Hot on the heels of yesterday's announcement of the More Of The Monkees super deluxe edition by Rhino Records, Michael Nesmith has unveiled his first concert engagements for 2018 with a brand new lineup of The First National Band.
The First National Band was Nesmith's initial post-Monkees outfit that consisted of Red Rhodes, John London, and John Ware. The group released three acclaimed albums between 1970 and 1971, but their live performance history was fairly limited. Sadly, both Rhodes and London have passed away. The 2018 edition of the First National Band will consist of Christian Nesmith (guitar), Jonathan Nesmith (piano/guitar/vocals), Circe Link (vocals), Christopher Allis (drums), Jason Chesney (bass), Amy Spear (vocals), and Pete Finney (pedal steel).
In January, for two dates in California, Nesmith will bring the music of The First National Band back to the live arena with a series of shows focused on his early 1970s RCA recordings, including a concert on January 25th at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, where he debuted the First National Band in March 1970. A press release on Monkees.com reported the following: "Songs like 'Different Drum' (a Top 20 hit for Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys), 'Listen to the Band' (re-recorded by the FNB in 1970), 'Some of Shelly’s Blues' (covered by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), and 'Silver Moon' will join lesser-known but equally transcendent album sides in a rebirth of what was labeled by critics as 'the greatest music that you never heard.'" It is expected that dates will be added nationwide.
Monkees archivist Andrew Sandoval confirmed on Twitter that he will be involved in these concerts, and that he hopes live recordings will become a reality. "For me personally, this is the music of Michael's that I always come back to - revelatory, heartfelt and transcendent," Sandoval wrote on Facebook. "The albums - Magnetic South, Loose Salute, Nevada Fighter, Hits Keeps Coming, Ranch Stash & Tantamount - are brimming with brilliance. Those of you who have followed his story know that 'Papa Nes' became Nez, and went in new directions after this phase of his solo career. For these shows he will at long last call back to these records with full-blown country-rock backing and I am so excited to hear the results." Sandoval also noted on Facebook that John Ware is contemplating a cameo appearance.
Tickets for the California shows will go on sale on Friday:
January 23, 2018: The Coach House / San Juan Capistrano, California
January 25, 2018: The Troubadour / West Hollywood, California
Here is the full press release about the new activities surrounding the First National Band, courtesy of Monkees.com:
Almost fifty years ago, in May 1968, Michael Nesmith ventured to Nashville to record a series of groundbreaking sessions with local musicians. What they produced is now recognized as the foundation of the country-rock and alt-country movements.
"I could just feel this happening, that there was this 'thing,'" recalled Nez. "So, I headed off to Nashville to see if I couldn't get some of the Nashville country thing into the rock'n'roll or vice versa."
Nez's intuition was correct; he was on the leading edge of a new genre. His exploratory work caught the attention of legendary RCA A&R man Felton Jarvis who had produced the Nashville sessions with Nez. In February 1970, Jarvis signed Nez and his new band, the First National Band (pedal steel virtuoso Red Rhodes, bassist John London, and drummer John Ware), to a deal with the venerable imprint and produced their first record, Magnetic South.
Despite the eight innovative country-rock LP's Nesmith created between 1970 and 1978, he is one of the less heralded architects of the genre. The First National Band's three classic albums -- Magnetic South, Loose Salute, and Nevada Fighter -- spawned four charting singles, including "Joanne" which reached #21 on the Billboard Top 100. However, live success for the fledgling band was harder to come by and the musicians Nez collected to bring his country-rock dream to market soon scattered. Nez played out his remaining RCA albums with Red Rhodes and toured with him throughout the '70s. Yet the full-blown sounds of the First National Band were never to be heard on the concert stage again.
In January 2018, Michael Nesmith will bring this music back to the live arena with a series of shows focused on his RCA recordings, including a show on January 25th at the Troubadour in Los Angeles, where he debuted the First National Band in March 1970. Songs like "Different Drum" (a Top 20 hit for Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys), "Listen to the Band", "Some of Shelly's Blues" (covered by the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band), and "Silver Moon" will join lesser-known but equally transcendent album sides in a rebirth of what was labeled by critics as "the greatest music that you never heard."
UPDATE 11/8/2017: Michael's Videoranch3D website has taken a moment to look back at the First National Band:
The Original Band
"[John] Ware wisely pointed out that if he and John [London] were my band, we could not only record but could tour in support of the records we made, something the Nashville first-call session guys seldom did for a new band. We would be a real band rather than a pure studio effort. ... [John] wondered who I might like to approach, and my first choice was Red Rhodes. I had no hope of him accepting, but he was my first choice. A pedal steel guitar player -- especially a magical-reality player like Red -- was critical-path for the music in my head."
-Michael Nesmith, Infinite Tuesday: An Autobiographical Riff
Pedal Steel Guitar
Nez first came across Red at The Palomino Club, a popular country western spot in North Hollywood, where Red was in the house band. Red played with Nez throughout the 1970s. It is impossible to imagine Nez's music without Red's playing. Red's final performances before his death were with Nez on his ...tropical campfires... album and tour in 1992.
John began working with Nez as a duo before they left San Antonio for Hollywood in the mid-60s. After joining The Survivors with Nez, he was Nez's stand-in on The Monkees. He met John Ware while working as a bass player for Linda Ronstadt.
Prior to joining the First National Band, John attended Pomona College in Claremont, CA, and met John London while playing in Linda Ronstadt's touring band. Years after the First National Band dissolved, he joined Nez for Live at the Palais, recorded at the Palais Theatre, Melbourne, Australia, in 1977.
UPDATE 11/21/2017: The concert at the Troubadour in Hollywood sold out in less than an hour, and as of November 21, there are no longer tickets available for the performance at the Coach House in San Juan Capistrano.
Live in 2021