In September, 1965, the call went out. Television producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schnieder were looking for four young, male, hip, musician/singer/actor-types to be part of a wacky TV show inspired by The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night. Hundreds auditioned and eventually four were picked.
Micky Dolenz had acted on television as a boy, under the name Mickey Braddock, in the short-lived TV series Circus Boy. (Short-lived in that it only lasted two seasons, but it churned out 49 episodes. Breaking Bad lasted five seasons amassing 62 episodes, only 13 more than Circus Boy. Times have certainly changed.) British actor/singer Davy Jones had gained popularity for his portrayal of the Artful Dodger in the stage musical Olivier! and made an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, sharing the evening’s bill with the aforementioned Beatles. Peter Tork, a Folk musician who could play several instruments, was recommended by his friend Stephen Stills (Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young) after Stills’ failed his audition. And then there was Mike Nesmith, the tall Texan in the wool hat, which he wore to keep his hair out of his eyes when riding his motorcycle. (A helmet would have done the same thing and would have been more protective.)
The members had been selected and The Monkees were born.
Into the studio, both television and recording, the boys were whisked to make history.
The Monkees TV series was also short-lived. It lasted only two seasons and aired 58 shows. (58?! Jeepers! Breaking Bad, you are such a slacker!) The show was also awarded two Emmys. It may have only lasted two seasons, but its impact is still felt today.
And there was the music.
The “Pre-Fab Four” often get dismissed because they didn’t play their instruments on their records. They didn’t write their own songs. But, so what? Elvis Presley didn’t write his own songs. The Beach Boys almost exclusively used session musicians on their albums. Besides, Nesmith did get one of his songs (Papa Gene’s Blue) and another he co-wrote with Gerry Goffin and Carole King (Sweet Young Thing) on the band’s 1966 self-titled debut album. Mike went on to write more songs as time passed. In fact, some of his compositions are among my favorite of The Monkees’ catalog.
Mike Nesmith died last Friday at the age of 78.
He and Micky Dolenz (the now sole surviving member of the band) had just finished their 2021 Farewell Tour in mid-November and had plans to appear together on a cruise next year. That may be why Mike’s death came as such a shock. He was just touring, wasn’t he?!
I know Mike Nesmith was more than his participation with The Monkees. He worked in television, film, and video production. He was executive producer of the cult classic Repo Man (1984). He pioneered music video production and his long-form music video Elephant Parts won the first ever Grammy for Video of the Year. He was also a pioneer in country rock with his second musical outfit First National Band.
But I will always remember him as the coolest member of The Monkees. I will always remember him as Wool Hat.
A short list of Monkees songs sung by Mike Nesmith, some of which he also wrote:
Me And Magdalena from Good Times (2016)
Tapioca Tundra from The Birds, The Bees & The Monkees (1968)
The Girl I Knew Somewhere (Nesmith vocals) from Headquarters (1967 – 1995 CD reissue bonus track)
Papa Gene’s Blues from The Monkees (1966)
What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round? from Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. (1967)
You Just May Be The One from Headquarters (1967)
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Warehouse Find is the official blog of NostalgiaZone.com, where you can find books, games, toys, cards, and a huge selection of Golden, Silver, Bronze, and Modern Age comic books. Please check out our eBay page, as well. Jim also has a podcast called Dimland Radio. He’d love it if you checked it out. It’s available on Apple Podcasts.