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In the mid-1960s, Michael Nesmith was writing songs and working the Los Angeles club scene when someone showed him an ad: A new TV show was looking for people to audition. He did — and the next thing he knew, he was a Monkee.
But Nesmith's career has extended well beyond the as-seen-on-TV band. In his new memoir, Infinite Tuesday, he recalls forming his own group, creating one of the first music videos, writing novels and becoming friends with the likes of John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix. At one point, during the summer of 1967, Hendrix even opened for The Monkees on tour — but it didn't last long.
"We were playing to 10 and 12,000 14-year-old girls," Nesmith recalls. "And so when [Hendrix] walked on stage, it was an absolute anomaly. When he started playing 'Foxy Lady,' they were saying, 'We want Davy, we want Davy!' He could really only take a little bit of that, and after about eight or 10 concerts he finally walked off the stage and said, 'Look, I can't do this anymore.'"
Perhaps even stranger than the touring combination of Hendrix and The Monkees was the story of how that bill came to be.
"We'd all gone out to dinner one time, John [Lennon] was late," Nesmith says. "He came in at a point and he said, 'Sorry I'm late, but I was in a club and I heard this guy and I recorded it. You just have to listen to this.' And he pulled out a little tape recorder, put it on the table and played 'Foxy Lady,' that Jimi was playing live at that club.
"And the table went silent, we were speechless. So when I got back to the hotel I said, 'Strangest thing happened, John came with this tape of Jimi Hendrix,' and Micky [Dolenz] said, 'Oh, I saw him at a club and I asked him if he'll come and open for us!' Thus begins one of the great pop ironies of our time."
Listen to more of Nesmith's conversation with NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro, including the story of how his mother invented correction fluid — yes, Liquid Paper — at the audio link.
Web intern Jake Witz contributed to this story.