First National Band

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The First National Band
Genres Country Rock
Years active 1970 (1970)–1971 (1971)
Labels RCA
Associated acts The Monkees, Michael Nesmith
Website videoranch.com
Past members Michael Nesmith, guitar & vocals
O.J. "Red" Rhodes, pedal steel guitar
John London, bass guitar
John Ware, drums

The First National Band or Michael Nesmith and The First National Band was a short-lived American collaborative band, led by former Monkee Michael Nesmith. During the two active years, The First National Band released three albums in the country rock genre between 1970 and 1971.

Pre-First National Band[edit]

During his time in The Monkees, Nesmith was unhappy with the bubblegum pop records that musical director Don Kirshner was providing for the group, and fought to get his own compositions to be recorded under the Monkees name. Before The Monkees, Nesmith had released a handful of singles under the name "Michael Blessing" which were country rock in genre, and the few Monkees songs he was allowed to contribute to the albums followed in the same vein.

In 1968, Nesmith released "The Wichita Train Whistle Sings" as a side-project from the Monkees and, due to continued frustration, in 1970 he bought himself out of his Monkees contract altogether.

Forming The First National Band[edit]

In 1969, before Nesmith had left the Monkees, it was clear to both him and his friend John Ware that The Monkees were soon to come to an end. Ware suggested to Nesmith that he form another band with Ware and their mutual friend and Nesmith's long-time songwriting partner John London and put his connections to good use while he still had the chance. When he was free from his contract, Nesmith took Ware up on his offer, so long as Orville "Red" Rhodes would join as well, as Nesmith did not want to "just do that power trio thing". The First National Band was the start of a long collaboration between Nesmith and Rhodes, which lasted until Rhodes's death in 1995.

Career[edit]

The First National Band came across a lot of problems in their short career. The fact that Nesmith had been a Monkee had made him a joke to some people. During one of the band's first gigs, they played alongside The Flying Burrito Brothers and Nesmith recalled how, although the Burrito Brothers were a brand new band, they laughed at the First National Band's performance, because of Nesmith's history.

Nesmith had an extensive back-catalogue from his days in The Monkees, which had not been heard by anyone. This meant that, in their short time as a band, they were able to release three albums. July 1970 saw the release of Magnetic South, which was the first and "blue" in the trilogy of "red, white and blue" albums and reached No. 143 on the Billboard Albums Chart. This album contained the inclusion of five songs which hailed from Nesmith's Monkees days. It also contained the song "Joanne", which, due to a lot of radio play, surprised the band by reaching No. 21 on the Billboard Singles Chart. However, despite this chart success, the single did not gain the band commercial success because the band were in Britain, on a tour of working-man's clubs, which lasted until Joanne had dropped out of the American charts and sunk without a trace. Ware claimed that the band's management felt that, as the Monkees weren't as well known in Britain, it would be the perfect place to try to break in this new change in musical direction.

November 1970 saw the release of the band's second "red" album, Loose Salute, which reached No. 159 on the Billboard Album chart. This contained the Monkees hit, "Listen to the Band", recorded in its third version.

After the band had returned from Britain, and after Joanne's success had long since been forgotten, work was started on the band's final "white" album, Nevada Fighter. Recording for this album started in October 1970, but things within the group started falling apart, which lead to both Ware and London leaving the group the following month. Released in May 1971, it failed to chart.

After The First National Band[edit]

Nesmith and Red continued to work together, and recruited a new set of musicians, consisting of members of Elvis Presley's band to work on Nesmith's fifth album, Tantamount to Treason Vol. 1. This was released in May 1972 and credited to "Michael Nesmith & The Second National Band". Nesmith and Red continued to collaborate on Nesmith's later solo albums up until Red's death in 1995. Nesmith is still continuing to release solo albums, the last being Rays in 2006.

During Nesmith's 2013 tour of the U.S., an isolated backing track of Red Rhodes playing the pedal steel from the song "Thanx for the Ride" from Loose Salute was played while Nesmith and his band accompanied the track.