"I was employed to take Jimi Hendrix round Paris for an evening, show him a good time": Pink Floyd's David Gilmour on his adventures in 1960s France, hanging with Jimi Hendrix, partying with Brigitte Bardot and getting arrested with Syd Barrett

David Gilmour and Jimi Hendrix
(Image credit: Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images | King Collection/Avalon/Getty Images)

In January of 1967, David Gilmour's band Jokers Wild (later renamed Bullitt, and then Flowers) were booked to play a residency at Le Bilboquet club in Paris, where they'd entertain the city's bright young things by playing covers sets into the wee small hours. One day he was approached with an offer of bonus work, and asked if he'd be available to entertain a young American guitarist while he was visiting the city.

Gilmour had never met Jimi Hendrix, but he knew what a gifted musician the Seattle-born guitarist was, having seen him play in London on September 19, 1966, at a club called Blaises, in South Kensington.

"He jammed with the Brian Auger Trinity with Julie Driscoll singing," Pink Floyd's guitarist recalled in a 2015 MOJO magazine interview. "This little place was packed with Beatles and Stones type of people, so you think, Something's going on. And this kid came in and strapped a right-handed guitar on the wrong way round. He was an absolute phenomenon from the beginning."

In a BBC Radio 2 interview in 2006 Gilmour marvelled, "Myself and the whole place was [watching] with their jaws hanging open", and declared himself, "an avid fan."

Needless to say, the 20-year-old guitarist jumped at the opportunity to hang with Hendrix in the French capital.

"I was employed to take him round Paris for an evening, show him a good time," he told MOJO. "And he seemed very nice. Likeable, shy." 

Hendrix was not the only celebrity Gilmour met during his six month living in Paris in 1967. His group were hired to play on demo recordings by French singer Johnny Halliday, and booked to play at a party attended by actress Brigitte Bardot, who Gilmour hung out with after offering up the basic introduction, "Hello, I'm David."

Part of Gilmour's confidence stemmed from the fact that he was, by then, a practised French speaker. He'd previously visited France in the summer of 1965, hitch-hiking his way down to St. Tropez, the setting for Bardot's memorable turn as precocious teenage orphan Juliette in Et Dieu... créa la femme, better known internationally by its English title And God Created Woman. There he hooked up with his old friend from Cambridge, Syd Barrett, and the pair had "a great time", the guitarist recalled.

"We went busking in St. Tropez and got arrested," he told MOJO in 2006. "On the way back home we stopped off in Paris, and bought all those naughty books that used to be banned in England. The Naked Lunch and The Story Of [The ] Eye. I remember sitting in the campsite reading these things by torchlight."

Celebrity hangs aside, Gilmour's 1967 residency in Paris was memorable for another reason. On March 6, the guitarist's 21st birthday, his parents visited him and gifted him a white Fender Telecaster. "I don't think he ever took it out of his hands," Gilmour's Jokers Wild bandmate Rick Wills told Classic Rock writer Mark Blake for his definitive Pink Floyd biography, Pigs Might Fly.

Gilmour stayed in Paris until the end of the summer of '67, reluctantly returning to England only after becoming so sick that he was admitted to hospital for pneumonia and malnutrition, meaning that Flowers, could no longer take on gigs, which meant that he and his bandmates were soon franc-less, and homeless. When the guitarist returned to the French capital, and Le Bilboquet, the following year, it would be as a member of Pink Floyd.

You can watch footage of Pink Floyd playing the club in 1968 below:

Paul Brannigan
Contributing Editor, Louder

A music writer since 1993, formerly Editor of Kerrang! and Planet Rock magazine (RIP), Paul Brannigan is a Contributing Editor to Louder. Having previously written books on Lemmy, Dave Grohl (the Sunday Times best-seller This Is A Call) and Metallica (Birth School Metallica Death, co-authored with Ian Winwood), his Eddie Van Halen biography (Eruption in the UK, Unchained in the US) emerged in 2021. He has written for Rolling Stone, Mojo and Q, hung out with Fugazi at Dischord House, flown on Ozzy Osbourne's private jet, played Angus Young's Gibson SG, and interviewed everyone from Aerosmith and Beastie Boys to Young Gods and ZZ Top. Born in the North of Ireland, Brannigan lives in North London and supports The Arsenal.