The Monkees Story (Part 4)

  • Micky Dolenz
  • Davy Jones
  • Mike Nesmith
  • Peter Tork

When Micky was ten his father’s agent heard that a television company was looking for a boy actor to star in a new TV series.

Micky had just had a session at the local photographers and had a lot of prints to choose from. One was a stand-out. It showed him at his cheeky-boy best. The hair was crew-cut and bristly… no comb or brush could make any impact on it. It just sort of lay there, in spiky disorder. His eyes were narrowed and shining from the effort of the wide grin which split his face. His face was ablaze with freckles. The teeth were pearl white, a bit uneven, with a gap (just a slight gap) between the two big ones in front.

It was the picture of a typical mischievous school-boy. Happy but with a lot of cheeky troublesomeness in it. And it clearly fascinated the producers of an up-coming television series to be called “Circus Boy”.

Screen test

So they called the Dolenz household and asked Micky to go along for a screen test. He was briefed on what to do by his Dad. “Be natural—that’s all you gotta do,” he said. “They’ll ask you to read a few lines, but mostly they’ll be watching you to see how you behave, to see if you’ll fit the part. Be yourself, son, just be yourself.”

So Micky was paraded in front of the cameras. Everybody wanted him to do well. He clowned around, pulled faces, looked inquisitively into camera lens and generally made a fine impression. Within an hour it was all over. Micky went back home to wait the results of the test. He knew in three days. And roared around the house yelling to all and sundry: “I’m gonna be on television… I’m gonna be on television.”

The series started, with Micky appearing as “Corky” but known as Micky Braddock. No special reason for the name-change except that his Dad felt it was better for the boy to try and make it under a name not well known in Hollywood. Later, after his Dad died, Micky insisted on using his real name… just a mark of respect to the Dad he idolised.

Micky recalls: “They had pretty tough rules and regulations for kids like me. It didn’t matter that you were earning pretty good money from being an actor, you still had to go to school and learn how to write good English and how to add up sums. I figured it would help me work out percentages on my salary and how to understand the small print in the contracts. That’s the way I thought—never wanted to be anything else but an actor.

“So I studied in the evenings when we knocked off work. I had to spend afternoons at the studio school. What with trying to remember all my lines as well, my head seemed to be buzzing with different ideas but I realise now that all that schooling was important to me. I’m no genius even now; but I’m also no slouch.”

It was a tough schedule, though—maybe that’s how Micky got to be so energetic. They let his hair grow long and they dyed it blonde. He got to be friendly with all the other characters on the set but none more so than a matey chimpanzee known as… Chimp. He could hardly bear to be parted from Chimp and wanted to keep him as a pet when the series eventually ended after two years. But his Mum and Dad, then living on Magnolia Street, Hollywood, said a firm NO.

Student Micky

So Micky was twelve when the series ended. He’d already started playing around on guitar but obviously the idea that he might become a top pop star just didn’t occur to him. But for the moment we’ll leavy Micky, a student full-time at North Hollywood Junior High School, struggling to catch up on his lessons. We’ll go back to him, and to Mike (we left him worrying about his examinations in High School), and to Peter (we left him at school armed with his first-ever guitar). We leave them to bring in Davy Jones… to the delight of a million or so fans!

David Thomas Jones emerged in Manchester on December 30, 1945. His Dad: Harry Thomas Jones. His Mum, now dead: Doris Jones. Their home: a small terraced house, two up and two down, and an outside toilet. No bathroom. The kitchen sink was the communal wash-basin and bath. A house in a poor area but, as often happens, out of poverty comes pride. For it was a very tidy house, with everything spotlessly clean. The actual possessions were few, but they were looked after with love and care.

Davy remembers those days of childhood rather clearer than the other Monkees recall their own far-off days as kids. He explains: “If we’d been poor in a rich neighbourhood… well, it would have been different. But we were all poor in those streets in Higher Openshaw. Dad had to struggle to buy us clothes and food, but so did every other dad in the area. While some kids get new toys and games to play, all I remember is having to make up my own things.”

Harry Jones, Doris Jones, Davy Jones
Mr. & Mrs. Jones watch young Davy riding his bicycle.

A tiny boy, Davy didn’t have many friends. It’s an odd thing that all the Monkees recall being a bit unpopular at school—odd when you think that they are so popular with millions right now! Davy was keen on games, specially soccer and cricket, but he wasn’t particularly welcome in kick-about games because he looked so much younger than he really was. So he retreated into a private world of his own. A world of fantasy. One day he might be a cowboy star, clearing the wild ’n’ woolly West of all the bandits. Another day he’d be an ace surgeon, saving people, operating in the nick of time and thwarting some dread illness. He’d make his own guns out of pieces of wood. When money is short, you don’t waste it on toys. You buy food and coal and warmth.

And even now, when Davy lives in luxury hotels with his own bathroom suite, and is able to call room service for anything at all he wants… even now he says with wonderment: “Gee, I just can’t believe all this is happening to me.”

Being small, Davy Jones will tell you, is both a blessing and a curse. Mostly, when he was a kid, it was a plain curse… and it’s while he was being “rejected” for being so tiny that we pick up the threads again in this full-length all-factual story of the Monkees.

The Jones family, Davy and three sisters, mum and dad, used to go to church regularly. Says Davy: “Sometimes I didn’t want to go. I think it was the business of having to wear your Sunday best—my Sunday best wasn’t very good anyway. But I always felt embarrassed going on a sort of parade to the church. And once we got in there, I was so small nobody could see me, specially when I kinda curled myself up into a little ball.

Choir singing

“But I quite liked the idea of singing in the choir. Oh, I had chances. But whenever I sang a test piece, I looked around and saw people going ‘ugh!’ Okay, they never actually said anything, but the look was there. I just couldn’t sing properly in tune. I wasn’t like Micky Dolenz—he had this show business background. None of our family had any connections so it never occurred to me that I’d end up a performer. I thought I had a pretty good voice…

“After I got turned down a few times, I stopped asking. I guess I built up a sort of defence thing against it. I even thought the kids who did sing in the choir were just a bunch of show-off cissies. That’s what happens, you know, when you think you’re an outsider, trying to get inside. At my magnificent height, I couldn’t even FIGHT to get my own way.”

DON’T MISS PART 5 NEXT MONTH!

Magazine: Monkees Monthly
Editor: Jackie Richmond
Published:
Issue: 12
Publisher: Beat Publications Ltd.
Pages: 11, 13–15