|Robert Michael Nesmith|
|Born||December 30, 1942|
Houston, Texas, U.S.
Robert Michael Nesmith (born December 30, 1942) is an American musician, songwriter, actor, producer, novelist, businessman, and philanthropist, best known as a member of the pop rock band the Monkees and co-star of the TV series The Monkees (1966-1968). Nesmith's songwriting credits include "Different Drum" (sung by Linda Ronstadt with the Stone Poneys).
After the break-up of the Monkees, Nesmith continued his successful songwriting and performing career, first with the seminal country rock group the First National Band, with whom he had a top-40 hit, "Joanne", and then as a solo artist. He is a noted player of the 12-string guitar, performing on a custom-built, Gretsch electric during his time with the Monkees and various 12-string acoustic models during his post-Monkees career.
Nesmith was born in Houston, Texas, in 1942. He is an only child; his parents Warren and Bette Nesmith (née McMurray) divorced when he was four. His mother married Robert Graham in 1962, and they remained married until 1975. Nesmith and his mother moved to Dallas to be closer to her family. She took temporary jobs ranging from clerical work to graphic design, eventually attaining the position of executive secretary at Texas Bank and Trust. When Nesmith was 13, his mother invented the typewriter correction fluid known commercially as Liquid Paper. Over the next 25 years, she built the Liquid Paper Corporation into a multimillion-dollar international company, which she sold to Gillette in 1979 for $48 million. She died a few months later at age 56.
Nesmith participated in choral and drama activities at Thomas Jefferson High School in Dallas, but he enlisted in the Air Force in 1960 without graduating. He completed basic training at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, was trained as an aircraft mechanic at Sheppard Air Force Base in Wichita Falls, Texas, and then was permanently stationed at the Clinton-Sherman Air Force Base near Burns Flat, Oklahoma. He obtained a GED certificate and was honorably discharged in 1962. He enrolled in San Antonio College, where he met John Kuehne and began a musical collaboration. They won the first San Antonio College talent award, performing a mixture of standard folk songs and a few of Nesmith's original songs. Nesmith began to write more songs and poetry, then he moved to Los Angeles and began singing in folk clubs around the city. He served as the "Hootmaster" for the Monday night hootenanny at The Troubadour, a West Hollywood nightclub that featured new artists.
Randy Sparks from the New Christy Minstrels offered Nesmith a publishing deal for his songs, and Barry Freedman told him about upcoming auditions for a new TV series called The Monkees. In October 1965, Nesmith landed the role as the wool hat-wearing guitar player "Mike" in the show, which required real-life musical talent for writing, instrument playing, singing, and performing in live concerts as part of The Monkees band. The Monkees television series aired from 1966 until 1968, and has developed a cult following over the years.
After a tour of duty in the Air Force, Nesmith was given a guitar as a Christmas present from his mother and stepfather. Learning as he went, he played solo and in a series of working bands, performing folk, country, and occasionally rock and roll. His verse poems became the basis for song lyrics, and after moving to Los Angeles with Phyllis and friend John London, he signed a publishing deal for his songs. Nesmith's "Mary, Mary" was recorded by the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, while "Different Drum" and "Some of Shelly's Blues" were recorded by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys. "Pretty Little Princess", written in 1965, was recorded by Frankie Laine and released as a single in 1968 on ABC Records. Later, "Some of Shelly's Blues" and "Propinquity (I've Just Begun to Care)" were made popular by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band on their 1970 album Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy.
Nesmith began his recording career in 1963 by releasing a single on the Highness label. He followed this in 1965 with a one-off single released on Edan Records followed by two more recorded singles; one was titled "The New Recruit" under the name "Michael Blessing", released on Colpix Records, coincidentally also the label of Davy Jones, though they did not meet until the Monkees formed.
From 1965 to early 1970, Nesmith was a member of the television pop-rock band the Monkees, created for the television situation comedy of the same name. Nesmith won his role largely by appearing nonchalant when he auditioned. He rode his motorcycle to the audition, and wore a wool hat to keep his hair out of his eyes; producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider remembered the "wool hat" guy, and called Nesmith back.
