Jimi Hendrix left the Isley Brothers during 1965 and soon picked up with Curtis Knight and the Squires just before Christmas in the same year. Adding needed flash to their unit (as he had done for the Isley Brothers), Hendrix was a welcome addition to the group. While it was difficult to become known while playing with the Isley Brothers, with Curtis Knight and the Squires it was much simpler. They played the local clubs of New York City and New Jersey, and as an emergent band they gave him the attention he craved and felt he deserved.
Jimi meet Curtis Knight by chance, while residing in the same hotel as Knight, and after chatting for a while in the lobby of the Hotel America, Knight asked Jimi to join the Squires and he promptly agreed. Although Knight was a guitar player and bandleader, he made the bulk of his money running prostitutes. "He was a pimp with a band", recalled Lonnie Youngblood, another musician on the scene at the time. According to Knight, Jimi considered quitting music that same month and had once again pawned his guitar to pay his rent. Knight loaned Jimi a guitar, and realised that as long as Jimi was borrowing the instrument, he had some control over him. Knight would use Jimi as the main facet of his band over the next eight months. Although the Squires were vastly inferior to the other bands Jimi had played with, there was one major benefit to the group: Knight put Jimi front and centre and promised to make him a star.
[extract from 'Room Full Of Mirrors' (A biography of Jimi Hendrix) by Charles Cross, 2005. p120]
Their repertory included top forty R&B, some originals, and some up-tempo songs for extended boogie. They performed two of these— "Driving South" and "Killing Floor"— often. Because they played primarily discos and small dance halls, they had to maintain extended danceable numbers. While Hendrix had more chances to solo, his main job was to augment the rhythm section and melody lines in unusual ways for the dancers.
Hendrix appeared with the Squires at the post-Christmas show at Georges Club 20 in Hackensack, New Jersey. The relief of finally being past Christmas was evident. The crowd was lively and plenty drunk. Curtis Knight was delighted to have such a top-notch guitarist in his group. "... I'd like to let everyone know that you're being recorded. This is being recorded live here at the fabulous Georges Club 20 in Hackensack, New Jersey. . . . What are you going to do for the people, Jimmy, on Christmas plus one?" Hendrix slurs in a Louis Armstrong grate, "A little thing called 'Driving South.'" Curtis Knight picks up; "A little thing called 'Driving South'—in D. If you ain't never been there you gonna take a trip with us now, baby. If you ain't got no car, put on some skates." The Squires hit some butt-bumping rhythm and are gone. "Driving South," a one-chord back-beating tune with plenty of room on the top for continuous soloing by Hendrix, as Knight names off cities and states, going deeper and deeper into the Southland. "Eat it! Eat it!" Curtis Knight shouts to Hendrix, as Jimmy displays his novelty attraction, playing the guitar with his teeth.
Hendrix's attack is sharp and piercing on treble reach. His soloing is bluesy with long loping lines that ride over several beats of the up-tempo song. As the towns get deeper and deeper into the South, Hendrix's guitar gets bluesier and bluesier, getting down into the deeper registers of the Delta sound, where the guitar plays bass notes as well as lead figures. Hendrix climbs out of the Delta with a long upward-sliding wail that skirts the psychedelic. Toward the end, Jimmy joins the rhythm by Doodling bass figures against the beat. Then Knight shouts, "Eat it! Eat it!" again, and Jimmy goes back into a riffing guitar frenzy for a while, then back to noodling with the rhythm as "Driving South" goes out.
|Jimi Hendrix, Ditto Edwards, Curtis Knight, Lonnie Youngblood, Ace Hall|
|Ditto Edwards - drums, Jimi Hendrix - guitar, Curtis Knight - guitar|
Lord knows I should've been gone
I'm justa messin' round
Cryin' on the killing floor
Jimmy goes crazy as they take it out in staccato rhythm. He climbs the wall with the whimsical yet sinister melody and joins the rhythm as well with heavy contrasting comments on the bottom of the floor. His wails scale against the ceiling, the nonchalance of the melody turning into a flash of manic murder intensity at the peak. They descend, and the song ends to a cacophony of applause, shouts, cusses and banging glasses.
Some of the other clubs Hendrix played with Curtis Knight and the Squires were: The Purple Onion, a Greenwich Village discotheque; The Queen's Inn; The Cheetah Club in Times Square and Ondines on the chic Upper East Side. [extract from Scuse Me While I Kiss The Sky 'The Life Of Jimi hendrix', by David Henderson, 1978. p50-51]
|Jimi Hendrix - guitar, Curtis Knight - guitar, Lonnie Youngblood - sax|
"George's Club 20" was located in Hackensack, New Jersey which was on the corner of Moore and Bridge Street near the Courthouse.
|Georges Club 20|
If you listen to the first cut "Drivin' South", Jimi is introduced as "Jimmy James" - the name he went by back then, but there's no mistaking that voice when you hear it. By the way, he had a band in 1966 called "Jimmy James and the Blue Flames".
During that introduction, he's asked by Curtis Knight, "What are you gonna do, Jimmy, on this Christmas plus one?", so this confirms the performance date of December 26, 1965.
Although the sound of these recordings cannot be compared with the sound obtained in a studio nowadays, these recordings must be regarded as indispensable, as they document the starting period of one of the great rock masters of all times.
This post consists of both MP3 (320kps) and FLACs ripped from my pristine Vinyl which has been rarely played (I taped all of my Hendrix records as a teenager, to preserve the quality of the vinyl)
Also included is full album artwork, along with a select range of photos of Jimi playing with Curtis Knight & The Squires. Some photos were also taken from the two Hendrix biographies cited above (with thanks)
I've also provided the cover from the Hackensack Blues CD release, which is worth while pursuing.
Note: I have previously posted a 4 track E.P entitled 'Jimi James And The Blue Flames' which features "I'm A Man" and "Bright Lights, Big City" which were recorded after Jimi's sessions with Curtis Knight and is also worth a listen.
01 - Driving South
02 - I'm A Man
03 - On The Killin' Floor
04 - California Night
05 - Ain't That Peculiar
06 - What'd I Say
07 - Bright Lights, Big City
Early Jimi Hendrix MP3 Link (75Mb) New Link 28/06/2016
Early Jimi Hendrix FLAC Link (209Mb) New Link 23/05/2017