How Jimi Hendrix Got Fired Halfway Through His First Gig
If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. And while you’re trying again, think about Jimi Hendrix, who made it halfway through his first guitar gig before being fired on Feb. 20, 1959.
The show was a bit of an odd fit from the start. Hendrix, 16 years old and living in Seattle at the time, had been invited to audition for a local band — whose name has sadly been lost to history — during its two-set performance at the Temple De Hirsch Sinai synagogue. As Jewish Currents notes, the future guitar legend wasn’t the person in the building who’d later go down in musical history: The temple’s music director at the time, Samuel E. Goldfarb, co-wrote “The Dreidel Song.”
Unfortunately, Hendrix and Goldfarb would never get around to bonding: Jewish Currents’ report recalls that Hendrix’s “wild playing and show-off style (dropping to his knees, sticking out his tongue, flailing his arms) got him fired before the second set.” This wouldn’t be the last time his flamboyant style cost him a paycheck, either; as the post goes on to note, he’d also end up being fired by Little Richard and Ike Turner. Clearly, he needed to be the star of his own show.
Of course, things worked out pretty well for Hendrix once he started his solo career — and while this show remains a little-discussed footnote in an amazing legacy, novelist Lily Brett may have opened a window into his feelings about the firing in her novel Lola Bensky, a semi-autobiographical book that drew on Brett’s own experiences as a teen music writer to tell the story of a young girl who rubs shoulders with some of rock’s biggest stars.
“It didn’t go well,” laughs Hendrix in the book after telling Lola that his first gig was in the basement of a synagogue. “I was fired between sets. … I was trying to play from my soul, and the other band members thought I was showing off.”
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