By Frank Judge
American know-how can produce anything—even a manufactured imitation of the Beatles. Where else but in America could a couple of fellows run an ad in Daily Variety, the show business trade paper, asking for four young nuts to be formed into a rock ’n’ roll group to star in a television series?
Exactly 437 youngsters responded. Bert Schneider and Bob Rafelson, Screen Gems producers, finally picked out four who were total strangers to each other.
What Schneider and Rafelson sought were four youngsters with whom the kids could identify—free-wheeling hipsters who could be attractive and funny just being themselves.
And thus the Monkees were born.
Since NBC launched “The Monkees” this fall, Mike Nesmith, Peter Tork, David Jones and Micky Dolenz have become almost as well known in America as the Beatles.
While the Monkees’ hairdresser, Sally Berkeley, gets more from the show ($450 compared to their $400 weekly paychecks), each Monkee figures to make well over $50,000 in total income the first year alone.
Their record sales will give them at least $30,000 each. And they will share in the profits from the vast merchandising that has grown out of the Monday night series everything from bubble gum to bicycles.
The young men are a bit older than the 17–21 age group the producers originally had in mind.
Mike Nesmith is 23 and the only married one. Dallas-born Nesmith has a two-year-old son. Mike also is the only one with military service, although for one reason or another the others are draft-deferred.
Peter Tork (short for Thorkelson) was born in Washington, D.C. 24 years ago, making him the oldest Monkee. The son of a college professor Tork flunked out of college—twice. He is classified 1-Y by the Army. “It’s the same as Cassius Clay used to have—I flunked the mental tests.” Tork says. “They think I’m crazy.”
Micky Dolenz, 21, is the son of the late actor, George Dolenz. Young Dolenz was the title star of the old “Circus Boy” series at the age of 10.
The fourth Monkee, 20-year-old David Jones, comes from Manchester, England. A school dropout at the age of 14, Jones was the Artful Dodger of “Oliver” on Broadway and later starred in “Pickwick.”
There is one thing that may come as a surprise to the kids who buy the Monkees records in top-of-the-chart numbers.
While all four play the guitar and Dolenz is working on the drums, studio musicians taped the music for the records. The Monkees? They sang.