Michael Nesmith to revisit post-Monkees country rock work in First National Band shows

Michael Nesmith, shown rehearsing in 2012 for a Monkees reunion, will perform two shows in January in Southern California highlighting his acclaimed early 1970s solo work with the First National Band.
(Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times)

Country-rock pioneer Michael Nesmith will revisit the critically acclaimed solo albums he made after his exit from the Monkees in 1969 with a pair of Southern California shows in January.

The shows are themed Michael Nesmith & the First National Band, the name of the group he assembled for the albums “Magnetic South,” “Loose Salute” and “Nevada Fighter” in 1970 and 1971, respectively, and which spawned hit singles “Joanne,” “Silver Moon” and “Nevada Fighter.”

For the record:

2:10 p.m. Nov. 8, 2017An earlier version of this post misspelled the first name of singer Circe Link as Circle.

“I could just feel this happening, that there was this ‘thing,’” Nesmith, 74, said in a statement announcing the performances Jan. 23 at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano and Jan. 25 at the Troubadour in West Hollywood. “So, I headed off to Nashville to see if I couldn’t get some of the Nashville country thing into the rock ’n’ roll or vice versa.”


Rolling Stone once described this period of Nesmith’s music as “the greatest music you never heard.”

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Before passing the audition to join NBC-TV’s music-centric sitcom “The Monkees,” which premiered in 1966, Nesmith had served as one of the hosts of the Troubadour’s Monday hootenanny shows. The venerable club served as a nexus for L.A.’s vibrant folk, rock and country music community that included current and future members of the Byrds, the Eagles, Buffalo Springfield, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Poco, Rick Nelson’s Stone Canyon Band and other acts that melded the three forms into a new hybrid.

Nesmith, a Texas native, injected some twang into the Monkees’ music with songs he wrote such as “Papa Gene’s Blues” as well as their recording of Michael Martin Murphey’s “What Am I Doing Hanging ’Round.”

In 1968, he traveled to Nashville to work with seasoned country players in sessions that yielded the Monkees’ 1969 single “Listen to the Band,” and which sparked him to create the First National Band with pedal steel guitarist O.J. “Red” Rhodes, bassist John London and drummer John Ware.

Ware is the only other surviving member and is considering guesting with Nesmith at one or both shows.

“I may appear occasionally as a special guest, but I won’t get on a tour bus again,” said Ware, who went on to join Emmylou Harris’ Hot Band lineup of the 1970s, writing on his Facebook page. “That’s one reason there’ll be an exciting group hired to present FNB music...our music...really Mike’s music. You should all look forward to the show.”

For these shows, event producer Andrew Sandoval said Nesmith will be joined by a band including his sons, guitarist Christian Nesmith and keyboardist Jonathan Nesmith, steel guitarist Pete Finney, bassist Jason Chesney, drummer Christopher Allis and singers Circe Link and Amy Spear.

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2:31 p.m.: This post was updated with Rolling Stone magazine’s assessment of Nesmith’s early solo work. This article was originally published at 1:40 p.m.