Whenever I tell people I like the Monkees, I get shit for it. And I’m guessing when people think of the Monkees, they don’t think Country music. But, it turns out Michael Nesmith (the guy that wore the hat), is one of my favorite country musicians.
Nesmith was a real musician who wound up in a TV band. I can’t fault him for that. Once the Monkees started making good albums like Headquarters and Head, Nesmith was given more freedom to write songs and demonstrate his americana roots. His most notable early efforts was “Nine Times Blue” from Headquarters.
Monkees performing “Nine Times Blue” on the Johnny Cash Show
On the 1967 album, Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd the Monkees did a version of the song “What Am I Doin Hangin Round,” which further demonstrates Nesmith’s country rock influence.
Monkees performing “What Am I Doin Hangin Round”
After his departure from the Monkees, Nesmith released the solo album, Witchita TrainWhistle Sings in which he did solo versions of songs he’d written and previously recorded with the Monkees, along with some new tracks.
Monkees version of “Papa Gene’s Blues” (also featured on Witchita Train Whistle Sings)
Nesmith’s next album, Magnetic South is one that I would classify as an essential album. It is here and with the follow up, Loose Salute, Nesmith proves himself as one of the voices of California Country Rock.
“Mama Nantucket” from Magnetic South
“Little Red Rider” from Magnetic South
“Joanne” from Magnetic South
Unfortunately, Nesmith stopped making albums in the late 70s for quite a few decades. But 1975’s Nevada Fighter featured quite a few solid originals.
Nesmith performing “Propinquity” from Nevada Fighter
I’ve always found it difficult to convince fans of real Country music that a guy from the Monkees made just that. Beyond the fact that he wore Nudie Suites like Gram Parons, I will throw in for good measure, that it says a lot about a musician who will cite a traditional like “Long Black Veil” as one of their favorite songs.