On Nov. 2, 1965, Joey Dee and the Starlighters arrived in Buffalo for a six-night engagement at McVans. The group had performed in New York City the night before and were greeted by an early season Buffalo snowstorm. The group thought the show would have been canceled due to the snowstorm, but McVans owner called up the group to let them know that it takes a lot of snow to cancel a show in Buffalo.
Joey Dee and the Starlighter’s are best known for the 1961 dance hit “Peppermint Twist,” a song that capitalized on the dance craze started by Chubby Checker’s version of “The Twist.” The group was also one of the first integrated popular music acts of the era.
The group’s six-night run in Buffalo would not have been significant if not for the group’s guitarist, Jimmy James, an Army veteran that had toured with the Isley Brothers and Little Richard. James had joined the group just a few weeks earlier.
By the following year, Jimmy James formed his own band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. And less than a year after his performances in Buffalo, Jimmy went over to England and formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience.
In addition to the band, a group of go-go dancers performed at the shows, and one of the few surviving photograph’s of Hendrix’s time with Joey Dee includes Hendrix dressed in the go-go dancer’s outfits. The group appeared in the outfits for the encore at the final performance and performed “Shout.”
In addition to the six shows at McVans, Hendrix performed a Sunday afternoon show on Nov. 7, 1965 at Buffalo’s Club Commodore right before the group’s final night at McVans.
There are plenty of crazy tales about Jimi Hendrix’s time in Buffalo when he was a member of Joey Dee and the Starlighter’s. Of course, Hendrix was just 22 years old at the time, and out on the road with a group of musicians.
Hendrix’s time with Joey Dee was short-lived, but Joey allowed Hendrix to play extended solos and display techniques such as playing guitar behind his back, which would become a Hendrix trademark.
Hendrix almost returned to Buffalo in July of 1967 as a support act for The Monkees. Hendrix was amicably dropped as an opening act for the Monkees after a three-night run at Forest Hills Stadium in New York City. The Monkees next date was at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium and was the first date without Hendrix as the opener.
Hendrix did get to perform at the Buffalo Aud on March 23, 1968. The stage was only 4 feet high, and there are varying reports regarding the attendance. One source said it was a sold-out show, and another said the Aud was about half-full.
It was the last time Hendrix performed in Buffalo, as Hendrix died of an overdose on Sept. 18, 1970, less than five years after those historic shows at McVans.
Thom Jenning covers the local music scene for Night and Day.