The Monkees Story (Part 6)

Mike Nesmith has been back to his old school, San Antonio College. A typical old-boy visit, but he’d stayed on to listen to the latest performance by the school choral society—and to exchange a few words with his one-time teacher, Mrs. Analee Huffaker, known to the kids there just as “Huffy”.

The performance brought back many memories to him. As we’ve seen, he was an enthusiastic member of the choir and had got his first taste of entertaining people in shows like “Oklahoma”. When Mike got back home, though it was late at night, he felt he had to drop a line to “Huffy”.

Chewing on the end of his pen (letter-writing never did come easily to Mike), he thought and thought. And he wrote: “Aside from the musical prowess you now possess, what I was most impressed with is the music within your hearts. When I came to hear you sing, I did more than hear you sing… I FELT you sing. This thrilled me more than you’ll ever know. Keep that same warmth and feeling for music you now have, for never again will you be in a position to gain it as you are now.”

This fairly brief letter was followed up by another, also to “Huffy”. “As I lay here in bed, propped up with my writing board on my lap, I can sense the peace of the world outside. Night has fallen and the people rest from their day of work. Soon another dawn will burst forth across the moving sky and herald the approach of a new day. For some, another chance. For some, a new life.

“The dawn means different things to different people, but my dawn was you, Mrs. Huffaker, and what a wonderful joyous burst of light that was.

“You taught me to sing, to sing from my heart and soul, for that you have known for so long—as many of us have learned. That music brings each man closer to his God than any other human action. You taught us that to love our fellow man is not something that is done only for personal gain for creating the goodwill of others towards us, but a foundation upon which we build a lifetime of happiness. That is why you are my dawn. The spirit with which you taught us to sing is the spirit with which we will lead the rest of our lives. And that is why you have the best durn concert choir in the city of Dallas.”

That was the romantic deep-thinking Mike Nesmith, laying bare his private thoughts. Writing down things as they came to him, in the quiet of the night. But let’s go back just a little in our story of his early days. Before passing on these previously top-secret letters, we had left Mike in the middle of his high-school studies… studies he found more and more difficult AND boring as the months went by.

Says Mike: “By the time I was sixteen, I realised I wasn’t going to win any prizes at school for popularity. I don’t want to make too big a thing of this ‘they were rich and I was poor’ thing, but I fell out with the classmates because I did ridiculous things just to get noticed.”

Here’s a sample story, still deep in Mike’s memory. One of his mere handful of “mates” had a beat-up old convertible car-painted a hideous shade of yellow… initially at any rate. It was a useless old car, not even the local scrap dealer would have parted with a five-dollar bill for it. So Mike and his mate decided to decorate it “properly”. They drew cartoons in red paint on it, splashed white blobs here and there and generally made it look the most eyeball-grabbing car in the district. And they took all the tyres off.

They pushed it through to a railway siding and there parked it on the tracks. A frightening sight—though they noted with approval that the width of the wheel rims was just right to fit the railway lines. It stayed there all night. Next morning, Mike and his mate called all the classmates round to see it, then put on a crazy show as they drove up and down the tracks….

Says Mike now: “So… it was a stupid thing to do. And the other kids just looked on me as being a show-off. But I was that kind of kid. If people didn’t want to notice me, then I tried anything to get them to at least bother to find out my name. Fact is I nearly got kicked out of school for that particular little prank. It would have broken up my parents if I HAD been expelled, but I was the kind of guy who didn’t think about anything in advance.”

“Take girls,” he adds. “I didn’t have any regular girl-friends most of the time I was at school. Sure, some of them would talk to me, but mostly it was to ask me if I could help them get dated by some of the guys in the school!”

From one of Mike’s old school classmates comes another story of his way-out sense of humour. He’d fallen out with the school librarian over a telling-off he’d had, so he organised a stunt. He fixed for around thirty other students to go in and draw out around fifty books each—at different times, so as not to create any suspicion. Then, on a Wednesday evening, he got them all together to take all their books back at exactly the same time. It threw the librarian into a panic. And she never did get to find out who the culprit was. Mike says he feels “kinda ashamed” about that little stunt.

But basically you can put it down to his feeling of insecurity. He had to fight hard to pass his examinations to get through to college for a while, but he made it with only a few marks to spare. And it was there that he met his future wife, Phyllis, who at the time was going steady with another of the students. But that’s a part of his life which we’ll tell you about later.


Magazine: Monkees Monthly
Editor: Jackie Richmond
Issue: 14
Publisher: Beat Publications Ltd.
Pages: 13–14