…she was only a girl

Born in Dallas and raised in San Antonio, Bette Claire McMurray married Warren Audrey Nesmith just before he shipped off to War in the Spring of ’42. Nine months later their son was born in Houston.  Unfortunately the Nesmiths divorced soon after Warren’s return and Bette and her son, Robert Michael returned to Dallas where she still had family.

To support herself, Bette took on a number of temp jobs, learning invaluable skills along the way, including shorthand, graphic design and touch-typing.  Finally she was offered a permanent secretarial position at Texas Bank and Trust and such was her proficiency that she eventually became an executive secretary, pretty much the top rung of the ladder for a woman in that time and that place.

In the 1960s IBM’s Selecectric typewriter, with its groundbreaking typeball design, would prove to be a typing pool marvel, but here in the ‘50s electric typewriters featured key-baskets and typing ribbons that were notorious for their typographical errors.  With her graphics experience it occurred to Bette that artists don’t erase their mistakes, they simply paint over them.  “So,” she once recounted, “I decided to use what artists use. I put some tempera water-based paint in a bottle and took my watercolor brush to the office.  I used that to correct my mistakes.”

For the next few years she used it in secrecy and continued to improve upon this white correction paint, even incorporating the help of her son’s high school chemistry teacher.  While some executives admonished her when they discovered that she’d been using it, Bette’s “paint out” was in high demand among her co-workers.  In 1956 she began to market the correction fluid as “Mistake Out” and when it started to catch on, she changed the product’s name to “Liquid Paper” and launched her own company.

Over the next quarter century Bette Graham (she remarried in 1962) built the company into an international, multimillion-dollar business and by the time she sold the Liquid Paper Corporation to Gillette in 1979 (for $48 million), it employed 200 people and made 25 million bottles of correction fluid per year.  When Bette died at the age of 56, just a few months after selling her company, a considerable portion of her estate went to the Gihon Foundation so that it could establish its Council of Ideas, a think tank (active between 1990 and 2000) that was devoted to exploring world problems.

The remainder of Graham’s estate went to her son, Michael, who had already made somewhat of a name for himself as an actor and musician, and would go on to become a music video pioneer (winning the first Grammy Award ever given for a Video of the Year,in 1982) and with the $25 million he inherited, an eminent philanthropist.

To many, of course, Michael Nesmith will best be remembered for the wool hat he wore as Mike in the NBC comedy, The Monkees, which ran from 1966 to 1968. But Nesmith was also a celebrated songwriter who, prior to joining The Monkees, had written the hit, “Different Drum” made famous by Linda Ronstadt and the Stone Poneys.

In 1969 he formed the collaborative First National Band, writing much of the group’s music himself, including today’s selection. Released in 1970 on his debut album, “Magnetic South” it rose to Number 21 on the Billboard Charts.  And although it would be Michael Nesmith’s only “solo” top 40 single, when it hit the charts Bette Graham herself was still years away from topping her 40s, and as any proud mother would be, she was surely very pleased with “Joanne”.

LISTEN TO TODAY’S SELECTION – 2 May 2012

 Joanne

 Her name was Joanne

And she lived near a meadow

By a pond

And she touched me for a moment

With a look that spoke to me

Of her sweet long

 Then the woman that she was

Drove her on with desperation

And I saw, as she went

A most hopeless situation

For Joanne and the man

And the time that made them both run

 She was only a girl

I know that well, but still I could not see

That the hold that she had

Was much stronger than the love

She felt for me

But staying with her

And my little bit of wisdom

Broke down her desires

Like a light through a prism

Into yellows and blues

And the tune that I could not have sung

Though the essence is gone

I have no tears to cry for her

And my only thoughts of her

Are kind

 Her name was Joanne

And she lived near a meadow by a pond

And she touched me for a moment

With a look that spoke to me

Of her sweet long

Then the woman that she was

Drove her on with desperation

And I saw as she went

A most hopeless situation

For Joanne and the man

And the time that made them both run

 For Joanne and the man

And the time that made them both run

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s