Monkeying Around in South Lake

Madness!!
AUDITIONS.
Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers
for acting roles in new TV series.
Running parts for 4 insane boys, age 17-21.
Want spirited Ben Frank’s types.
Have courage to work.
Must come down for interview.

 So ran the ad in Variety in the Sept. 8, 1965, issue, looking for lads who would become The Monkees. As one of the original made-for-television bands — Davy Jones, Peter Tork, Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz — paved the way for generations of entertainment to follow from “The Partridge Family” and “Hannah Montana” to New Kids on the Block and The Backstreet Boys.

“It was struggle for success that endeared the show to people. We represented all those kids out there that were practicing the guitar in their room wanting to be rock ‘n’ roll stars. We just caught lighting in the bottle.”
–  Micky Dolenz

“The Monkees was first and foremost a television show,” says Dolenz. “It wasn’t the first time music had been on TV, but it was a new thing at the time. There were shows like ‘American Bandstand.’ On ‘Ozzie and Harriet,’ Ricky Nelson broke out as a singer. A good example I like to give to nowadays is the show ‘Glee.’ ”

Ben Frank was a late-night diner that attracted proto-hippies in mid-1960 Southern California. “Must come down for interview” was a veiled reference, meaning not to show up high.

Out of more than 400 applicants, Micky Dolenz was the second Monkee to be chosen.

“I frankly don’t remember a lot of about it,” he says of the early days. “We were working 10 to 12 hours a day on the television show and recording at night and over the weekend. It was intense.”

After the show premiered on Sept. 12, 1966, The Monkees became an overnight sensation.

The Monkees was a television program about a group that wanted to be the Beatles and never made it,” says Dolenz. “It was struggle for success that endeared the show to people. We represented all those kids out there that were practicing the guitar in their room wanting to be rock ‘n’ roll stars. We just caught lighting in the bottle.”

Although the show only ran for two seasons, it captured the zeitgeist of the mid-1960s youth culture and rock ‘n’ roll explosion in an unpretentious and humorous way.

“Before that time it was not common for youth to have such an active role in social discourse,” says Dolenz. “There wasn’t TV everywhere yet. Records were expensive. Then there were two World Wars. Along come 45s and A.M. and transistor radio. Suddenly the kids had access to what was going on. And they started, of course, to contribute.”

Due to the popularity of The Monkees’ first record, Dolenz and the gang had learnt their instrumental parts to catch up with the demand for a live concert. The first two Monkees’ albums were produced and recorded primarily by studio musicians, but the members continuously worked on their craft and eventually gained creative control of the band for classic records such as “Headquarters” and “Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones, Ltd.”

“It must’ve always been the intention of the producers for us to go on the road,” says Dolenz. “Otherwise, they wouldn’t have cast four guys who were all musicians and singers.”

The fantasy of the television show soon became reality with thousands of teeny boppers screaming for them from city to city. They were California’s answer to The Beatles, but an innocent and humorous version at a time the Fab Four were becoming more serious in their artistic endeavors on albums such as “Rubber Soul” and “Revolver.”

“It was like Pinocchio becoming a real boy,” says Dolenz of the band coming to life. “It was really like two different groups. One was the imaginary band that lived in the beach house in Malibu hoping to make it — which does beg the question of how we afforded a beach house in Malibu. And then there is the other real life Monkees that became very, very famous.”

Dolenz, the band’s drummer, never stopped being a Monkee. He will be joined in South Lake by Michael Nesmith, the original guitarist and major songwriter in the group.

“It’s just like any act that’s been around for a while,” says Dolenz. “The fans are reliving their childhoods. It’s not unusual to see two or three generations in the audience. We play all the hits.”

June 9 | 7:30 p.m.
Harrah’s Lake Tahoe | Stateline, Nev.

On whether he’ll ever tire of the act, Dolenz says: “It’s my business. It’s what I do. It’s pretty fun, of course. It can get weary with all the travel, but we always say they pay us to travel and we sing for free.” | harrahstahoe.com