hendrix’s own outlandish stage presence and striking style would make him an icon of psychedelic rock, not too long after setting out for the foggy city of London.

The recording has been in DeVenne’s personal collection ever since, and this will be the first time going to the public market. Bidding on this tape is now open in RR Auction’s Marvels of Modern Music auction closing May 23, 2024, and it will be interesting to see who snags this rare piece of psychedelic spirit.

Jimi Hendrix Rare Ultra-Early Original Concert Recording with Little Richard (Boston, 1965)


  1. “James Marshall Hendrix,” Jimi Hendrix. Accessed Apr. 23, 2024. https://www.jimihendrix.com/biography/. ↩︎
  2. David Browne, “Little Richard, Founding Father of Rock Who Broke Musical Barriers, Dead at 87,” Rolling Stone. Published May 9, 2020. https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-news/little-richard-dead-48505/. ↩︎
  3. Fred Bramante, “‘Little Walter’ DeVenne,” Music Museum of New England. Published June 9, 2021. https://www.mmone.org/little-walter-devenne/#discussion. ↩︎

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