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The Monkees Are Still Making Music, 50 Years After TV Show Debuted Today

Micky Dolenz and Monkees band member Peter Tork are on tour 50 years after the debut of their hit television show, which aired its first episode today.

Micky Dolenz and Monkees band member Peter Tork are on tour 50 years after the debut of their hit television show, which aired its first episode today. (Photo: Paul Undersinger)

The Monkees, the improbable television band that went on to have a real music career and sell millions of records, debuted on national television 50 years ago today. The show only lasted two seasons (58 episodes/2 Emmys), but, their impact has endured.

And, the band is still performing, although without lovable Brit singer Davy Jones who died suddenly in 2012.

The band’s first new album in nearly 20 years, Good Times! debuted in May to universally positive reviews (even Rolling Stone liked it). It shot to the top of the pop charts.

Monkees Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork are currently touring worldwide to celebrate their 50th anniversary. They’ll travel to the U.K. and Australia in the weeks ahead.

Monkees guitarist Michael Nesmith opted to sit out the tour, although his contributions appear on Good Times! And, he is appearing with the band this Wednesday in Los Angeles.

“As a kid who loved The Beatles, I didn’t know if I would enjoy a TV show about a ‘fake’ Beatles band,” says Ken Dashow of Q104.3 radio station in New York City.

But Davy, Micky, Peter and Mike were fun, and the music was great–and it was in!” It’s all about the music; always was, always will be,” he said.

Dolenz was in Liverpool last week celebrating “International Beatleweek” with Beatles cohorts like Klaus Voorman and Harrison-ex Patti Boyd.

Dolenz was also given his own brick in the wall at the infamous Cavern Club in Hamburg, Germany, where they Beatles honed their style. Jimi Hendrix, Adele and Robert Fripp are also recognized there.

Dolenz says TV shows like “Glee” owe more than a bit to what they did in the 1960s.

“We were four actors who played the boys in the band that never made it,” he says. He says Beatle John Lennon, of all people, got it when Lennon compared them to The Marx Brothers.

But they were more than comedians; they helped introduce a generation in the throes of the counter-culture to mainstream America.

“The Monkees [brought] long hair into the living room and [made] it OK to be a kid with bell bottoms,” Dolenz, 71, said in a recent interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

Dolenz was already a TV-veteran, of sorts, when the show was conceived. He starred as a child actor in the hit ’50s show “Circus Boy.”

Their television show, however, was only the half of it. The band’s real music career quickly eclipsed their sit-com.

The Monkees were backed by song writers like Neil Diamond, Carol King and then husband Gerry Goffin, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart and Harry Edward Nilsson.

“With that caliber of writing talent, how could you go wrong?” Dolenz says.

Not many realize it, but their first big hit, “Last Train To Clarksville,” written by Boyce and Hart, was adopted as an anti-war song.

Many fans thought the song referenced Clarksville, Tenn., near the home of the 101st Airborne Division, which was shipping out to Vietnam at the time.

The haunting lyrics contained the line: “I’m leaving in the morning, and I don’t know if I’m every coming home.”

After the Monkees ended their TV-run, Dolenz re-located to England, where he lived for ten years and became a noted director for the BBC.

He’s also had Broadway runs in Elton John/Tim Rice’s AIDA and most recently Comedy Is Hard, with Joyce DeWitt, who is best known for the ’70s sit-com “Three’s Company.” He’s also appeared in the musical Hairspray in London’s West End.

Rhino Records just released a 3-CD set called “Monkees 50.” It contains several tracks from Good Times! as well as their favorites.

Hey, hey, they’re the Monkees… still.

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