Within mainstream circles, Michael Nesmith is known as a member of the ‘60s pop group The Monkees, but country-folk fans know the guitarist as a ‘70s bellwether of the genre. Over the years he released more than a dozen albums, some with his The First National Band, that were decidedly didn’t sound like “I’m a Believer.” Furthermore, the tunes would have fit nicely into today’s folk zeitgeist.
After The Monkees ended, Nesmith kept playing music. This included performing his own tunes or writing for other performers, such a Linda Ronstadt. Over the years Nesmith’s material was been covered by everyone from Run-DMC to Andy Williams. He also pursued a successful career as a film producer (“Repo Man” and “Tapeheads”) and helped launch MTV.
Today, Nesmith, 70, is mounting his first solo tour in nearly 20 years with a set list that covers his post-Monkees career. The stateside jaunt brings him to Ohio for a Nov. 14 show at the Stocker Center in Elyria.Funcoast.com talked to the Texas native about his Monkees memories of playing Cleveland during the band’s heyday, his current tour and why the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame continues to snub the iconic ‘60s band.
Naturally you’re known as Michael Nesmith of The Monkees but this solo show is definitely not a walk down Monkees memory lane. Has it been difficult over the years being a folk solo artist under the banner “…of The Monkees?”
Not really. The fan base that has developed for the solo works is quite different from the fan base for The Monkees. They are not mutually exclusive but they are each drawn to the work for different reasons and it seems both shows are satisfying in their own way. It has actually been a boon to me to have The Monkees on my resume, as well as my solo work. It’s two rails under the same train and it makes for a nice ride.
It’s been over 20 years since you went on a solo tour? Why now?
Just before [The Monkees] David [Jones] died, we had been talking about going on a tour. Then when he was gone, it really seemed like the right thing to do. My solo work popped back into the light as well and the offers came in for that so it was a natural progression and convergence of events. I am happy to be out performing, and I am really enjoying myself playing this music.
Looking online I see you open your spring show with “Papa Gene’s Blues.” Not only is that the only Monkees song you played during your show but it’s an obscure one at that. Why did you choose that song?
I don’t do that song in this new show – but it was a good opener for the last one. “Papa Gene’s Blues” was in the first Monkees TV shows and on the first album and had a decided twang to it. It was unique from the other Monkees tunes in that way. And it fit just right for my first solo shows, which had a country rock sensibility. The new solo show is a bit less twangy so it doesn't fit quite as well. For this solo show, I am doing “Listen to the Band.”
Do you have any early memories of The Monkees playing in Cleveland?
Only one when we got caught in the crowd. The police rescued us. It was pretty raucous but we played it as best we could under those circumstances. All the songs worked and were well received, but the old sound tech and the size of the crowds didn't make for close listening. It was more joy and fun and dancing in the aisles than sit and listen.
Finally, here’s the obligatory question about the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Do you feel The Monkees should be considered for induction?
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is really Jann Wenner and friends’ personal business. They have the final say. It is theirs to do what they want with it, and I don’t begrudge them that right at all. It’s a matter of their taste, I think, as to who is inducted – and probably who is good for business. Clearly The Monkees don’t fit their mold. They have a right to that opinion and to run the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame any way they wish. I imagine they have considered The Monkees and have passed over them for their own reasons. No foul there that I can see.
Want to go?
WHO: Michael Nesmith
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 14
WHERE: Lorain County Community College’s Stocker Arts Center, 1005 Abbe Rd. North, Elyria
COST: $35 to $85 at Ticketmaster outlets