Mike Nesmith: Remembering the multifaceted genius behind the Monkees

9 July 2024, 16:16 | Updated: 10 July 2024, 15:22

Mike Nesmith Of The Monkees
Mike Nesmith Of The Monkees. Picture: Getty

By Tom Owen

Mike Nesmith was more than just a member of The Monkees; he was a true creative powerhouse.

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Known for his iconic woolly hat and dry wit, Mike brought a unique charm to the 60s pop group. But his talents didn’t stop there.

After The Monkees, he went on to pioneer the music video format, laying the groundwork for MTV.

Mike was also a talented songwriter, penning hits like ‘Different Drum’ for Linda Ronstadt. His solo career saw him explore country rock, blending genres in ways that still feel fresh today. Beyond music, Mike was an entrepreneur, founding a multimedia company and dabbling in film and TV production.

  1. Where and when was Mike Nesmith born?

    Mike Nesmith
    Mike Nesmith. Picture: Getty

    Mike Nesmith was born on December 30, 1942, in Houston, Texas.

    Growing up in the vibrant city of Houston, he was surrounded by a mix of cultural influences that would later shape his eclectic artistic style.

    Mike Nesmith was the only child of Warren and Bette Nesmith. His father, Warren, was a veteran of World War II, while his mother, Bette, was a remarkable woman who made her mark as an inventor.

    Bette Nesmith Graham created Liquid Paper, the correction fluid that became a staple in offices worldwide. Growing up with such an innovative mother undoubtedly influenced Mike's own creative and entrepreneurial spirit.

  2. How did he get his start in music and when did he join The Monkees?

    The Monkees
    The Monkees. Picture: Getty

    Mike Nesmith's journey into music began in the early 1960s when he moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.

    He started by performing in local clubs and writing songs, gradually making a name for himself in the folk and country music scenes. His big break came in 1965 when he auditioned for a new TV show called The Monkees, designed to create a fictional rock band.

    Mike impressed the producers with his talent and distinctive personality, landing a spot as one of the four members of The Monkees, alongside Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Davy Jones.

    The show debuted in 1966 and quickly became a massive hit, catapulting Mike and his bandmates to international fame.

  3. Why did he often wear his wool hat?

    Michael Nesmith
    Michael Nesmith. Picture: Getty

    Mike Nesmith's wool hat became an iconic part of his image, and there's a fun story behind it.

    He started wearing the hat during his early days with The Monkees as a practical choice. The studios where they filmed were often quite cold, and the hat helped keep him warm.

    Additionally, Mike had worn the hat during his auditions for the show, and it made him stand out to the producers. It quickly became his signature look on the show, contributing to his laid-back, quirky persona.

    Fans loved the hat, and it became so associated with him that it remained a beloved symbol of his time with The Monkees.

  4. What did he do outside of The Monkees?

    Michael Nesmith - Cruisin' (AI upscale, alternate audio mix)

    Outside of The Monkees, Mike Nesmith had an incredibly diverse and successful career.

    After the band, he focused on his solo music, pioneering the country rock genre with his First National Band, producing hits like 'Joanne' and 'Silver Moon'. His solo work showcased his talent for blending different musical styles and storytelling.

    Mike was also a visionary in the multimedia world. He created one of the first music video programs, PopClips, which laid the groundwork for MTV. His innovative spirit didn't stop there; he founded a multimedia company called Pacific Arts, which produced films, videos, and even an early version of virtual reality.

    In the film industry, Mike produced the cult classic movie Repo Man and won the first-ever Grammy Award for Video of the Year with his video album Elephant Parts. His ventures in music, video, and technology highlighted his endless creativity and knack for innovation, making him a true Renaissance man.

  5. Was he married and did he have kids?

    Mike Nesmith and third wife Victoria in 1993
    Mike Nesmith and third wife Victoria in 1993. Picture: Getty

    Mike Nesmith was married three times and had four children. He married his first wife, Phyllis Barbour, in 1964, and they had three children together: Christian, Jonathan, and Jessica. The couple divorced in 1972.

    Mike's second marriage was to Kathryn Bild, a relationship that lasted from 1976 until their divorce in 1988.

    In 2000, Mike married Victoria Kennedy, but they divorced in 2011.

    Mike also had another son, Jason, from a relationship outside of his marriages.

  6. When and how did he die?

    Michael Nesmith in 2019
    Michael Nesmith in 2019. Picture: Getty

    Mike Nesmith passed away on December 10, 2021, at the age of 78.

    He died of heart failure at his home in Carmel Valley, California.

    His family said: “With infinite love we announce that Michael Nesmith has passed away this morning in his home, surrounded by family, peacefully and of natural causes.”

    Micky Dolenz remembered Nesmith as "a dear friend and partner."