Little Walter DeVenne

The famous Little Richard live tape featuring Jimi Hendrix was recorded 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


Little Richard passed away in 2020 and Little Walter DeVenne in 2021 and in 2024 the tape was included as Lot #5069 in the Marvels of Modern Music April 29, 2024 - May 23, 2024 -auction by RRAuction. I have updated the text on this page in May & June 2024 to include the new information that has become available, including the first ever sample of the live recording.

The tape sold for $51.644 (including buyer's premium) - does anybody know who bought it?

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 had capacity for 3800 people 8 and 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". You can see a Boston Globe / Getty Images shot of the front of the building in 1966 here.

I also received an email from Simon Albury in 2023 7, he wrote:

"Little Richard did perform at the Back Bay Theatre, Boston 1965

I was there an will never forget the start. A parade of people dressed like British Royal Guards with busmen marched on, followed by Little Richard whose first words were:

“I’m not conceited……….I’m convinced!""

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 the book Black Gold (and confirmed by the 2024 auction listing) 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 any written evidence for a single Little Richard show in Boston in 1964 - 1965, not at the Back Bay Theatre or any other venue.

An ad in the Boston Globe published 11 May 1965 advertises a 14 May 1965 Kingston Trio show at Back Bay Theatre - although the 21 April 1965 issue previously reported that the concert had been cancelled. And the 14 May 1965 issue in turn featured a small news item on the concert being "tonight". So it doesn`t look like the theater would have had anything scheduled for the 12th of May 1965 .

Tue, May 11, 1965 – 19 · The Boston Globe (Boston, Massachusetts) ·
It is however always possible that a Little Richard show did take place on 12th of May 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 contemporary printed evidence for a Little Richard show in Boston for the 12 May 1965 or any other date in 1964-1965. That doesn't of course necessarily mean that the show did not take place, just that no-one has so far found any advertisements, articles or reviews mentioning it.

As practically no-one has heard the full tape it's hard to form a definite opinion on whether Hendrix plays on the recording or not.

Since two separate reliable sources state that a Little Richard concert took place at the Back Bay Theatre and they attended it such a concert very likely did take place, but at the moment the exact date is unconfirmed. Little Walter DeVenne's live recording also has no date on the tape box and Little Walter to my knowledge never gave an exact date for the recording in any articles or interviews, just the location. Which again makes it hard to confirm any involvement by Jimi Hendrix.

Steven Roby wrote in the book 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 kept the mention of the tape throughout it's existence (the website was offline by 20 January 2020, the last time that I checked it).

So everyone is free to form their own opinion - a bit easier now than before thanks to the audio sample included in the 2024 auction listing.

According to Little Walter DeVenne the recording was never released because Little Richard didn't want it to be released as he did not did not feel that the tape was up to scratch - therefor Little Walter didn't give out any copies.

To summarize, here's what's known about the tape now, in May 2024. Note that I didn't have time to properly analyze every little detail about the auction - I wanted to get this page updated before the auction ends so I had to rush things a bit...

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.

The picture of the tape box included in the auction listing is interesting, first of all it includes the note "Transferred -> 10-17-67". Exactly what this means is unclear. The spine of the box says "L.R. FIRST" and added with a different pen "ORIG.". So either this reel was transferred to another format on 17 October 1967 or the reel in the picture is a copy of the original master made on that date. In which case the "ORIG." -notation would make no sense.

Little Walter DeVenne's website did say that "Recorded way back when by DeVenne at the Back Bay Theater in Boston" and also that "Experience Hendrix, Jimi Hendrix’s family-owned company, heard the tape as re-played from the original broadcast tape from WTBS (now WMBR)".

Maybe this is what was meant by the "transferred" -note on the box, Little Walter may have transferred the tape on another format for use on a radio broadcast by WTBS. The impression that I and other collectors always had was that the tape originated from a radio broadcast but maybe this was a misunderstanding. Maybe Walter DeVenne actually recorded the tape from the audience and this tape was later (in 1967?) broadcast on WTBS by him which is where the misconception that the tape was a recording of a radio broadcast came from? The sample reveals that the recording clearly is a bootleg audience recording and not a recording of a radio broadcast.

The auction listing says "The recording was made by Boston radio personality Little Walter DeVenne on a Scotch 190 reel at 7.5 ips, and originates from his personal archives." This description matches the pictures included in the auction listing so according to RRAuction the reel that is being auctioned is the original master.

May? 1965?
Back Bay Theatre, Boston, Massachusetts

Maxine Brown:
- setlist unknown

The 2024 auction listing gives no information at all about the Maxine Brown -segment of the recording. Actually the auction listing doesn't even mention Maxine Brown so the recording does not seem to be included in the auction even though the tape box mentions it? The description on the Little Walter DeVenne website said the recording was "the only known live tape of Jimi Hendrix performing with Richard Penniman, Don & Dewey and Maxine Brown". So his text suggested that Jimi also played behind Maxine Brown?

