‘I opened for the elephant': Micky Dolenz on his long musical journey to the Monkees

The narrative on the Monkees was always that they were actors, at least at first, portraying musicians. Not so, at least in the case of Micky Dolenz. In fact, he was in a rock group called Micky and the One Nighters prior to auditioning for the Monkees’ late-1960s television show — and, much earlier, toured in the late 1950s with his Spanish guitar.

“I had played,” Dolenz tells Michael Shoenfelt. “I had been a musician; I had been around all kinds of different music. My instrument of choice, at the time, was guitar. I was playing rhythm guitar in another rock and roll band. I had played the drums before but, when they cast me as the drummer, my audition piece was ‘Johnny B. Goode’ — on the guitar. And they said, ‘Well, we have enough guitar players, and we need a drummer.'”

Mike Nesmith, of course, also plays guitar. Peter Tork is a multi-instrumentalist. The late David Jones played percussion, and a little guitar, as well.

As for those ’50s-era tours, Dolenz appeared on stage with his co-star Bimbo the elephant from an earlier television series called Circus Boy. “I opened for the elephant. I’m serious. I would come out with my little guitar, because I learned to play guitar very young, the Spanish guitar actually,” Dolenz says. “I’d come out and do two or three songs, like ‘Purple People Eater,’ or something of that nature, and then the elephant would come out and do his tricks.”

Fast forward a few years, and you could find Dolenz playing his new instrument on tour with the rest of the Monkees. “Eventually, of course, we went out on the road and we’d play everything, we’d sing everything. And we started writing,” Dolenz adds. “That, to me, is really the fascinating story behind the whole Monkee thing — how that happened, and how this imaginary group that really didn’t exist all of a sudden became a real group.”

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