by Phyllis Nesmith as told to Ann Moses
I had started college and in the middle of my semester at San Antonio College, Mike Nesmith enrolled. We had a sort of folk clan around the school of which I was a member. We were all made aware of Mike’s arrival on the campus by posters announcing the appearance of Mike Nesmith, folk singer and John Igo, poetry reading.
I can remember us thinking “How dare this unknown folk singer play at San Antonio College!”
David Price was my oldest and dearest friend and he was the one who introduced me to Mike. Mike came into the Student Union Building and he was sitting with David and when came up David introduced me. Mike said, “Nine is brown,” and I said “Three is blue.” Mike hardly acknowledged the introduction.
Mike said, “I’m going to draw a picture of just how you look,” and he drew this weird line on a piece of paper. I said, “Gee, nobody has ever drawn a picture of me before,” and he got up from the table and left. He thought that was a dumb thing for me to say.
Mike gradually got to know our whole little group. There has always been this thing about Mike that makes him go out and organize things for himself. He managed to get on a Saturday morning television show in San Antonio. He wanted to get us all together and do an act. So he approached us all and said, “How would you like to be on television?”
Mike came to me and said, “Can you sing professionally?” He wanted me to sing and the boy I was going with, Mark, to accompany me, because he didn’t sing.
It was Mike who gave me the confidence to do that and it was one of the many jobs he got for us. We became very well known around San Antonio—we performed in shopping center malls and fashion shows—and Mike was responsible for all the jobs. Actually, we were making more money than most of the college students hoped to make at their summer job.
This whole period of time was very awkward, because I was attracted to Mike the first time I met him but I was also interested in the boy I was going with. Mike was always so cool and he really played hard to get.
He would call up and say, “You have to be here for a rehearsal at such and such a time” and I would try to keep him talking. He would say, “I really can’t do that” or “I have to go, it’s not cool.” And I would say, “But nobody would know if we talked.” I would try to get him to tell me something about himself. He was always a mystery. He worked very hard at it and had everyone intrigued.
It was awful because I started getting more and more interested in Mike and there was no way out of my situation with Mark. It was really a mess.
The only thing Mike and I could do was meet secretly. We couldn’t date openly. He would come over to my house and we would go driving on his big Triumph motorcycle, which was very unusual at the time but it was the only transportation he had for a long time. It really added to that whole air of mystery—tall Mike Nesmith in his faded blue jeans, which were authentically faded from years of wear. He didn’t have money to buy anything else.
Mike took me by storm, which no other boy in my whole life had done and there was nothing that I could do. I really wasn’t prepared for it. I knew Mike for a whole year, but we never dated. We never could go anywhere together. We only got to do duets together and things like that. It was a very frustrating situation and I didn’t finally break it off with Mark until New Year’s Eve of 1963. The very next day I called Mike and said, “Okay, it’s over” and he said, “Groovy, meet me after school.” Then three months later we were married.
The whole singing group dissolved because of the bad feelings. This little triangle that Mike, Mark and I had formed was part of the whole group and everybody was taking sides. The group just sort of melted away because Mike had other things going at the time. He had met John London and they began working in a place called “The Rebel” in San Antonio and everybody loved them dearly but there wasn’t any money in it. I wanted to be with Mike as much as possible, so I got a job as cashier at the club.
How did Mike propose? He never did ask me. He just kind of told me, “Okay, the time has come.” Then we told my parents we were going to California where Mike had a job, which he didn’t. John had already left for California, so we thought this was the time to go. My parents were just great. They whipped up a full wedding in about a week and it was beautiful!