Don & Dewey:
- "Shotgun" (and possibly other songs?)

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

It is unclear whether Maxine Brown started the show or if the Maxine Brown segment originates from another date since the auction listing makes no mention of it. The tape box has the following written on it:

Richard /

Side 2
Maxine Brown
Richard's Band w/ Hendrix

So your guess is as good as mine. "Richard's Band w/ Hendrix" probably is the Don and Dewey -set as Don "Sugarcane" Harris and Dewey Terry both played (or at least had played) with Little Richard.

Previously there was no setlist available for the Don and Dewey -segment, the 2024 auction listing now mentions that this part of the recording last for 10 minutes and includes "Shotgun" - no other titles are given.

The fact that "Shotgun" was in the set is of great interest as it gives some indication on when this show was recorded. "Shotgun" was first released by Jr. Walker & The All Stars on the 45 "Shotgun / Hot Cha" (Soul S-35008) in January 1965. 6

My current estimate / guess is that Jimi started to play with Little Richard sometime around December 1964 / January 1965 (see the Little Richard Live Dates -page). So although the date and location of the Little Richard live recording are both still unconfirmed the tape most likely was recorded sometime after the start of February 1965, after Jimi started to play guitar for Little Richard. Which doesn't prove that he's on this particular recording, the tape may of course have been recorded much later, but it does suggest that the recording may have been done sometime in 1965 when "Shotgun" was a recent hit. We have two live recordings of "Shotgun" with Jimi on guitar, one from 1965 with Buddy and Stacy, the other from either December 1965 or January 1966 with Curtis Knight.

The start of the Little Richard -segment is not included in the YouTube sample but the auction listing includes a transcript of the MC's introduction:

"I'd like for you to get together and welcome a young man who is delicate. Prettier than Cassius Clay. Swings harder than Roger Maris. He has more hits than Willie Mays. I want you to put your hands together now and make him feel good. You make him feel good now! Some of you girls can make him feel good later. Let's hear it now, a big hand for Little Richard!"

For those not well informed about US sports history (and that includes me): Cassius Clay aka Muhammad Ali was a boxer and Roger Maris and Willie Mays were both baseball players. Why these gentlemen are mentioned in the MC's introduction is not clear to me, obviously there was some reasoning behind it but exactly what was it? Was Little Richard simply a fan? Were these sportsmen just good material for some clever wordplay?

The auction listing transcript continues with Little Richard speaking:

"As pretty as I am…I want to say to you all that I am not conceited, I'm convinced [laughter and applause]. Thank you. And the next time you see Cassius Clay, you can tell him Little Richard is here."

More of Richard's introduction is included in the YouTube -sample (with some overlap), the transcription here is mine:

"...and the next time you see Cassius Clay you can tell him Little Richard is here.

Now let's get on with the show and do another number for you that goes something like this, you just finished a tour in Italy and Sweden and France and Belgium, [tonight?] you've been out with the Beatles and the number's gonna go something like this - let's go!"

This seems to be Little Richard "setting the scene" for the song that follows so the introduction cannot be used to date the recording... the 3 minute 10 second sample then continues with segments of "I Saw Her Standing There", "Lucille" and "Shake A Hand". The auction listing describes the rest of the concert:

"He fervently crescendos into an introduction of their first song, a cover of the Beatles' hit 'I Saw Her Standing There.' Guitars start chugging to keep the time, the audience claps along, Richard belts out the enduring Lennon-McCartney number, and Hendrix closes the tune with a bluesy lick—a moment for him to shine behind Little Richard's rapturous flamboyance.

Richard then sits down at the piano for their rendition of 'Lucille,' the band providing the uptempo backing for his piercing plea: 'Oh Lucille, please, come back where you belong.' They slow things down for a rendition of 'Send Me Some Lovin',' featuring a great saxophone solo, then pep right back up for a medley of Little Richard classics: 'Rip It Up,' 'Tutti Frutti,' and 'Jenny, Jenny.' Changing the pace again, Richard sings and screams the ballad 'Shake a Hand' over his able band, the clean guitar part setting the mood for the audience's sing-along; Hendrix excels in his restrained role, careful not to upstage the bandleader while allowing himself some room for creativity as the song approaches the ten-minute mark. They close with a show-stopping cover of '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

6 Billboard issue 6 February 1965 includes the 45 under "Singles Reviews" and also features a full page Tamla Motown Records advert which includes the single.

7 email from Simon Albury (see 7 April 2023

8 Ray Charles appeared at the Back Bay Theatre in Boston on Saturday the 31st of October 1964. A news item in the 1 November 1964 issue of The Boston Globe noted that Ray Charles "appeared Saturday night at the Back Bay Theater before a sellout crowd of 3800." The 5 December 1964 issue of Billboard stated that the theater was a "3,000-seater" but I think the Boston Globe report probably is more accurate?