By Larry Widen Special to OnMilwaukee Published Apr 22, 2023 at 12:01 PM

“People said we were trying to be the Beatles. But Mike, Peter, Davy and I were cast in a television show about an imaginary band trying to become famous. We were more like the Marx brothers, four zany guys who played music and didn’t step on each other.” -- George Michael “Micky” Dolenz Jr.

Sixty years after their inception, The Monkees are one of the bands that contribute to the soundtrack of a generation. Few of us hear "Last Train to Clarksville," "Pleasant Valley Sunday" and "I'm a Believer" without humming or singing along to the classic tunes. 

Micky Dolenz was born in Los Angeles in 1945. His parents were successful actors and lived on a ranch near the San Fernando Valley. At age 11, he played Corky for two seasons in the television show "Circus Boy." Dolenz was in college when he auditioned for The Monkees by singing "Johnny Be Goode." Bass player Peter Tork taught him how to mime playing the drums for the show, and Dolenz eventually became able to play the songs on their first tour in 1966. The Monkees broke up in 1970, but the four members stayed friends and regrouped from time to time over the next 40 years. 

At age 78, Dolenz is the last surviving member of the band that provided fun and happiness as their singles consistently played on the Top 40 radio stations of the day. He will celebrate the music of The Monkees in an appearance at The Pabst Theater on Sunday, April 23. In a recent interview, Dolenz spoke about the band’s history, the rigors of being on the road and missing his bandmates. 

OnMilwaukee: Why do you still tour at your age?

Micky Dolenz: It’s my job. The shows are fun, and I love seeing the audience having a good time. The hard part is the other 22 hours of the day. I get paid to travel. I sing for free. I mean, I travel first class and stay in nice hotels, but it still wears you down.

There’s some truth in that. Performing 20 shows a month isn’t easy.

I’d agree. We arrive in a city, and the time is spent getting through the airport, going in and out of hotels, conducting the sound checks, finding time to grab a meal, getting some sleep, you know? The two hours when I can really relax is when I’m onstage. I’m thinking, "Thank God it’s showtime. Now I can have fun." (Laughs)

Did you work this hard as a Monkee?

I think a lot harder. We filmed the TV show for 10 or 12 hours a day and then went to the recording studio because the demand was so great for new albums and singles. On weekends we’d rehearse for the tours, and I’d find some time to practice my drum parts. But I was only 21 years old and you can do a lot at that age.

Not many bands have a fan base like you guys. 

And I feel blessed, very grateful for that. But I can only take my small share of the credit. There were many other people who contributed to the project’s success. I’d start with the talented songwriters: Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Boyce and Hart, Neil Diamond, Carol Bayer Sager, Neil Sedaka. When you have material from artists like that, the music can stand the test of time.

How did Jimi Hendrix become the opening act for your 1967 tour?

Believe it or not, that was my idea. (Laughs) I saw him in New York City when he was Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. When he played at the Monterrey Pop Festival, the whole band was very theatrical, like The Who or Alice Cooper. The music was great, their clothes were great. When we were looking for a warm-up band, I suggested Hendrix to the tour producers. Jimi cut his first record while he was on the road with us, and pretty soon he was headlining his own shows.

Did being born into a show business family affect your decision to be an actor?

I don’t think so because the family situation seemed normal to me. I thought everyone’s father was an actor. (Laughs) When I did start working, it felt very natural. My dad’s agent helped me get jobs, but I never felt any pressure. My mom would ask if I wanted to go to an audition for one role or another but she never pushed. There never was that stage mother thing – you know, “Eyes and teeth, honey, eyes and teeth." I don’t really recall the circumstances for the “Circus Boy” audition, but I wound up getting the part. 

It’s not fun to talk about, but you’re the only band member still with us. Do you miss Mike, Peter and Davy?

Of course. Losing them was like losing members of my family. We worked together at various times starting in 1965 and being on that roller coaster ride together made us very close. Do you have any siblings?

I do.

Nothing else to be said, then.