R.I.P. Michael Nesmith of the Monkees
The singer-guitarist was 78.
Originally, only three Monkees were given a real name. There was Davy, Micky, Peter and… "Wool Hat."
That's what producers of The Monkees first dubbed Michael Nesmith and actually did use the nickname on air, intending to call the character that throughout the series run. You can even see it listed in the earliest Monkees promo materials, like in an old TV Guide listing from 1966.
The green wool hat Nesmith wore had an interesting origin story. Despite being in sunny California, Nesmith had donned the wool cap to keep the hair out of his face while riding his motorcycle to his Monkees audition. He had no idea it would become such an integral part of his persona from that point on.
In the end, the reason we don't call Mike Nesmith "Wool Hat" is pretty straightforward — Nesmith didn't like being called Wool Hat. So, the producers dropped it, letting him be known by his real name Mike.
What became of that wool hat? Nesmith hatched a pretty clever scheme to be rid of it for good. At a concert, the story goes that he tossed it out to a fan in the crowd.
Nesmith was a supremely talented songwriter and musician. After he was cast on the sitcom, Screen Gems bought several songs of his for the new band. One of those tunes was "Mary, Mary," sampled by Run-DMC decades later. His music career predated the Monkees. His songs were covered by the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Frankie Laine and the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Under the name Michael Blessing, he released a single on Colpix Records, a label that also happened to include Davy Jones on its roster. But Jones and Nesmith did not meet until being cast as the Monkees.
Perhaps it was no surprise then that Nesmith was the first Monkee to bristle at their "manufactured" image and fight to release his own music, to prove his skills. In 1970, Nesmith asked to be released from his contract with three years left.
Born and raised in Texas, Nesmith left high school to join the Air Force. As many know, as it has now passed into legend, his mother invented the typing correction fluid known as Liquid Paper. She built the Liquid Paper Corporation into a multi-million dollar corporation and later sold it to Gillette.
Nesmith did not take part in the Monkees' 20th anniversary reunion in 1986 — though he did rejoin his old pals as Santa Claus for a "Monkees Christmas Melody" seen on MTV later that year. His detente would thaw, and in 1995, all four original Monkees recorded their first album together since 1968's Head.
In recent years, following the death of Peter Tork, Nesmith joined Mickey Dolenz for The Monkees Present: The Mike and Micky Show, their first tour as a duo.
The singer-guitarist died on December 10 of natural causes, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 78.