Once he was cast, Screen Gems bought his songs so they could be used in the show. Many of the songs Nesmith wrote for the Monkees, such as "The Girl I Knew Somewhere", "Mary, Mary", and "Listen to the Band", became minor hits. One song he wrote, "You Just May Be the One", is in mixed meter, interspersing 5/4 bars into an otherwise 4/4 structure.
As part of a promotional deal, Gretsch guitar company built a one-off, natural-finish, 12-string electric guitar for Nesmith when he was performing with the Monkees. The custom-made guitar was frequently cited at that time as being worth $5,000 (the equivalent of $36,500 in 2018), which was undoubtedly inflated for publicity purposes. He earlier played a customized Gretsch 12-string, which had originally been a six-string model. Nesmith used this guitar for his appearances on the television series, as well as the Monkees' live appearances in 1966 and 1967. Beginning in 1968, Nesmith used a white six-string Gibson SG Custom for his live appearances with the Monkees. He used that guitar in their motion picture Head for the live version of "Circle Sky", and also for the final original Monkees tour in 1969. In a post on his Facebook page in 2011, Nesmith reported that both guitars were stolen in the early 1970s.
The Monkees succeeded in ousting supervisor Don Kirshner and took control of their records and song choices, but they worked as a four-man group on only one album, 1967's Headquarters. Nesmith withheld many of his songs from the final Monkees albums, opting to release them on his post-Monkees solo records. During the band's first independent press conference, Nesmith called More of The Monkees "probably the worst record in the history of the world". The band never regained its credibility after fans learned they had not played the instruments on their earlier records. Sales still continued to be profitable until the disastrous release of the movie Head.
Nesmith's last contractual Monkees commitment was a commercial for Kool-Aid and Nerf balls in April 1970 (fittingly, the spot ends with Nesmith frowning and saying, "Enerf's enerf!"). As the band's sales declined, Nesmith asked to be released from his contract, despite it costing him: "I had three years left ... at $150,000 [equivalent to $980,940 in 2018] a year." He remained in a financial bind until 1980, when he received his inheritance from his mother's estate. In a 1980 interview with Playboy, he said of that time: "I had to start telling little tales to the tax man while they were putting tags on the furniture."
Nesmith did not participate in the Monkees' 20th anniversary reunion, but he did appear during an encore with the other three members at the Greek Theatre on September 7, 1986. In a 1987 interview for Nick Rocks, Nesmith stated, "When Peter called up and said 'we're going to go out, do you want to go?' I was booked. But, if you get to L.A ... I'll play."
Nesmith next joined his fellow Monkees band members for the 1986 "Monkees Christmas Melody" video for MTV appearing throughout dressed/disguised as Santa Claus until the finale, when he revealed his identity - and participation - to all.
Nesmith appeared again in 1989 with Dolenz, Tork, and Jones. Prior to the official kickoff of The Monkees '89 tour (on July 1 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada) all four Monkees gathered in Los Angeles, California, making two live radio appearances (KLOS-FM: The Mark an Brian Show on June 28 and KIIS Radio on June 30th) to promote their reunion concert at the Universal Amphitheatre where they appeared together as a foursome live on stage on July 9. The following day (July 10th) all four band members were in attendance as the Monkees received a Hollywood Walk of Fame star.
In 1995, Nesmith was again reunited with the Monkees to record their studio album (and first to feature all four since Head), titled Justus, released in 1996. He also wrote and directed a Monkees television special, Hey, Hey, It's the Monkees. To support the reunion, Nesmith, Jones, Dolenz, and Tork briefly toured the UK in 1997. The UK tour was the last appearance of all four Monkees performing together. In 2012, 2013, and 2014, after Jones's death, Nesmith reunited with Dolenz and Tork to perform concerts throughout the United States. Backed with a seven-piece band that included Nesmith's son, Christian, the trio performed 27 songs from The Monkees discography ("Daydream Believer" was sung by the audience). When asked why he had decided to return to the Monkees, Nesmith stated, "I never really left. It is a part of my youth that is always active in my thoughts and part of my overall work as an artist. It stays in a special place."
In 2016, Nesmith contributed vocally and instrumentally to the Monkees' 50th anniversary album Good Times!. He additionally contributed a song, "I Know What I Know", and was reportedly "thrilled" at the outcome of the album. Despite not touring with Dolenz and Tork for the majority of the Monkees' 50th-anniversary reunion in 2016, Nesmith did twice fill in for the ailing Peter Tork and appeared for the final show of the tour, which featured the three surviving band members (the last show to do so). At the end of the final show, Nesmith announced his retirement from the Monkees, never to tour again.
