The Everett Collection

Here's what made The Monkees a bunch of millionaires

What happens when an average guy in his early 20s becomes a millionaire overnight? Well, Michael Nesmith from The Monkees said he almost bought everything in sight when he and his bandmates went from struggling musicians to superstars in a short span of time.

Nesmith was the heartthrob guitar player and a vocalist in the band. The TV show, fittingly named The Monkees, premiered in 1965 and instantly became a huge hit.

Many fans fell in love with the band's sound, the lyrics, their long and Beatle-esque haircuts, and their "lunatic" personalities.

They were even being compared to and competing with The Beatles during the height of Beatlemania for first place on the charts and among the hearts of teenage girls. 

According to a 1967 interview with Detroit Free Press, Nesmith arrived in Hollywood three years before The Monkees premiered and only had about $35 to his name. He answered an ad in a local paper looking for a musician-singer to put into an acting role for a new TV series.

Little did he know the newspaper ad would lead him to become one of the biggest musicians in the world. After having little to his name, Nesmith was suddenly making around $180 million.

He bought everything from a new home in Bel-Air to a private plane and a 23,000 acre ranch in Texas. He also bought six cars, including a limo that was driven by a chauffeur who once worked for The Beatles. Nesmith was also quick to make some key investments. 

"I'm making more money from those investments than I am as a Monkee," Nesmith said. "It's a really difficult thing for me to accept the fact that I'm a star."

However, the country quickly accepted Nesmith as a star. Although he celebrated his new fame and fortune in quite a big way, he remained humble. Success for The Monkees wasn't always so easy; the band fought for the money they made.

"At first, we were ridiculed because we only sang on our first two albums—which sold about a total of 8 million copies—and didn't play the instruments," Nesmith said. "Finally it got too much for us and now we play our own instruments as well as sing."

"We're four complete individuals," Nesmith continued. "The Beatles are more of a unit and act as a unit. We don't... We don't think alike and that's one secret of our success. We work together, but we're four individuals."

According to the interview, in two national personal appearance tours The Monkees grossed around $4 million. Their singles and records were consistently at the top of the charts and pulled in even more money for them. 

For awhile, it seemed as though The Monkees were unstoppable. According to Nesmith, their originality was their money maker. 

"What viewers see is us," Nesmith said. "We aren't acting. We're just being our natural selves. Lots of time the cameras keep rolling after a scene just to catch us doing the lunatic things we enjoy. We're a success because we haven't built images or used gimmicks. We let our own personalities come through and that's it."

His goal was to keep growing and keep up with what the kids wanted—two things the band did well already. The Monkees made a lasting impact and Nesmith was proud of his band members. Plus, being a millionaire was a pretty positive perk.

"It helps that we're producing our own records, writing our own music and just having fun," Nesmith said. 

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