Art&Seek presents This Week in Texas Music History. Every week, we’ll spotlight a different moment and the musician who made it. This week, Texas music scholar Gary Hartman discusses a folk songwriter who became a somewhat reluctant pop superstar.
You can also hear This Week in Texas Music History on Friday on KXT and Saturday on KERA radio. But subscribe to the podcast so you won’t miss an episode. And our thanks to KUT public radio in Austin for helping us bring this segment to you.
And if you’re a music lover, be sure to check out Track by Track, the bi-weekly podcast from Paul Slavens, host of KERA radio’s 90.1 at Night.
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Michael Nesmith was born Dec. 30, 1942, in Houston and raised in Farmers Branch. Nesmith began playing in folk-country bands in his early 20s. In 1965, he auditioned for a Los Angeles-based group that was being formed as part of a new TV sitcom called The Monkees. The show’s producers hoped to capitalize on the so-called British Invasion – led by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and other English bands – that was sweeping the country during the mid-1960s. The Monkees enjoyed tremendous commercial success, but Nesmith and his bandmates were frustrated that they were not allowed to write or perform most of their own music. By the time the Monkees broke up in 1970, Nesmith had forced the show’s producers to allow him and the other band members to write and perform a substantial amount of their own material. Nesmith went on to build a successful career as a songwriter and producer of movies, records and videos. In 1981, Nesmith won the first Grammy for Video of the Year, helping to inspire the emergence of MTV and the music video craze of the 1980s.
Next time on This Week in Texas Music History, we’ll look at an early Texas radio show that helped launch a national music craze.