In 2018, Nesmith and Dolenz toured together as a duo for the first time under the banner "The Monkees Present: The Mike and Micky Show". The tour was cut short four dates out due to Nesmith having health issues (he was flown back home and proceeded to have quadruple bypass surgery). He contributed two songs for the Monkees' 13th studio album, Christmas Party (the group's first Christmas album), released on October 12, 2018.
In 2019, Nesmith and Dolenz reunited again to make up the cancelled dates of the tour and adding several more dates, including a forthcoming tour of Australia and New Zealand. Nesmith and Dolenz announced a follow-up tour, "An Evening with the Monkees", to begin in early 2020. The tour was delayed, however, due the COVID-19 pandemic. It was announced by Nesmith and Dolenz on May 4, 2021 that the Monkees will disband following a farewell tour. Dubbed "The Monkees Farewell Tour", the tour will consist of over 40 dates in the US from September to November however because of restrictions due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, they will not be playing shows in Canada, the UK or Australia. The final date and final show for the Monkees will be held on November 14, 2021 at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, CA.
In 1969, Nesmith formed the group First National Band with Kuehne, John Ware, and Red Rhodes. Nesmith wrote most of the songs for the band, including the single "Joanne", which received some airplay and was a moderate chart hit for seven weeks during 1970, rising to number 21 on the Billboard Top 40. The First National Band has been credited with being among the pioneers of country-rock music.
As he prepared for his exit from The Monkees in 1970, Nesmith was approached by John Ware of The Corvettes, a band that featured Nesmith's friend John London, who played on some of the earliest pre-Monkees Nesmith 45s, as well as numerous Monkees sessions, and had 45s produced by Nesmith for the Dot label in 1969. Ware wanted Nesmith to put together a band. Nesmith said he would be interested only if noted pedal steel player Orville "Red" Rhodes was part of the project; Nesmith's musical partnership with Rhodes continued until Rhodes's death in 1995. The new band was christened Michael Nesmith and the First National Band and went on to record three albums for RCA Records in 1970.
Nesmith has been considered one of the pioneers of country rock. He also had moderate commercial success with the First National Band. Their second single, "Joanne," hit number 21 on the Billboard chart, number 17 on Cashbox, and number four in Canada, with the follow-up "Silver Moon" making number 42 Billboard, number 28 Cashbox, and number 13 in Canada. Two more singles charted ("Nevada Fighter" made number 70 Billboard, number 73 Cashbox, and number 67 Canada, and "Propinquity" reached number 95 Cashbox), and the first two LPs charted in the lower regions of the Billboard album chart. No clear answer has ever been given for the band's breakup.
Nesmith followed up with The Second National Band, a band that, besides Nesmith, consisted of Michael Cohen (keyboards and Moog), Johnny Meeks (of The Strangers) (bass), jazzer Jack Ranelli (drums), and Orville Rhodes (pedal steel), as well as an appearance by singer, musician, and songwriter José Feliciano on congas. The album, Tantamount to Treason Vol. 1, was a commercial and critical disaster. Nesmith then recorded And the Hits Just Keep on Comin', featuring only him on guitar and Red Rhodes on pedal steel.
Nesmith became more heavily involved in producing, working on Iain Matthews's album Valley Hi and Bert Jansch's L.A. Turnaround. Nesmith was given a label of his own, Countryside, through Elektra Records, as Elektra's Jac Holzman was a fan of Nesmith's. It featured a number of artists produced by Nesmith, including Garland Frady and Red Rhodes. The staff band at Countryside also helped Nesmith on his next, and last, RCA album, Pretty Much Your Standard Ranch Stash. Countryside folded when David Geffen replaced Holzman, as Countryside was unnecessary in Geffen's eyes.
