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The Monkees
The Monkees May 1967.jpg
The Monkees in 1967
Background information
Origin Los Angeles, California, United States
Genres Pop rock, bubblegum pop, psychedelic pop
Years active 1966–1970
Labels Colgems, RCA, Bell Records, Arista
Members Micky Dolenz
Past members Davy Jones (deceased)
Peter Tork (deceased)
Michael Nesmith (deceased)

The Monkees was an American pop-rock band. The band was originally created for The Monkees, a Comedy television series that aired on NBC from 1966 to 1968. The members of the group were Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork, and Micky Dolenz. Some of their hit songs were "Last Train to Clarksville," "I'm a Believer," and "Daydream Believer." Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart were songwriters and producers who worked with the Monkees. Another writer/producer for the Monkees was Chip Douglas. Many of the songs recorded by the Monkees came from the Brill Building writers in New York City.

The members

Of the 437 people who auditioned for the show, four actors with musical skills were chosen. Each had their own wit and personality, could entertain an audience, and could also sing.

The concept

Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider wanted to make movies, but had little experience in that. Schneider's father was president of Columbia Pictures, and offered them the chance to make a pilot episode for a television series. If the series was sold to a network, they could gain film experience by producing and directing episodes.

Rafelson had already wanted to produce something involving the life of musicians. He was inspired by the Beatles movies A Hard Day's Night and Help!. Rafelson and Schneider changed a bit of the idea, however. While they kept the slapstick comedy of the Beatles movies, they presented the The Monkees as an unknown band looking for their chance to become famous.

Actor James Frawley, the son of William Frawley (from I Love Lucy fame), wanted to become a movie director. He worked with Rafelson and Schneider, then with the Monkees as they were selected. Before the series began filming, Frawley spent six weeks working with the members. He taught them about improvisation in acting and comedy and helped them learn to play characters.

The pilot episode was filmed in the fall of 1965. When it was first played for a test audience, they did not like it much. The episode was changed, test audiences loved it, and the series was sold to NBC. To make sure there was enough music for the series, music publisher Don Kirshner was hired. His Brill Building songwriters were among the best young talent at the time.

The series

The Monkees appeared for two seasons on NBC television, with 58 episodes made in all. The show won two Emmy Awards in 1967, which brought attention to the Monkees' records. While the show was written for children and teenagers, there were also jokes and other things that older viewers could enjoy. The band sometimes talked directly to the audience and made fun of the fact that they were on a television show. Many episodes ended with short interviews with the Monkees, where they talked about their careers and things that were important to them. This made their fans feel like they knew the members of the band.

Each episode featured two songs. The first was usually a familiar song and the second was a new song. The band lip-synched to recordings on camera and also filmed unrelated scenes in random places with whatever objects were there. These were put together and called "romps." The romps looked much like music videos.

The music

People began to say that none of the Monkees could play a musical instrument. This was because the band had little practice playing together, so they were not able to make the music needed to begin the show. Because of this, the music on their first records was mostly made by studio musicians. Nesmith and Dolenz played guitar, and Dolenz took drum lessons, so he could play drums on camera. Tork played guitar, keyboards, and banjo. Jones learned to play drums and guitar, and a custom bass guitar was made especially for him. He also played percussion instruments, like the tambourine.

In time, the band improved musically and wanted another chance to play on their own recordings. They also began to perform live for audiences. Kirshner did not want them to do that and issued a whole album without even telling the band. He also planned to issue a new single. After Kirshner issued the single "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" (written by Neil Diamond), without getting permission from the band, he was fired from the production team. To prove themselves, the Monkees recorded a new single, then a new album, with each member playing an instrument. Their new records did not sell as well as their first ones, but they felt better knowing the music was really theirs, and they still had hit records.

End of the series

The Monkees became tired of the same pattern used in episode after episode of the series (Davy Jones would fall in love with a girl and the rest of the band would help him get together with her) and wanted to try doing a variety show instead. NBC and the show's producers did not want to change the way the show was done. The two sides could not agree, and the show was cancelled, even though it was still popular.

