The First National Band, Michael Nesmith's early 1970s post-Monkees outfit that consisted of Red Rhodes, John London, and John Ware, is returning as The First National Band Redux for a limited run of shows beginning this evening in Pioneertown, California. Let's take a moment to meet the members of the new configuration of the group as they were recently profiled in an email from Videoranch:
Christopher Allis / Drums
"Christian [Nesmith] and I have been friends for over 15 years at this point and we have backed up many a singer-songwriter in that time. One night early on we were hanging out talking about music and he asked me if I was aware of any of Nez's post-Monkees stuff. I admitted that I wasn't. So, he played me some of the FNB stuff. I was immediately drawn to it. Great tunes. Great vibe. Fast forward a bunch of years, a gaggle of Circe Link records together and even more time in the saddle, and I guess Christian very kindly expressed to Nez that 'Topher is the the guy you want when you need a drummer.' So, when the FNB Redux thing started being discussed, I got the call.
"FNB Redux for me is the start of another chapter. One with a narrative through line that has been around for nearly 50 years! I don't think we are claiming to be anything other than a new start. A next phase. It's a real joy: the opportunity to work with my friends, AND support a true luminary within the music community. It doesn't get much better than that. Dig?"
Jason Chesney / Bass
"I met Circe, Christian, and Jonathan Nesmith at Christopher Allis' birthday party in December 2007. The first conversation I ever had with Christian and Jonathan was about the triptych that opens up Magnetic South, as my current project at the time was navigating our way through "Calico Girlfriend." It wasn't long before Circe and I began turning each other on to our favorite outsider artists. A year and a half later, I was playing bass in Circe & Christian's band.
"The music of Michael Nesmith & The First National Band had been informing me before I even knew it existed, through bands and songwriters that I had played with in my youth who were big fans and heavily inspired by them. When I eventually heard the albums, I loved them straight away. What's not to dig?
"Getting to play with Nez and the FNB Redux is an honor and an absolute joy. It's all medicated Jif and wiggle bar loveliness. It's family and friends. It's American music at its finest...and it's so very surreal and more fun than you can imagine. A dream come true, to be performing this stellar catalog with its creator and this super fine musical outfit...I'm still pinching myself!"
Pete Finney / Pedal Steel Guitar
"I first met Nez in the Spring of 2014, when I filled in for Chris Scruggs on pedal-steel and guitar for the last few weeks of the Movies of the Mind tour. The '70s albums Nez made with Red Rhodes and the First National Band had been long-time favorites of mine, so of course I really enjoyed the experience musically, and also really enjoyed the hang and the conversations that ensued during our travels.
"At that point I was well into co-creating and writing the Country Music Hall of Fame exhibit (and book) on "Dylan, Cash and the Nashville Cats," which included quite a bit (music, video, photos, and text) from the sessions Nesmith did in Nashville 1968 with many of the musicians who were the main focus of our exhibit. Nez came to Nashville in 2015 for the concert that went with the exhibit opening and we reconnected then, as well as performing together.
"Needless to say I was both flattered and excited when Nez called me some months back to tell me about his plans for the First National Band project and to ask if I would be interested in trying to fill the giant shoes required to recapture the brilliant musicality and adventurous spirit that define Red Rhodes' contributions to those records. All the players (and singers) in the new version of the band are really good, and I’m as excited about these upcoming shows as anything I’ve ever done in several decades of playing for a living, which includes tours with the Dixie Chicks, Vince Gill, Patty Loveless, and many, many others."
Circe Link / Background Vocals
"My name is Circe Link and I was hitchhiking through the Mojave dessert one dry and sage blown night when I held out my thumb looking for a ride to the cosmic destination unknown. Just then some chugging heap of speed and metal stopped at my side and a door fell open. Behind the wheel sat a long nailed mellow eyed man named Christian Nesmith who told me together we could make beautiful music. That sounded just about right to me, so I climbed in and we’ve been driving ever since. Looks like this next highway has headed us straight into The First National Band Redux with the Cosmic Crooner Michael Nesmith at the helm, heck I don’t even need to kick the wheels to know that this is one hell of a vehicle built for interstellar delight, rhythm and serious groove.
"Oh wait I mean…Howdy I’m Circe Link and I have been the musical partner of Christian Nesmith for the last 15 years. Together we have released over twelve titles spanning from Cowboy Jazz to Pop Rock. I’m delighted to be along for the ride for this historic and grooving as all get out The First National Band Redux!"
Jonathan Nesmith / Guitar and Piano
"A lot of people ask me, 'Jonathan, just how DID you come to be in the First National Band Redux?' Well, when I started 'Jonathan Nesmith & Michael Nesmith & The First National Band' I had been showing up to rehearsals for about a week with my trash can lid and wooden spoon. I'd wail for about 90 minutes into the nearest microphone, pat everyone on the back and leave, then come back and do it all again the next day. After about the fourth or fifth day of trying to hide his surprise when I would walk in the room, Dad pulled me aside and said, 'I'm glad you're here, but…how about referring to us as 'First National Band Redux'?' I said, 'Why the look of resignation?', but he just said, 'And maybe try playing some guitar and a little keys.' It's all taught me a very valuable lesson: It sure is nice to play good songs."
Thank you again to Videoranch for almost all of the photographs and biographies of members of the FNB Redux featured above!
Courtesy of Videoranch, here is a preview of some items that will be available at the merchandise table at the shows. Videoranch also has a lot of other new pieces for sale, too.
In the brand new issue of Mojo (#292/March 2018), Bob Mehr talks to Nez about the First National Band era, joining forces with Ben Gibbard at the upcoming FNB Redux show in San Francisco on January 28, and provides an examination of Michael's discography. You can find this issue of Mojo in bookstores or by ordering it online.
Here's the complete schedule for Michael Nesmith and The First National Band Redux. Meet & Greet opportunities are available for most of the shows. And don't forget to vote in the Live Almanac's current poll where you can choose your favorite First National Band album!
January 21: Pappy & Harriet's / Pioneertown, California (SOLD OUT)
January 23: The Coach House / San Juan Capistrano, California (SOLD OUT)
January 25: The Troubadour / West Hollywood, California (SOLD OUT)
January 26: Rio Theatre / Santa Cruz, California
January 28: The Chapel / San Francisco, California (With Special Guest Ben Gibbard)