“I was unpopular because I was ugly and the kids didn’t like me… I didn’t do well in school so I would cut classes… I ran away from home two times, because I got the urge to leave… Why they chose me as a MONKEE I don’t know, but I’m glad they did!”
It’s very hard for me to write about my life, since I can’t remember farther back than two years! I don’t think there’s much of a percentage in remembering back farther than that, because I had a tough childhood.
I was born in Houston, Texas, and when I was six years old my mother and I moved to a piece of land she inherited in Dallas. We were very poor. Lack of food was one noticeable sign of our condition. I remember being hungry a lot.
I couldn’t keep up with the other kids because I went to a pretty rich school due to the weird zoning of school districts. I was unpopular, because I was ugly. The kids would yell at me, “Hey, Nesmith, you’re ugly!” and “Hey, kid, you’re skinny!” That’s why I’ve forgotten a lot about my youth.
I tried to make friends up until I was about 16 or 17. I was an ugly, skinny kid that had a horrible personality. I’m not quite sure what I did not to have friends, but I guess I was just not with it.
I didn’t do well in school. I was interested in things like where chalk came from, but nobody cared whether or not you knew where chalk came from. Things like how much money the janitors made or how the boiler worked—I was really interested in that sort of thing. I would cut classes to go and try to find out these things.
There were some people who sort of accommodated me, but no one really said “This guy really has a desire to learn such and such.” There was a third grade teacher that used to let me sit and read. I’d read all these little weird books and never listen to the lesson. She passed me, she was nice.
I didn’t start failing really badly until high school. I remember my high school pretty well. High school was the most noticeable drag! High school kids are such a drag! Not all high school kids, but my high school kids. They were crummy to me, because they were very wrapped up in themselves and their huge social system. They used to laugh at me. I imagine I did weird things, but I don’t know what because if I knew I would have quit doing them. I really didn’t like them laughing at me.
I suppose one of the reasons I didn’t get along too well is that loved pulling pranks. I had my own conception of fun, which was nobody else’s conception of fun. I’d do a lot of very weird things.
We had a librarian named Mosel. Oh, yeah, she was a drag! I don’t know what most librarians are like, but this librarian was really out of it! She used to give me a hard time. I’d be sitting around, minding my own business, not really making any trouble at all. She’d do these incredible numbers about how I’d better shut up or I would really be in trouble. So one time I got totally fed up with the whole scene.
I got together about 25 buddies of mine. I mean, they weren’t exactly buddies. What would happen is these guys would respond to the little ideas I had. They would say “Ha, ha, Nesmith came up with a cool one.” Actually, they all hated me. But we’d pull off a great trick, then they would all take credit for it and I would sit home alone on Friday nights while they went out.
Anyway, about 25 of us went and checked out about 50 books each (there was no limit). Oh, Mosel, was so happy about it because it was National Book Week and we were all reading and she was really glad. We checked them out at different times, so she had no idea what was going on.
Then one Tuesday we all got together and took them back! Like at two o’clock in the morning she was in there stamping and filing books “zero, zero nine is before zero, zero sixteen…”—trying to get them all back on the shelves. It was a riot!
I used to walk out of class a lot. The teacher would yell at me “You come back here!” and I’d go whistling down the hall. I don’t really understand why they never expelled me from school. They put me on detention for seven days, though. I just had to stay after school for 55 minutes everyday. I would really make them mad because I never got upset. I’d sit and read the Saturday Evening Post or study. I’d utilize my time in some way. Although, I’d never study the lesson and I carefully avoided history, which I hated.
I ran away from home two times, because I just got the urge to leave. The first time I ran away, I took the family car, came to California for 10 days, made a little money (I don’t remember how) and then I drove back. My mother was pretty shook. The second time I never went back.
I never dated much. I couldn’t get a date. I’d call up and say “Oh. would you like to go out?” And they’d say “No, I don’t like you.” They used to really say this! It really used to shoot me down. Bad.
I would mess around with a lot of different girls, but none of them would ever go out with me. I’d just be their “buddy” and it was a drag! I really got tired of being a “pal.” They would tell me how much trouble they were having with Sid McClane or how upset they were that Bobby Lane wasn’t asking them out.
I don’t really know how I met my wife. She sort of met me. It was at college. I didn’t graduate from high school, but I took some kind of test and they let me in. I went to college as sort of a means to an end. I just wanted to put myself somewhere so I could grow up a little more, which I realized I needed to do.
My wife was going steady with another guy when I met her, so I didn’t date her until I asked her to marry me. You feel certain things about certain people and this was the way I felt immediately about my wife. I asked her to marry me and she said “No.” Then I waited a while and asked her again and she said “Yes.” We had a very nice wedding.
I got a guitar for Christmas when I was 19, but I couldn’t play any songs. I taught myself and I didn’t know any songs, so I wrote one. I thought, “Oh, this is easy,” and I started writing folk songs.
After college I came to Hollywood and did some folk singing. Then I was in a rock and roll group composed of three people, but it had a short life because one guy got drafted. I was in the air force, but that wasn’t too successful either. I have loads of stories I can tell about those times, but they only come to mind every once in a while. After I got out of the service I began singing again as a solo act at places like Ledbetter’s and the Troubadour. Then I saw the ad in Variety for the Monkees.
I had no idea why I was chosen to be a Monkee. I merely saw the ad in the paper and went down for the interview. I don’t know why they chose me, but I’m glad they did, because I am really enjoying everything that’s happening to me.