After the television series ended, the Monkees tried making a movie and a TV special, but neither was successful. They kept performing for audiences, but fewer and fewer people went to their shows. The band members each quit one by one. Tork left at the end of 1968, saying he was exhausted. Nesmith left in 1970 to start his own band. Jones left in 1970 and went back to performing solo.

The Monkees appeared in reruns on CBS from 1969 to 1972, first during lunchtimes and later alongside Saturday morning cartoons. ABC later aired the series from 1972 to 1973.

The 1970s

Each former Monkee tried different things during the next decade.

  • Tork worked as a musician, teacher, and singing waiter.
  • Nesmith pursued a country music career and later began to make videos.
  • Dolenz sang on records and made cartoon voice-overs.
  • Jones sang on records and did more theater work. He teamed up with Dolenz in 1976 to tour and perform the Monkees' old hits. They also went to England.

The Monkees episodes appeared on other TV stations that paid to play them from 1975 onward. They usually played on local television stations during afternoons. A compilation album, The Monkees Greatest Hits, was issued, and their old hits were still played on radio stations. A second Greatest Hits album appeared later.

The 1980s and later

In 1986, Tork, Jones and Dolenz reunited, as part of an "oldies show" tour. Nesmith made a few rare appearances, but was unable to fully join the tour because of his production career. MTV aired nearly every episode of their old series one Sunday, to promote the tour, and it became a surprise hit. Twenty years after they started, the Monkeys had a new generation of fans. The tour went from a small one to a major one, and the Monkees were back. Nickelodeon, a sister network to MTV, aired their series as well.

During the 1990s, the reunited Monkees continued to tour and appear as guests on television. Nesmith rejoined them for a new album, Justus, a TV special, and he appeared with them onstage in England. He left when they began to tour the United States, though, and did not return. After 2000, they toured less often. Tork left again in 2001, and Jones and Dolenz stayed together until 2002.

Every episode of the TV series is for sale on DVD (as is their movie Head), and all their record releases are for sale on compact disc and streaming services like Spotify, Apple Music, and Amazon Music. Rhino Records bought the rights to all their works and still oversees Monkees releases.

Dolenz, Tork, and Jones toured again the UK and USA throughout 2011.

Davy Jones died on February 29, 2012 in Stuart, Florida. Peter Tork died on February 21, 2019, at a family home in Connecticut. He succumbed to a 10-year bout with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare cancer of the salivary glands. Michael Nesmith died from heart failure at his home in Carmel Valley, California, on December 10, 2021, at the age of 78.

Interesting facts about The Monkees

  • Only Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz appear in every episode of the TV show. Davy missed one show because of his sister's wedding. Nesmith only missed three shows.
  • Micky and Michael both auditioned to play the Fonz on Happy Days, but they were considered too tall for the part. Henry Winkler was eventually chosen.
  • Michael Nesmith's mom (Bette Nesmith Graham) invented correction fluid. She originally called it "Mistake Out," but it was renamed "Liquid Paper."
  • Musician David Bowie went by Davy Jones until the Monkees became popular. In order not to be confused with the Monkees star, he changed his name to David Bowie, after Jim Bowie and his famous knife.
  • Davy Jones's nickname was "Frito."
  • Peter Tork's full name was Peter H. Thorkelson.
  • In 1967, the Monkees' albums outsold The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined.
  • Between season 1 and season 2, Davy Jones fasted for three weeks to lose enough weight that he would be deemed unfit for duty in the Army.
  • Because they were hired as actors rather than as musicians, they have been banned from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.


  • The Monkees (1966)
  • More of The Monkees (1967)
  • Headquarters (1967)
  • Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. (1967)
  • The Birds, The Bees & the Monkees (1968)
  • Head (1968)
  • Instant Replay (1969)
  • The Monkees Present (1969)
  • Changes (1970)
  • Pool It! (1987)
  • Justus (1996)
  • Good Times! (2016)
  • Christmas Party (2018)

Images for kids

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: The Monkees para niños

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