Michael Nesmith’s Life Before The Monkees
'Michael Nesmith’s childhood was miserable.'
Michael Nesmith’s childhood was miserable. He was born in Houston, Texas on December 30, 1942. When Mike was 6-years-old him and his mother moved to a piece of land that she inherited in Dallas. They were very poor. They lacked food, and Mike remembers being hungry a lot. Mike couldn’t keep up with the other kids because he went to a pretty rich school because of zoning districts. He tried making friends up until the age 16 or 17. He says that he was "an ugly skinny kid with a horrible personality." He did not do well in school. He was always interested in things that nobody else was interested in; for example, he always asked himself where chalk came from. He used to cut classes and try to figure out these things. He didn’t start failing badly until high school. He remembers the other kids being mean to him. They used to laugh at him, and he really didn’t like it.
I suppose one of the reasons that Mike didn’t do too well in school was because he loved pulling pranks. He had his own definition of fun, and not everybody liked it. He’d do a lot of weird things. He’d walk out of class a lot, the teacher would yell at him to come back, and he was just whistling down the hall. But he never got expelled from school. He did have detention for seven days, he’d have to stay after school for 55 minutes each day. He said that it used to make them very mad, because he never got upset. He’d just sit there and read or study. He used to carefully avoid history because he hated it. Mike ran away from home twice, because he had the urge to leave. The first time he ran away he took the family car and rode to California for 10 days, and made little money. When he drove back his mother was pretty shook. The second time, he never came back.
Mike didn’t date much. He couldn’t get a date. He’d call up a girl and ask “Would you like to go out?” and they’d always say "No, I don’t like you." Mike said that it really used to shoot him down, bad. He used to mess around with a lot of girls, but none of them would go out with him. He was their "buddy." He got tired of just being a "pal." They would tell him how much trouble they had with a boy, or how they were upset because that boy won’t ask them out. He did meet his ex-wife Phyllis Barbour in college. He never did graduate from high school, but he said he did some kind of a test to get in.
Mike got a guitar for Christmas when he was 19, but he couldn’t play any songs—he learned a few chords but no songs. So he decided to write his own song, and he thought that it was easy, so he started writing songs. After college he came to Hollywood and he did some folk singing. Then he was in a rock and roll group composed of three people, but it didn’t last long because one of them got drafted. Mike was in the Air Force, but it wasn’t successful. After he got out of service he began singing again as a solo act. Then he saw the ad in Variety for the Monkees.