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Michael Nesmith: The laconic Monkee famed for his woolly hat

Mike Nesmith of The Monkees pictured during a press reception for the American band at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington, London (PA)
Mike Nesmith of The Monkees pictured during a press reception for the American band at the Royal Garden Hotel, Kensington, London (PA)

American musician Michael Nesmith, best known as the guitarist in 1960s pop rock group The Monkees, has died at the age of 78.

Along with vocalist Davy Jones, drummer Micky Dolenz and bassist Peter Tork, Nesmith recorded some of the decade’s most enduring songs including I’m A Believer and Daydream Believer.

He also appeared in the group’s successful self-titled television series which first aired between 1966 and 1968.

Pop Music – The Monkees – Wembley Empire Pool , London
Guitarist Michael Nesmith (centre) performs on stage with The Monkees at the Empire Pool in Wembley, London (PA)

Nesmith was born in Houston, Texas, in December 1942 to Warren and Bette, the inventor of one of the first brands of correction fluid, Liquid Paper.

His parents divorced when he was four after his father returned from serving in the Second World War.

Nesmith described himself as an indifferent student and never graduated from high school, though he took part in singing and drama activities.

He enlisted in the United States Air Force in 1960 and completed basic training. He was discharged under honourable conditions in 1962.

After developing his song-writing craft in San Antonio community college, he moved to Los Angeles where he began performing on the city’s folk music scene.

In October 1965 he was given a role in the TV band after impressing producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider by arriving for his audition on a motorbike wearing his iconic woollen hat.

While the group did not compose many of their most famous hits (I’m A Believer was written by singer Neil Diamond), Nesmith became involved in song-writing and recording from the beginning.

The Monkees’ first four multi-platinum albums went to number one in the US. They scored two chart-topping LPs in the UK and I’m A Believer was number one single for four weeks in 1967.

After the TV show was cancelled in 1968, the band continued to record for another three years before splitting.

The Monkees are one the biggest-selling acts of all time, having shifted over 75 million records.

Monkees reformed 1
The Monkees (clockwise from left) Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones in London in 1996 (Fiona Hanson/PA)

Nesmith revealed in his memoir Infinite Tuesday that a widely reported story that The Monkees outsold The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined during 1967 was actually a lie he told an Australian journalist during an interview.

After the band’s break-up, Nesmith continued his music career as a member of country rock group First National Band and as a solo artist.

He later worked as a filmmaker and won the first ever Grammy Award given for video of the year in 1981 for hour-long television show Elephant Parts.

He was also the executive producer of the cult sci-fi comedy film Repo Man, which starred Emilio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton in 1984.

Nesmith was married and divorced three times. He had three children with his first wife Phyllis Ann Barbour, called Christian, Jonathan and Jessica.

He had a third son, Jason, with photographer Nurit Wilde, who he met while filming The Monkees TV show.

Christian followed in his father’s musical footsteps and played on The Monkees’ reunion tours between 2012-2014.

In June 2018, Nesmith pulled out of a tour with Dolenz due to “a minor health issue”.

His family confirmed that he died on Friday morning from natural causes at the age of 78.

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