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Michael Nesmith 12/21

December 30, 1942 – Robert Michael Nesmith was the only child of Warren and Bette Nesmith, who divorced when he was four. Bette remarried and relocated to Dallas where, as executive secretary at Texas Bank and Trust, she developed her own typewriter correction fluid. In 1979, a few months before her death, she sold her Liquid Paper Corporation to Gillette for $48m. Her son and heir finally acquired financial freedom.
Rewind 20 years to find a teenage Nesmith dabbling in music and drama at school before enlisting in the US Air Force in 1960. Two years later he was honorably discharged at his own request, swapping mechanics for music. Cutting his teeth in touring folk, country and rock’n’roll bands, he moved to Los Angeles.

A publishing and recording deal followed, yielding a handful of underperforming solo singles. Nesmith joined the queue of 437 hopefuls to audition for a part in a new TV show, inspired by The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night, about a co-habiting pop band. The producers wanted Nesmith and his hat for their Prefab Four, The Monkees.

Admiring Jimi Hendrix chops in a shared bedroom

Monkeemania ensued but Nesmith was quick to push back against the bubblegum material selected by the show’s musical director Don Kirshner. Nesmith negotiated alongside his bandmates for greater control of their output and image. Their subsequent psychedelic film and soundtrack, Head, was a flop (though later lauded as a cult favourite). Still the piece of the puzzle that didn’t fit, he bought his way out of his contract several years early, forfeiting future royalties.

Robert Michael Nesmith was raised by his mother, Bette, who supported him by working as a secretary. Frustrated creating mistakes on her electric typewriter, she developed a typewriter correction fluid. The invention later became Liquid Paper. Bette Nesmith sold the Liquid Paper Corporation to Gillette in 1979 for $48 million. She died a few months later, at age 56, with Michael inheriting the fortune.

Mike Nesmith, the beanie-hatted quiet man of The Monkees, was an accidental trailblazer from a family of accidental trailblazers. He came late to music-making, only picking up a guitar in his early twenties. Yet in a matter of years he was a (somewhat ambivalent) pop star and TV celebrity, then an unsung country rock pioneer and then the man who invented MTV for the guys who invented MTV. Not bad, and maybe not surprising, for the son of an imprecise typist who created Tipp-Ex to cover her errors.
Nesmith never quite made a commercial killing from his almost clairvoyant creativity. While his own songs were hits for the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Run DMC, Frankie Laine and Lynn Anderson, he struggled with fame in a fictional band whose best-loved tunes flowed from the pens of other writers.
The Monkees’ TV show ran for two series from 1966-68 but acquired pop immortality through school holiday repeats. The band members – Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Nesmith – played fictionalised versions of themselves. The Monkees struck popular music with hit songs like “Last Train to Clarksville”, “Daydream Believer” and “I’m A Believer.” The group was created for television, starring in their popular TV sitcom and later spin off motion picture “Head.”
The Monkees broke up in 1969, after which Nesmith formed his First National Band. He also wrote the song Different Drum, which became a major hit for singer Linda Ronstadt.

Nesmith founded Pacific Arts, a multimedia production and distribution company, in 1974. Pacific Arts pioneered the home video market, but collapsed in a dispute with PBS over licensing rights. A federal jury eventually awarded Nesmith $47m in 1999. After filming a music video for his 1977 single Rio, Nesmith came up with the idea of a TV program consisting entirely of music videos. Nesmith called his idea PopClips, which aired on Nickelodeon in 1980. He later sold the PopClips intellectual property to Time Warner, who used it to develop and launch MTV. Intrigued by the promotional possibilities of the embryonic format, Time Warner bought the rights and used it as a template for MTV. 

In 1981, Nesmith won the first Grammy Award for Video of the Year for his hour-long television show, Elephant Parts. He was also an executive producer of the film Repo Man (1984).

Nesmith’s involvement in various Monkees reunions was sporadic, however, he did rejoin his three amigos in 1996, marking the band’s 30th anniversary with the Justus album and accompanying TV special ‘Hey, Hey, It’s the Monkees’, before contributing to the 50th anniversary album Good Times!
The Monkees continued with occasional reunion tours despite the loss of original members Peter Tork and Davy Jones. Remaining members Nesmith and Micky Dolenz ended a tour just weeks before Nesmith’s death. The final date of the tour was held on November 14, 2021, at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles.

Michael Nesmith crossed the rainbow on December 10, 2021

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Ed King 8/2018

Ed King, guitarist for Lynyrd SkynyrdEd King, ( Lynyrd Skynyrd/Strawberry Alarm Clock) – September 14, 1949 – August 22, 2018 was born in Glendale California and a guitar prodigy from early on in his life. Not even 18 years old, he became a founding member of the Los Angeles band Strawberry Alarm Clock, remembered for their 1967 #1 single “Incense and Peppermints.”

