Little Walter DeVenne

The famous Little Richard live tape featuring Jimi Hendrix was recorded and is still owned by Little Walter DeVenne. His website had this to say about the tape:
"The treasures in DeVenne’s archives include dozens of live shows by Little Richard, including the only known live tape of Jimi Hendrix performing with Richard Penniman, Don & Dewey and Maxine Brown (although there is a studio 45 RPM of Jimi with Little Richard that was recorded around this period). Recorded way back when by DeVenne at the Back Bay Theater in Boston, the tape was mentioned when DeVenne was being interviewed for Visual Radio sometime in the 1990s. After the discovery, Experience Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix’s family-owned company, heard the tape as re-played from the original broadcast tape from WTBS (now WMBR), the information landing in Steve Roby’s Hendrix book, "Black Gold." 4

The location & DATE

Peter Guralnick's website includes his recollection about seeing Little Richard in Boston at the Donnelly Theater in 1965:
"Maybe what stands out most of all for me, though, is Little Richard’s epic “I Don’t Know What You’ve Got (But It’s Got Me).” ... I can remember seeing Richard with Jimi Hendrix on guitar at the Donnelly Theater in Boston in May of 1965 around the time he recorded the song. (I ushered the show!) He didn’t sing “I Don’t Know What You’ve Got” that night. His showstopper was “Shake a Hand,” on which he left the mike and came to the edge of the stage, projecting his voice effortlessly without amplification and imploring the audience to join him. Which, without hesitating for a second, they very soulfully did." 1

The location given for the concert by Little Walter DeVenne, Back Bay Theater, (almost) matches the name that the venue was using in 1965. A 14 May 1965 ad for a concert by the Kingston Trio lists the location as "Back Bay Theatre (Formerly Donnelly)". 5 The theater was over the years known under several different names: Loew's State Theater, Donnelly Theater, Donnelly Memorial Theater and Back Bay Theater. All situated at 205 Massachusetts Avenue, Boston so Little Walter DeVenne's "Back Bay Theater" and Peter Guralnick's "Donnelly Theater" are the one and the same building, known in 1965 as the "Back Bay Theatre".

The book "Becoming Jimi Hendrix" lists a date that would seem to fit Guralnick's recollection perfectly (though no source for the date is given in the book) 3:
Wednesday 12 May 1965
Donnelly Theater, Boston, Massachusetts

And the tracklist for the Little Richard live recording as listed in "Black Gold" matches Peter Guralnick's memory of the Donnelly Theatre gig in that "Shake A Hand" was played near the end of the show. 2

I haven`t been able, however, to find evidence for a single Little Richard show in Boston in 1964 - 1965, not at the Back Bay Theatre or any other venue. Also, an ad in the Boston Globe published 11 May 1965 advertises a 14 May 1965 Kingston Trio show at Back Bay Theatre. So it doesn`t look like the theater would have had anything scheduled for the 12th of May 1965. It is always possible that a Little Richard show did take place on the date, if the theater was for example rented by an outside organization there wouldn`t necessarily have been any promotion for the show by the theater itself, but for now there is no evidence for a Little Richard show with Jimi Hendrix in Boston for the 12 May 1965 or any other date.

Tue, May 11, 1965 – 19 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) ·

There are rumors that the tape wasn't recorded when Hendrix was in the band after all but so far I'm not aware of anyone who has actually heard the tape publicly stating that Jimi doesn't play on it - nor have I heard a single second of the tape myself...

Since two separate sources state that a Little Richard concert took place at the Back Bay Theatre / Donnelly Theater such a concert very likely did take place, but at the moment the date is unconfirmed. Which in turn makes it hard to confirm any involvement by Jimi Hendrix.

Steven Roby writes in "Black Gold" that he asked Dewey Terry about this show (so apparently Dewey Terry does think the tape is authentic): "Jimi would let the guitar feed back and that would piss Richard off because it would cover up his vocals, especially during 'Lucille' and 'Tutti Frutti'." And of course Little Walter DeVenne's website still includes mention of the tape (I re-checked the website on 20 January 2020 and it`s currently offline) .

According to Little Walter DeVenne the recording will not come out as Little Richard does not want it to be released, therefor Little Walter hasn't given out any copies. Experience Hendrix has heard the tape but no deal can be made since Little Richard does not feel that the tape is up to scratch. So to summarize here's what's known about the tape at the moment:

The concert was broadcast by WTBS 88.1 operated by the MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and recorded Little Walter DeVenne on a Scotch 190 reel at 7.5 ips.  Allegedly the tape features Jimi Hendrix playing guitar behind all of the acts as a member of Little Richard's backing band. According to Steven Roby the support act recordings have numerous cuts.  2

I searched the archive of "The Tech", the MIT newspaper, and could not find anything related to Little Richard from the 1960s, no mention of a concert or a radio broadcast.

May? 1965?
Back Bay Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts

Don & Dewey:
- setlist unknown

Maxine Brown:
- setlist unknown

Little Richard:
- I Saw Her Standing There
- Lucille
- Send Me Some Lovin'
- Medley - Rip It Up / Tutti Frutti / Jenny, Jenny
- Shake A Hand
- Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On



1 From
2 "Black Gold" by Steven Roby
3 "Becoming Jimi Hendrix" by Steven Roby & Brad Screiber
4 - now offline
5 The Boston Globe, Boston, Massachusetts 11 May & 14 May 1965