Remembering the 1960s
Jerry Bledsoe was there – and has his say in a fun new memoir
Jerry Bledsoeís new memoir, Do-Good Boy: An Unlikely Writer Confronts the ‘60s and Other Indignities, describes how the fledgling writer — who would go on to become a celebrated reporter, columnist and author — brushed against some of the most significant events of the era: the Cold War and the gathering storm in Vietnam, the space race, and the civil rights movement.
He also witnessed firsthand the emergence of rock legend Jimi Hendrix, who appeared with his band, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, as the opening act for The Monkees at a July 12, 1967 concert at the Greensboro Coliseum. In the following excerpt, Bledsoe details the showmanship of Hendrix, who was dressed in tight black velvet bell-bottoms, long love beads, heavy ornamental rings and a bandana tucked into his Afro. He kicked off the set with “Purple Haze” and closed it with a cover of “Wild Thing,” which he’d played the month before at the Monterey Pop Festival before setting his guitar on fire.
On this night he swept through the tune playing the guitar in every way it could be manipulated, switching early on from his left hand to his teeth, creating sounds I didn’t know a guitar could make and causing me to wonder how many teeth he still could call his own. Shifting from his teeth, he played his abused Fender Stratocaster upside-down and backwards, over his head, behind his back, between his legs. He even got down on the floor and plucked it with his toes. At one point, back on his feet, he appeared to be having sex with it. As he neared climax, he began swinging his instrument in the air, slammed it to the floor and jumped up and down on it. He seemed upset that he wasn’t inflicting enough damage, and as his fellow band members continued playing furiously, he picked up the guitar by its neck, swung it around knocking down microphone stands and began beating it on the floor until pieces started flying. He didn’t set it on fire, perhaps because it might have gotten him arrested in Greensboro because flames weren’t allowed in Coliseum performances.
Hendrix strutted off stage sweating profusely. The audience seemed stunned, uncertain how to respond. As he passed our group of applauding and smiling admirers, he muttered, “Let ’em ****in’ little Monkees top that!” OH
— Maria Johnson