In the recent Laura Nyro thread Townsman alexmagic made some hyperbolic statements regarding Mike Nesmith. (Seriously, Mike Nesmith “is the most indefensible omission from the Hall of Fame?” I think I could successfully defend his exclusion from the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as easily as I could defend his exclusion from the Baseball Hall of Fame.) However, he touched on one point that I think the uni-mind that is Rock Town Hall should explore, to whit, the thought that Mike Nesmith is “often given credit for launching the ‘country rock’ genre.”
There seem to be a lot of candidates for that. There are The Byrds, whose Notorious Byrd Brothers showed a bit of country and was released in January 1968, or the more often cited Sweetheart of the Rodeo, released in August, 1968. The latter made it all the way to #77 on Billboard and featured a number by another candidate for country rock launcher, Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere.”
And there’s Graham Parsons & the International Submarine Band, whose Safe At Home came out in 1968. Wikipedia says their b-side cover of Buck Owens’ “Truck Drivin’ Man,” released in April 1966, is “now largely considered the first country rock recording.” It starts at 2:11 of the following clip:
Dylan’s Nashville Skyline came out in April, 1969, and that album was presaged by “Down Along the Cove” and “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight,” the final two cuts on John Wesley Harding. Here’s the latter:[audio:https://www.rocktownhall.com/blogs/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/12-Ill-Be-Your-Baby-Tonight.mp3|titles=Bob Dylan, “I’ll Be Your Baby Tonight”]
Nesmith’s first post-Monkee’s album, and presumably the key to his claim, was Magnetic South, released in July, 1970. I know at various points in my life I’ve heard Nesmith solo recordings but none ever made an impression on me. I don’t know how influential he was but I know none of his albums charted any higher than #143. Here’s “Joanne” from that album:
And there is Rick Nelson. Rick’s Bright Lights & Country Music came out in 1966, Country Fever came out in 1967, In Concert The Troubadour in 1969, and Rudy The Fifth in 1971, the latter two featuring future Eagle Randy Meisner in Rick’s band. Rick continued in a very country vein for several years and albums more. Here’s a performance of “Louisiana Man” in 1969, with Rick’s Stone Canyon Band. That song was on Bright Lights & Country Music, which also featured “Truck Drivin’ Man”:
Can Rock Town Hall decide—once and for all—who launched country rock? Was it Mike Nesmith or Gram Parsons or Roger McGuinn or Bob Dylan or Rick Nelson? Or was it someone else? I’ll give my thoughts later on.