In the mid-1970s, Nesmith briefly collaborated as a songwriter with Linda Hargrove, resulting in the tune "I've Never Loved Anyone More", a hit for Lynn Anderson and recorded by many others, as well as the songs "Winonah" and "If You Will Walk With Me," both of which were recorded by Hargrove. Of these songs, only "Winonah" was recorded by Nesmith himself. During this same period, Nesmith started his multimedia company Pacific Arts, which initially put out audio records, eight-track tapes, and cassettes, followed in 1981 with "video records." Nesmith recorded a number of LPs for his label, and had a moderate worldwide hit in 1977 with his song "Rio", the single taken from the album From a Radio Engine to the Photon Wing. In 1983, Nesmith produced the music video for the Lionel Richie single "All Night Long". In 1987, he produced the music video for the Michael Jackson single "The Way You Make Me Feel".
During this time, Nesmith created a video clip for "Rio", which helped spur Nesmith's creation of a television program called PopClips for the Nickelodeon cable network. In 1980, PopClips was sold to the Time Warner/Amex consortium. Time Warner/Amex developed PopClips into the MTV network.
Nesmith won the first Grammy Award given for (long-form) Music-Video in 1982, for his hour-long Elephant Parts and also had a short-lived series on NBC inspired by the video called Michael Nesmith in Television Parts. Television Parts included many other artists who were unknown at the time, but went on to become major stars in their own right. Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Whoopi Goldberg, and Arsenio Hall all became well-known artists after their appearances on Nesmith's show. The concept of the show was to have comics render their stand-up routines into short comedy films much like the ones in Elephant Parts. Nesmith assembled writers Jack Handey, William Martin, John Levenstein, and Michael Kaplan, along with directors William Dear (who had directed Elephant Parts) and Alan Myerson, as well as producer Ward Sylvester to create the show. The half-hour show ran for eight episodes in the summer of 1985 on NBC Thursday nights in prime time.
Nesmith formed the Pacific Arts Corporation, Inc. in 1974 to manage and develop media projects. Pacific Arts Video became a pioneer in the home video market, producing and distributing a wide variety of videotaped programs, although the company eventually ceased operations after an acrimonious contract dispute with PBS over home video licensing rights and payments for several series, including Ken Burns' The Civil War. The dispute escalated into a lawsuit that went to jury trial in federal court in Los Angeles. On February 3, 1999, a jury awarded Nesmith and his company Pacific Arts $48.875 million in compensatory and punitive damages, prompting his widely quoted comment, "It's like finding your grandmother stealing your stereo. You're happy to get your stereo back, but it's sad to find out your grandmother is a thief." PBS appealed the ruling, but the appeal never reached court and a settlement was reached, with the amount paid to Pacific Arts and Nesmith kept confidential.
Nesmith's current Pacific Arts project is Videoranch 3D, a virtual environment on the internet that hosts live performances at various virtual venues inside the ranch. He performed live inside Videoranch 3D on May 25, 2009.
In 1998, Nesmith published his first novel, The Long Sandy Hair of Neftoon Zamora. It was developed originally as an online project and was later published as a hardcover book by St Martin's Press. Nesmith's second novel, The America Gene, was released in July 2009 as an online download from Videoranch.com.
During the 1990s, Nesmith, as trustee and president of the Gihon Foundation, hosted the Council on Ideas, a gathering of intellectuals from different fields who were asked to identify the most important issues of their day and publish the result. The foundation ceased the program in 2000 and started a new program for the performing arts. Nesmith also spent a decade as a board of trustees member, nominating member and vice-chair of the American Film Institute.
In 1992, Nesmith undertook a concert tour of North America to promote the CD release of his RCA solo albums (although he included the song "Rio" from the album From a Radio Engine to the Photon Wing). The concert tour ended at the Britt Festival in Oregon. A video and CD, both entitled Live at the Britt Festival, were released capturing the 1992 concert.
Nesmith continues to record and release his own music. His most recent album, Rays, was released in 2006. In 2011, he returned to producing, working with blues singer and guitarist Carolyn Wonderland. Nesmith produced Wonderland's version of Robert Johnson's "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom" on her album Peace Meal. Wonderland married writer-comedian A. Whitney Brown on March 4, 2011, in a ceremony officiated by Nesmith.
In 2012, Nesmith briefly toured Europe prior to rejoining the Monkees for their tours of the United States. Intermixing the Monkees concerts, Nesmith also launched solo tours of the U.S. Unlike his 1992 U.S. tour, which predominantly featured music from his RCA recordings, Nesmith stated that his 2013 tour would feature songs he considers "thematic, chronological and most often requested by fans". Chris Scruggs, grandson of Earl Scruggs, replaced the late Red Rhodes on the steel guitar. The tour was captured on a forthcoming live album, Movies Of The Mind. In 2014, he guest-starred in season four, episode 9 of the IFC comedy series Portlandia in the fictitious role of the father of the mayor of Portland, Oregon. In 2017, he released a memoir and companion "soundtrack" album titled Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff.