King met members of the future Lynyrd Skynyrd when they were opening for Strawberry Alarm Clock in early 1968. When Strawberry Alarm Clock disbanded, he became an official member of Lynyrd Skynyrd in 1972, replacing Leon Wilkeson on bass when Leon had left the band briefly. When Wilkeson rejoined the band King switched to lead guitar turning Skynyrd into the “guitar army” band, famous for its guitar fireworks.

He helped write “Sweet Home Alabama” in 1974; the song became one of Skynyrd’s strongest hits and a staple of rock guitarists everywhere. It is King’s voice heard counting off 1-2-3 at the beginning of “Sweet Home Alabama.” Other songs that King wrote or co-wrote include “Poison Whiskey”, “Saturday Night Special”, “Whiskey Rock-a-Roller” and “Workin’ For MCA”. He appeared on the band’s first three albums, Pronounced Leh-Nerd Skin-Nerd, Second Helping, and Nuthin’ Fancy.

Ed King quit Lynyrd Skynyrd pretty much at the peak of their fame, mainly because he finally got fed up with Ronnie Van Zant’s mercurial ways.

Skynyrd had three guitarists — at that point, King and founding members Gary Rossington and Allen Collins — but King was an outsider from the start. All of the other band members had grown up in the same part of Jacksonville, Florida, while King wasn’t even a Southerner, but a native of Glendale, California. He was marvelously talented — that riff in “Sweet Home Alabama”? That was King’s creation — and he was valued for his abilities as both a musician and a songwriter, but he was never really “one of the gang”.

Of writing the song with bandmate Ronnie Van Zant, King claimed, “we wrote that song in half an hour, but it took us about a half a day to put it together. The song came real quick. I started off with that riff and Ronnie was sitting on the edge of the couch, making this signal to me to just keep rolling it over and over.”

In an interview shortly before his death from cancer in 2018, King pointed to the below photo as being illustrative of his place in the band — all by himself to the left, with the other guys all standing side by side:

In March of 1975, during a show in Ann Arbor, Michigan, King snapped two guitar strings while playing “Free Bird”, throwing off his performance. According to King, his guitar tech had not been around to change his strings because he had been thrown in jail, along with Van Zant, following an altercation with police.

Ronnie didn’t care why King’s strings broke; all he knew was that Ed had fucked up. He unleashed a torrent of verbal abuse on King, including such colorful pronouncements as “you don’t amount to a pimple on Allen’s ass”.

Following the incident, King said he returned to his hotel room, thinking “what the hell am I doing here?”, packed his belongings, and left without a word, leaving his bandmates to wake up the next morning to find out he was gone (and Rossington and Collins to scramble to rearrange the songs to make up for King’s absence).

About the decision to leave the band, King said “well, I was out of my mind for quitting. But it was the best thing I ever did. It just got a little too nutty for me. So, in the middle of the night, I just walked out. It had been a bad night the night before. I had gotten fed up with frankly all the violence. I had good reason to leave.”

King was ultimately replaced by Steve Gaines in 1976; Gaines would die in the 1977 plane crash that also killed his sister Cassie and Van Zant. King said he visited the cemetery after the crash to pay his respects, and it was then that he discovered that he and Steve had been born on exactly the same day: September 14, 1949. He felt he had dodged a huge bullet by quitting when he did.

King would later reconcile with the other band members, and rejoined them when they reformed Skynyrd in 1987, but had to leave the band due to to congestive heart failure problems in 1996. He had a heart transplant surgery in 2011. Both he and Gaines were among the band members inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2006.

He died, presumably from cancer at his Nashville home on August 22, 2018.

Founding member of Lynyrd Skynyrd Gary Rossington released a message on Twitter: ” I’ve just found out about Ed’s passing and I’m shocked and saddened. Ed was our brother, and a great Songwriter and Guitar player. I know he will be reunited with the rest of the boys in Rock & Roll Heaven.”

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George Harrison 11/2001

George HarrisonNovember 29, 2001 – George Harrison was born on February 25, 1943 in Liverpool England. Harrison was not born into wealth and by his own admission, Harrison was not much of a student, and what little interest he did have in his studies washed away with his discovery of the electric guitar and American rock and roll. As Harrison would later describe it, he had an “epiphany” of sorts at the age 12 or 13 while riding a bike around his neighborhood and getting his first whiff of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was playing from a nearby house. By the age of 14, Harrison, whose early rock heroes included Carl Perkins, Little Richard and Buddy Holly, had purchased his first guitar and taught himself a few chords. Continue reading George Harrison 11/2001