It was 54 years ago Saturday (September 12th, 1966) that The Monkees premiered on NBC. The series featured relative unknowns Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork as a struggling rock band, living together in a beach house, who each week would stumble from one comedic adventure to the next.
The show, which was inspired by the comic lampooning in the Beatles' second movie Help!, released the previous year, proved to be the '60s answer to the Marx Brothers. TheMonkees, who never met each other before being cast in the pilot, have been affectionately dubbed throughout the years as "The Pre-Fab Four." Together, with their on screen chemistry along with the guidance of music impresario Don Kirshner, who supervised the music for the show and the group's first two albums, the Monkees were a hit out of the box.
The Monkees ran for two seasons and won two Emmys in 1967 -- Outstanding Comedy Series and Outstanding Directorial Achievement In Comedy. But it was the show's music, much of it written by such top songwriters as Neil Diamond, and Gerry Goffin and Carole King, that made it a success. The Monkees scored six Top 10 hits during the show's run, including the 1966 Number Ones "Last Train To Clarksville" and "I'm A Believer."
After the series ended, the "group," which had won the right to choose its own material, released the 1968 cult classic film Head, which was co-written by Jack Nicholson. By 1970, with both Nesmith and Tork gone, Dolenz and Jones fulfilled their recording contract with the chart bomb Changes and called it a day.
Although Dolenz and Jones had done a 1976 tour of Japan with Monkees songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, it took MTV's re-airing of the series during the summer of 1986 to spur the group -- minus Nesmith -- to reform. They have reunited several times over the past 20 years, most notably in 1996 when they released Justus, their first album as a foursome in 29 years.
In 2016, the Monkees scored their biggest hit in 48 years with their latest album,Good Times!The set, produced byAdam Schlesinger from Fountains Of Wayne, was the band's highest charting album since 1968'sThe Birds, The Bees, And The Monkees, hitting Number 14 on the Billboard 200 album chart, and debuting at Number Six on Billboard Top Albums chart.
Davy Jones died of a heart attack on February 29th, 2012 at age 66. Since then, Mike Nesmith joined Dolenz and Tork for three Monkees tours, before once again bowing out. In recent years, Dolenz and Nesmith -- without Tork -- launched the deep cut "The Monkees Present: "The Mike & Micky Show" tour, which was sidelined by Nesmith's open heart surgery, and then again due to COVID-19.The Monkees - The Mike & Micky Show Livealbum debuted last May at Number 13 on the Billboard Top Albums chart.
Peter Tork died on February 21st, 2019 at a family home in Connecticut, following a decade-long battle with adenoid cystic carcinoma -- a rare cancer of the salivary glands.