In 2018, he announced that he would be doing a five-date tour of California with a revamped version of The First National Band, including a date at The Troubadour, where he performed before The Monkees. On February 20, a tour was announced as "The Monkees Present: The Mike and Micky Show", their first tour as a duo. The pair will play Monkees music and promote the tour under the Monkees banner, but Nesmith stated, "there's no pretense there about Micky and I [sic] being the Monkees. We're not." The tour was cut short in June 2018, with four shows left unplayed, due to Nesmith having a "minor health issue"; Dolenz and he rescheduled the unplayed concerts plus adding several other including an Australian tour in 2019. After recovering from his health scare Michael Nesmith and the First National Band Redux went on a tour of the U. S. with mostly the same lineup and setlist as the southern California shows. In 2019 Nesmith toured focusing on his 1972 album, And the Hits Just Keep on Comin', in a two piece configuration with pedal steel player Pete Finney, the first time in this format since 1974 with Red Rhodes. Nesmith was also joined by special guests Ben Gibbard and Scott McCaughey on opening night in Seattle.
In a promotional video to support Pacific Arts's video release of Tapeheads, Nesmith was introduced with a voice-over making fun of his Monkees persona. The narration teases Nesmith, who approaches the camera to speak, poking fun at his "missing hat".
An opportunistic lookalike from the U.S. cashed in on his similarity to Nesmith by appearing on talk shows and doing interviews in Australia during the 1980s. The scam was successful, the lookalike being far enough from America to avoid detection as a fraud (which was more likely in the U.S., where the real Nesmith had made many media and show-business acquaintances). An entertaining interviewee, the impersonator's charade was not discovered until after he had vanished from the public eye. The impostor, Barry Faulkner, who had pulled various fraudulent scams for 40 years, was finally apprehended and sent to jail in 2009.
Nesmith has been married three times and has four children.
He met his first wife, Phyllis Ann Barbour in 1964, while at San Antonio College. Together, they had three children: Christian, born in 1965; Jonathan, born in 1968; and Jessica, born in 1970. Nesmith and Barbour divorced in 1972.
In 1976, he married his second wife, Kathryn Bild.
In 2000, he married his third wife, Victoria Kennedy, but the marriage ended in divorce in 2011.
When the Monkees' TV series ended in 1968, Nesmith enrolled part-time at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he studied American history and music history. In 1973, Nesmith founded the Countryside Records label with Jac Holzman, the founder of Elektra Records. In 1974, Nesmith started Pacific Arts Records and released what he called "a book with a soundtrack", titled The Prison, as the company's first release.
Nesmith was forced to cancel the last four dates of his 2018 tour with Micky Dolenz due to a "minor health scare". However, in an interview with Rolling Stone published on July 26 of that year, Nesmith said he had undergone quadruple bypass heart surgery, and had been hospitalized for over a month.
|1966-1968||The Monkees||Himself||Credited as Monkees persona "Mike"|
|1969||33 1/3 Revolutions per Monkee|
|1985||Television Parts||Host||One-series spin-off from Elephant Parts|
|1997||Hey, Hey, It's the Monkees||Himself||Credited as Monkees persona "Mike"|
|2014||Portlandia||Father of the Mayor||Season 4, episode 9|
|1968||Head||Himself||Credited as Monkees persona "Mike"|
|1982||Timerider: The Adventure of Lyle Swann||Race Official||uncredited|
|1981||Rio and Cruisin'||Performer/Producer||Music videos|
|1981||Elephant Parts||Various characters/Producer||Released on DVD 1998 and again in 2003|
|1985||The Television Parts Home Companion||Various characters/Producer||Compilation from television series|
|1986||Dr. Duck's Super-Secret All-Purpose Sauce||Various characters/Producer||Music and comedy segments|
|1991||Live at the Britt Festival||Performer/Producer||Concert from 1991 concert|
|2008||Pacific Arts||Performer/Producer||Music videos on DVD|