More than a year since he dusted off the music of his post-Monkees outfit The First National Band by performing the group’s songs at The Troubadour in West Hollywood, singer-songwriter Michael Nesmith is again showcasing the band’s country-tinged catalogue, this time at the Lobero Theatre. In an interview with the News-Press, Mr. Nesmith said he is very proud of the show he performed at The Troubadour and is looking forward to presenting it to Santa Barbara on October 2.
Prior to 2018, Mr. Nesmith hadn’t performed songs by The First National Band for decades. According to the singer, his interest in once again performing music from that period of his career was ignited when Melodie Akers, his assistant and a massive First National Band fan, came into his life.
“She helped reinvigorate my interest in The First National Band,” he said.
Formed in 1970, the original incarnation of The First National Band, which consisted of Mr. Nesmith, pedal steel guitarist Red Rhodes, bassist John London, and drummer John Ware, did not last long. The band released three albums over two years, “Magnetic South” and “Loose Salute” in 1970 and “Nevada Fighter” in 1971, but split up shortly thereafter amid positive critical reception but little commercial success. Nevertheless, Mr. Nesmith said that the praise The First National band received did help him gain credibility outside of The Monkees.
“I was satisfied and gratified that it was so well received,” he said.
As he recalled, around the time the First National Band first started, his association with The Monkees had “tainted” his ability to be taken seriously as a legitimate music artist. Because The Monkees was put together for a TV show, the public had a difficult time determining whether or not it was a “real” band. Once The First National Band formed, among the challenges it faced was finding an aesthetic fitting for the band. This in part entailed deciding whether or not to play countryish Monkees songs in First National Band concerts. The Monkees connection didn’t go unnoticed by the band’s contemporaries either. Mr. Nesmith recalled one gig the band shared a bill with The Flying Burrito Brothers, during which bandleader and country rock pioneer Gram Parsons openly mocked Mr. Nesmith’s group.
Though Mr. Nesmith continued to play with Mr. Rhodes following the dissolution of The First National Band, the group never reunited. As Mr. Rhodes and Mr. London are no longer living and Mr. Ware chose not to participate in the show citing his age as a reason, Mr. Nesmith will perform at the Lobero with a revamped lineup called First National Band Redux. The band includes his sons Christian and Jonathan Nesmith on lead and rhythm guitar, respectively, as well as backing vocalists Amy Spear and Circe Link, keyboardist Alex Jules, bassist Jason Chesney, drummer Christopher Allis, and pedal steel guitarist Pete Finney. Mr. Nesmith described Mr. Finney’s pedal steel playing as every bit in the same league as his old collaborator Mr. Rhodes’, and that his current croup is one of the best he’s ever been a part of.
“These guys can really play. They’re some of the best guys I’ve played with since Nashville,” he said.
By “Nashville,” he refers to the recording sessions he played in the country music capital in 1968. According to his page on the Lobero website, these sessions attracted the attention of Felton Jarvis, an A&R man for RCA Records who thereafter signed Mr. Nesmith and the group that became The First National Band. Tickets for Michael Nesmith and The First National Band Redux’s October 2 concert at The Lobero Theatre can be purchased online at www.lobero.org. The Lobero Theatre is located at 33 E Canon Perdido St.