“Hey hey, who’s a Monkee?”

You probably know plenty about “The Monkees, aka “The Pre-Fab Four!”  But do you know how it all got started, and who else showed up for the audition?   It all began on this day Sept. 9th 1965, when the shows soon to be producers, placed THIS AD in Daily Variety in the summer of 1965!

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Yep! That’s how it looked and within a few day’s, 437 wanna be’s, hippies, starving musicians and out of work actors flooded non stop into the offices of producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider! You know the names of the four guys who ultimately got the gig, but you may be surprised as to who else showed up and waited in line on a hot Sept. day in L.A.   At the time Peter Tork and Stephen Stills we’re roommates, and it was Stills who saw the ad and ran down to audition, when he failed ( according to the producers, they thought his hair and teeth would’n’t photograph well ), Stills convinced his roommate to try out ! Peter’s interview went much better.  Same thing goes for the great Harry Nilsson! The list goes on to include our friend, genius and Brian Wilson collaborator/ songwriter Van Dyke Parks. Pop songwriter Paul Williams! As well as future “Dog” from “Three Dog Night” Danny Hutton. Some music historians claim David Crosby auditioned, and it’s possible as he and Stills were quite close, but we ain’t buyin’ It!

However, we believe the list includes more names you’d recognize, but as The Monkees became “Uncool” fewer serious artists would admit to it. And here’s a little Monkee Irony, Stills, Crosby and NEIL YOUNG all played on Monkees records, and The Monkees recorded songs by NIlsson and Paul Williams!

Lastly, another Monkee factoid that gets a bit lost in Monkee history is the fact that the Pre-Fab Four were out of work and complete unknowns! Not completely true. Mickey Dolenz had early success as an actor starring in a popular series in the 50’s called “Circus Boy” produced by his father. Michael Nesmith had signed a music publishing agreement with Screen Gems music and was making records under the name of Michael Blessing, and it was during this time that he wrote the song “Different Drum” which would eventually become a huge hit (post Monkees) for Linda Ronstadt and The Stone Ponys’! Davy Jones was far from anonymity. He had appeared in a number of shows in London’s West End, including “Oliver,” and here’s another Pre-Fab Four bit, Davy appeared on The Ed Sullivan show, as part of the original cast of “Oliver” on Feb 9th 1964, the same night The Beatles performed. Lastly, Davy had recently signed a record deal with Colpix Records, and they were preparing Davy’s debut album when he got the job as a Monkee! Peter Tork may be the only Monkee Who was truly unknown and out of work, although, being from the east coast he worked constantly at small clubs and coffe houses, in Greenwich Village mainly playing banjo frequently performing with John Sebastian and gained the respect and friendships with the likes of Crosby Stills and Young, et al.

How about you? We’re you a Monkees fan? (It’s O.K. SMS is a safe place).

At this point, we’d usually cue up a Monkees’ classic, but not today, today we’re going to listen to a lessor know tune called “You and I” from The Monkees album “Music Box” Here it is featuring Stephen Stills and  Neil Young on Guitars!

and people say they Monkee’d around?

P.S. There is a reference for “Ben Frank types” in the Daily Variety ad and just in case YOU never hung out there, here’s the deal, Ben Franks was a diner, not just a diner but THEE quintessential So. Calif. diner featuring classic 60’s architecture, waitresses with attitude and a menu anyone could afford and enjoy! Located ion the 8200 block in the heart of the Sunset Strip, less than a block from the L.A. offices and studios of PLAYBOY magazine! Everybody met and hung out there, including all the gents mentioned in our article and various models and young actresses! Hey Hey, indeed!

Here’s how Ben Frank’s looked in 1965:

Didja ever hang out there?

3 Comments

  1. I had such a crush on Mickey Dolenz ever since Circus Boy, so I loved the Monkees, He was kinda like Kurt Russel who came later, and I think is still hot. .Davy was too cutsey for me and forget the other two. Rick, you and I had drinks with Mickey’s ex-wife and her coke-head boyfriend at a nightclub in Tiajuana (SP).. She had gone into advertising and was pitching me the idea that Tiajuana was fabulous. I was working. for the HOllywood Reporter. Remember how we used to frequent all the top hotels & restaurants in various cities FOR FREE so I could write about them?. The Dolenz daughter had a TV show and was “all that” for a second.and was buying property there. Don’t know what happened to her. Oh Jeez . . It’s fun to remember. I’m smiling.Which is the Monkey who was a talented musician and he came to hate the Monkeys. How did they come up w that name??? And I couldn’t believe the audition stuff. It’s the world has changed but some things haven’t changed at all.

  2. WOW SOOOOO MUCH TO REMEMBER!! I’ happy you elucidated on “Ben Frank’s”, one of the 1st Hollywood hang outs I visited! But until you described it I just could not temember !! Paulette has ONKIES TEE SHIRT cool….one day she was wearing it and some one commented ” EWEEE YOU LIKE THEM?”. We said sure DO!! Of course a lot of younger folks are clueless. We enjoy- as always- the music and really appreciated their musicianship but NOT souch the acting! Do I recall correctly that Micky was a “Musketeer??”. The list of artists that were passed over is a mind blower!! I can heard Stills and Young vibes in the song you posted
    ..good song! I am pretty sure I saw Mike Nesmith performing solo years later and appreciated his work. One last thing and I may just be conflating things here but did The Stone Pony’s appear in a Monkeys episode? I have a vague memory here but maybe it’s just because their early days we concurrent with each other.
    Thanx ” Shoe”..
    wood..

    • Hey Wood!
      Wow, Paulette has a Monkees T-Shirt? Well, as we like to say around here.. “Let Your Monkee Freak Flag Fly!”
      Furthermore, I’m sure you saw Nesmith, probably ar The Troubador, in fact Mike played their late last year and he sounded great! Quite a fete since earlier in the year he had a “Quadruple by-pass!!
      And we believe you are correct, re: Mickey Dolenz, before “Circus Boy” Mickey was a “Mouseketeer! If there’s any reader who can confirm Mickey was a Mouseketeer, we’d like to hear from you! But, good catch Woody
      However, No, The Stone Pony’s never appeared on The Monkees T.V. show. Although “Different Drum was realeased while the T.V. Program was still on the air!
      Lastly, I believe I was with you at Ben Franks, back in the day, what a great HANG!
      Thanx Wood, always great when you drop by!
      Shoe

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