The first episode of The Monkees aired on 9/12/66. I have to be honest. I don’t think I ever watched this show but must have seen bits and pieces of it because I remember it almost being cartoon like. It was very silly and maybe even had some Three Stooges stuff in there. I could easily be wrong but I know I never watched a full episode. Maybe my older brothers and sister watched it and I happened to be in the room. My memories of the show are vague but I know it seemed silly and I remember liking their songs.
The Monkees were a pop rock group that was formed for the TV show. In September of 1965, over 400 actors showed up to a casting call for The Monkees. Fourteen actors were brought back for screen tests before the final four were decided. Davy Jones was a former jockey who had appeared on Broadway. Micky Dolenz had previous acting experience having acted in Circus Boy. Peter Tork was a talented musician who was told about the audition by friend Stephen Stills. Mike Nesmith was the only one to show up for the audition having actually seen the ad in the trade papers. The creators were impressed with his laid back style and the hat he wore. He was nicknamed Wool Hat but that nickname apparently didn’t stick.
The four boys each had a different personality to portray which also corresponded to each of The Beatles. Davy Jones was the cute one (Paul McCartney), Micky Dolenz was the funny one (John Lennon), Peter Tork was the naive one (Ringo Starr), and Mike Nesmith was the smart and serious one (George Harrison).
- The Monkees spelling is attributed to the misspelling of The Beatles.
- Paul Williams, Stephen Stills, Danny Hutton (Three Dog Night), and Harry Nilsson all auditioned for the show.
- The producers tried to recruit singing group The Dave Clark Five for the show.
- The producers thought about recruiting The Lovin’ Spoonful, but decided to go with four unknowns.
- The Monkee Mobile was a modified 1967 Pontiac GTO. Cool.
The Monkees TV show ended in 1968 but the band kept releasing albums until 1971. I wonder if The Partridge Family could have done that. Mmmm….. BTW, there was no drummer amongst the four boys when the show started. Davy knew how to sing and the others knew how to play guitar. Davy gave drums a try and was pretty good, but he was so short and tiny that it was hard to film him behind the drum set. Micky ended up being the drummer.
The Monkees had some groovy hit songs. Among them were Last Train to Clarksville, I’m a Believer (written by Neil Diamond and remade in 2001 by Smash Mouth), and Daydream Believer.
The group started to disintegrate one by one. Peter Tork left in 1969 and paid a buttload to get out of his contract. Mike Nesmith left in 1970 which left only Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones. They should have been called the Monkee Duo (monkey doo?). I think Davy eventually left which just left Monkee boy Micky.
I remember the group reuniting and being somewhat of a hit in the 80’s. This was now a trio as Mike Nesmith stayed home and lived off his mom’s invention called Liquid Paper. He was rich. Seriously, I think he was just busy creating and doing his own music. The Monkees of the mid 80’s were in the teen magazines looking kind of old. I also remember Davy Jones showing up in The Brady Bunch movie in 1995 reprising his role as Marcia’s love interest.
Sadly, only two of The Monkees are still living. Davy Jones died in 2012 of a heart attack. Peter Tork just passed away a few months ago in February 2019. He died of cancer that he had been battling for ten years. Micky Dolenz is still performing and is currently touring. Mike Nesmith is also still doing his thing. He’s active on Facebook and still creating music. Click here to check out my Mike Nesmith blog.
The Monkees may no longer be the kooky kids with the silly TV show, but their music is still alive and their TV show will live on in reruns. Yay.