George “King George” Clemons grew up in Virginia, during the 60′s he moved up to New York and started singing in clubs in Harlem. In 1965 he performed several times at the legendary Apollo Theatre with Don Covay. George sang background vocals on the Don Covay single “Have Mercy”. After leaving Don Covay and the Good-Timers, George started his solo career as King George. He recorded “Drive on James” with part of the Ray Charles Band including Bernard “Pretty” Purdie on drums. About this time George was going around jamming in small clubs (Smalls Paradise, Harlem etc.) with among others the King Curtis Band The Kingpins. On one of those occasions, George met Jimi Hendrix. At the time Jimi had left the Isley Brothers and Little Richard. Jimi was playing on and off with King Curtis and Curtis Knight during that period.
Jimi and George hung out quite a bit. Together they saw the Mc Coys; George once jammed with Jimi, together with drummer Jimmi Castor (later of Castor Bunch “fame”; George was also present when the Rolling Stones came to see Jimi perform in New York City on 2 July 1966 after the Stones concert at Forest Hills Stadium.
Scandinavian agents heard King George and offered him a contract to come to Europe to sing with an all-black soul band, called the Harlem Kiddies. They arrived in Stockholm in 1966 for three months but ended up touring around two years instead. At that time Chas Chandler brought Jimi to England. George was proud of the fact that he did have a contract, while Jimi didn’t. Later, of course, it turned out that Jimi did a lot better than him.
Jimi and George ran into each other in Scandinavia, where the Harlem Kiddies warmed up for Jimi Hendrix. George met Jimi again when the Experience played in Copenhagen (21 May 1967). George had two bands during the period: the Harlem Kiddies (playing R&B) and the King George Discovery (playing more psychedelic stuff). After that, George met Jimi a few times in Sweden. George claims that he wasn’t too found of Noel Redding, but liked Mitch Mitchell a lot more. George also knew Buddy Miles from his Wilson Pickett period, and also met Billy Cox. When George asked Billy where he came from Billy answered, “we’re a band of Gypsies, we come from everywhere.
Here is an interview King talks about first meeting Jimi and being in a black club in Harlem with him:
“First time I saw him was in 1964, but we started to speak to each other in 1965. I saw him in Virginia, backing up. I don’t remember, either it was the Isley Brothers or some (other) black band. And when I went to New York, Jimi was one of the first people I started to talk with. In fact, we were living next door to each other. He used to loose his key and come and sleep in my house. Jimi turned me on to Bob Dylan. I hadn’t listened to him before. We were living at the edge of Harlem, we really didn’t live in Harlem, but our musical activity was going on in Harlem. And in Harlem at the time they were only playing soul music, that was hip. Even though some people knew about Bob Dylan, I didn’t. Jimi brought in a record and said “You’ve got to listen. This guy is really great.” I didn’t think very much of his voice. And then I found out that he was more or less a poet, where Jimi was getting into. He was right into these poetic things, that a lot of people around him didn’t seem to understand. Especially in the black community.nce Jimi came into a black club, and they were playing Wilson Pickett. So Jimi takes it off and he puts on a Bob Dylan record, “Blowin’ in the wind”. So all the black guys standing there are saying, “what are you doing? Are you crazy!” to many blacks back then, Dylan sounded like a Hillbilly, a red-neck. And Jimi didn’t care about this, so he played that record. So this guy told him,, “I’m going to cut your throat”. So I said, “wait a minute now, stop, we take the record off.” And I took Jimi into this other room, and I said, “why are you doing that? You know there is gonna be trouble about that.” He said, “these people in Harlem have to learn. They can’t go around like this without knowing what’s going on.”(source)
King George Discovery, Harlem 1969 (video):