Monkees’ Michael Nesmith Recovering From Quadruple Bypass Heart Surgery

Monkees fans received some terrifying news on June 21st when the group announced that the final four dates of their The Monkees Present: The Mike & Micky Show would be indefinitely postponed because singer-guitarist Michael Nesmith suffered an unspecified health scare. Hours later, TMZ made it seem even scarier. “We’re told 75-year-old Nesmith collapsed to the ground during the band’s soundcheck Thursday afternoon at the Keswick Theatre in Glenside, PA,” they wrote. “Michael was not unconscious, but he was rushed to a hospital.”

Nesmith stayed completely silent over the next month, but the musician has now broken his silence, explaining to Rolling Stone that contrary to TMZ’s initial report (which they later partially walked back), he never collapsed. He was, however, experiencing severe shortness of breath that caused him to rush to his cardiologist at Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula where he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure that required quadruple bypass heart surgery.

“I was using the words ‘heart attack’ for a while,” says Nesmith. “But I’m told now that I didn’t have one. It was congestive heart failure. It has taken me four weeks to climb out of it. If anybody ever comes up to you on the street and offers you [bypass surgery] for free, turn them down. It hurts.”

Nesmith was just a handful of dates into the Mike & Micky Show tour in June when he noticed that something was off with his body. “I was getting weaker and weaker and I couldn’t get my breath,” he says. “When we got to Lake Tahoe and then the high altitude of Denver, I couldn’t get out of bed and I couldn’t breathe. It wasn’t agonizing. It was just the business of wanting to take a big, deep breath and not being able to do it.”

Determined to get through the dates, he set up a chair just offstage with an oxygen tank and mask. At the Denver show, he ran back and forth to the tank when Micky Dolenz was singing lead on a song. “People seemed to like the show,” he says. “But I was pretty well crippled up by then.” It got so bad that he went to the emergency room in Chicago and then again in Philadelphia the following week. “In both cases they said, ‘Look, you got a problem here,'” he says. “‘We don’t have what we need here in order to work on it.'”

By the time the tour came to the Keswick Theater near Philadelphia on June 21st, things went from bad to worse. “I didn’t collapse to the ground or anything like that,” he said. “But I couldn’t breathe, so I sat down until I got my breath and then I realized the breath wasn’t gettable. That marked the end. People knew I couldn’t keep on like this. It was a road to hell.”

They called off the final four dates and flew him back to Carmel, California so he could meet with his cardiologist. Before he knew it, he was wheeled into an operating room for quadruple bypass heart surgery. He wouldn’t leave the hospital for about ten days. “It’s this complete other community of the dead and nearly dead,” he says. “It’s frightening. There’s also a lot of pain involved and I didn’t like that. You can’t cough and you can’t walk and you can’t get up. And you’re hooked to these gadgets that are annoying. I didn’t even know where I was for a couple of weeks.”

His doctors weren’t sure about sending him home after ten days, but he convinced them he’d heal faster in his own environment. “I think, candidly, I’m back to 80 percent,” he says. “I feel like I’m increasing exponentially daily, or at least by orders of five or six percent at a time. I’m seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. My thinking is clear and I know who I am and where I am. It all feels like a natural healing process.”

Things are going so well that he’s going ahead with a previously planned First National Band tour that kicks off September 7th in Houston and wraps up September 23rd in Ridgefield, Connecticut. He played a short California club tour with a new incarnation of his pioneering country rock band earlier this year, but this is his first nationwide tour with them since their 1972 split. “Most of it is sold out, so that was really encouraging,” he says. “I thought the First National Band was just marginal and had been tossed away by the Monkees powers and nobody liked them.”


The tour schedule is pretty grueling for a 75-year-old recovering from major heart surgery, but Nesmith says he’s prepared. “It is going to be a lot of traveling,” he says. “But it’s pretty easy travel once you’re in the jet class. That gets me to the city from the airport and into a bed very quickly. Then I can sleep until soundcheck. Between that and decent meals, I should be fine.”

He’s currently considering offers to take the band to Europe, Australia and Asia, but is unsure about overseas dates. (Nesmith says he’ll definitely make up the four postponed Mike and Micky shows early next year, including a Red Bank, New Jersey show at Count Basie Theater on March 5th. The other three rescheduled dates should be announced in the near future.)

No plans are in place for additional Mike and Micky shows beyond the make-up dates, but Nesmith says he’s willing to book them should the market demand it. “I’m wide open in terms of what’s going to be,” he says. “I don’t have any reason to say no to anything.”