Peter Tork: The Talented Monkee

Peter Tork

The individual Monkees don’t necessarily agree about everything, but three of ’em are stuck glue-tight together on one subject—Peter Tork! Micky, Mike and Davy all rate him the outstanding musician of the outfit. They say he’s hardly ever without a guitar or banjo in his hands. If he is then it’s because he’s playing his Vox organ in his dressing room.

And they all speak up as one about his acting ability. Davy says: “Mostly, on the television shows, we three are just playing ourselves. But Peter really has to play a part. You see, he’s really very intelligent and he’s also the quietest one of us four. So when he plays that way-out character in the TV series… well, it’s just not him at all! Those double-takes and the way he looks kinda baffled… that’s not our off-stage Peter!”

So this is the real Peter Tork. The only Monkee not to make the trip to Britain earlier this year… he says he’s dying to get to London and meet up with fans there. He’s always asking questions of the others: “What’s it like in London?—Is the food different?” and so on. A million of them.

But where WAS Peter when the others came over to meet the Press and the fans? Well, he went back to Greenwich Village where he’d made his first steps forward in show business. The fact that he was now a Monkee, idolised by millions, cut little ice with the blokes in the Village. They took the Micky out of the Monkee… and Peter loved it!

He has said: “The Village is the greatest training ground of them all. If people like you there, then you stand a good chance anywhere else. This is where I learned to handle an audience and I’ll never forget the way so many of those way-out characters helped me. So, whenever I can, I like to forget all about the big-time scene of the Monkees and go back to the Village and meet up with my pals there—like Lance Wakely, who’s a groovy guitarist, and a poet I dig a lot, Marty Gutherz.

“Maybe we’ll just meet up and listen to records by the Beatles, or Judy Collins, who is a gas folk singer, or Ravi Shankar… I do dig that sitar sound. And then there are the entertainers who put on special shows in the Village. Like Orlo [sic] Guthrie, who is Woddy [sic] Guthrie’s son, or Tim Hardin, who writes such groovy songs. I also dig meeting the folk folk, like Phil Ochs… that was my scene before I got to be a Monkee. Can’t forget the impact they had on my career. See?—it’s all like a home from home to me.

“So I just hope the fans won’t blame me for not getting to Britain yet.” Maybe you know that Peter is a very special friend of Mama Cass Elliott, of the Mama’s and Papa’s. Well, there’s a little secret behind this matiness. Peter used to see quite a lot of a sweetie of a girl named Lee Cohen—and it so happens that her sister is… MAMA CASS!

Peter sticks to his old friends. He meets the same people now as he did before he became world famous. “They understand me, make me feel comfortable”, he says. And here’s another snippet about Peter—like several other pop stars, he has the sort of hair that has to be washed very often—every day if possible—otherwise it shows up in pictures as kinda stringy and lank.

And though you normally see him pretty blank-faced on telly, sometimes he hams it up so much that his face is barely recognisable. Tell you something: you’re gonna be very surprised when you see Peter on stage during the London concert dates. He really turns it on differently to what you’ve seen him doing on television.

Goodness me—there ARE a lot of private detectives among you Monkees’ fans! It really must be a touch of the Sherlock Holmes which helps you find out little background facts about the fantastic foursome. And some of you have been asking about whether Peter Tork was once a Married Monkee.

Dunno how you found out, because the other Monkees haven’t talked about it. But yes, he WAS married. His wife’s name was Jody and he married her in Nyack, New York, on June 5, 1964… at the home of Jody’s mother and father. Peter, being a shy guy, didn’t want a lot of fuss made about it. And the tragedy was that the marriage itself didn’t really work out.

When the break-up came only a few months after Peter had taken the plunge, nobody was more upset than he was. Soon afterwards the divorce went through. Peter was heartbroken for ages but realised it wasn’t the end of the world… and back he went to Greenwich Village, passing his hat round among the customers after doing his act.

Which is, as we’ve said, where Peter became so proficient on guitar and banjo and, later, keyboard instruments. He plays in a Blue Grass style and experts say he’s very, very good. Even now he keeps popping up on “private” shindigs… like a recent appearance at the Troubadour’s Hoot Nite in Hollywood. Peter arrived out of the blue, joined in a country Blue-Grass group on banjo in the lobby of the club and got so much excitement going that the fans were reluctant to go on inside and see the star of the show, Phil Ochs.

So this then is the dedicated musician Peter Tork. The not-so-serious character who is now preparing and producing tracks for Monkees’ albums—and who hopes to work some Blue Grass material into their repertoire. Certainly he’ll be playing some mean banjo… on stage at Wembley Pool.

Magazine: Monkees Monthly
Editor: Jackie Richmond
Issue: 5
Publisher: Beat Publications Ltd.
Pages: 13–14