Feb 21, 2019

centerfieldmaz Remembers the Monkees Peter Tork

Peter Halsten Thorkelson was born February 13th, 1942 in Washington D.C. Although his early Monkees bio claimed falsely that he was born in New York City. As a child he exceled in music, playing piano, then guitar, banjo & the bass. 

After attending high school & college in Connecticut, he moved to New York City's Greenwich Village. There he became part of the Folk scene with many others, like himself, who would become pop & rock stars in the sixties. The likes of Bob Dylan, John Sebastian (The Lovin' Spoonful), Cass Elliot, John Phillips & Denny Doherty of the Mammas & Pappas, Ritchie Havens, and Steven Stills (of Buffalo Springfield & Crosby Stills & Nash).

Peter & Stills became good friends, in fact it was Stills, who had auditioned, but did not get the role in the Monkees. But when asked if he knew anyone who resembled himself, with the so called Nordic look, he suggested Peter. He encouraged Peter to go for the part & he got it, becoming Peter Tork, as the world would forever know him. He was the oldest of the four Monkees, age 24 in 1966. He played the part of the dumb, silly one, when in fact he may have been the most intelligent one of the group.

Tork the thought the Monkees were going to be a real band, but soon learned he was to be an actor in his role. After bringing some musical changes to the powers that be for the song "Last Train to Clarksville" he was told, you don't understand, everything has been finished already. But Tork did get to play as a backing musician on many of the early songs. He even co-wrote "For Pete's Sake" which closed out the show in the second season.

The Monkees were basically to be a TV version of the Beatles Hard Days Night movie. Professional song writers & professional musicians did the songs, & the actors, acted out being the band. The Monkees did do their own lead vocals. Eventually the four Monkees became more involved & played their own instruments as well as wrote their own songs. Tork was to be the bands bass player, although he was a better guitar player, as well as keyboardist. One of Tork's most famous musical pieces was the intro on piano to "Daydream Believer".

The Monkees were huge at their peak,
everything from records to tv, to film to a full line of bubble gum cards, lunch boxes & full merchandising supported the band. The Monkee mobile was one of the hottest cars ever produced & is still popular today. The TV show would only run for two seasons, (winning an Emmy Award for best comedy) but play on for generations in reruns.

At the time, the Monkees were not looked at as a joke by the rock world since they were the first of the counterculture, young peoples generation to make it to prime time. Even the Beatles loved the Monkees, John Lennon calling them the best thing since the Marx Brothers. The two groups actually became friendly & Peter Tork played on George Harrisons first solo effort, Wonderwall.



Tork eventually left the Monkees by the end of 1968. Exhausted by the grueling schedule of recording (six albums in two years) constant touring & filming a tv show, as well as the 1968 psychedelic film Head. Named that by the Monkees so they could bill it as- "from the people who gave you head."

Tork went on to a solo career but it didn't take off. He got married & had a son, money problems had him living in the basement of David Crosby's house. He eventually took on jobs as a music teacher, a school teacher, baseball coach & musician. Things did get better for Tork along the way.

In the mid seventies he reunited for a Christmas record with Davy Jones & Mickey Dolenz. By the mid eighties the three were back (sans Nesmith) as the Monkees. The 20th Anniversary tour was a big success, new songs with another Greatest Hits album, all sold well. MTV helped launch the Monkees back on TV again & a whole new generation, as well as the ones from the past were all lovin' the Monkees.

Tork would reunite with the Monkees throughout the years as well as record as a solo artist & session man. He would make TV appearances on Wings, Boy Meets World, 7th Heaven & my favorite The King Of Queens, as leader of a wedding band. Tork is also member of the Long Island Musicians Hall of Fame.

In his personal life he was married four times & has three children. In 2009 he was diagnosed with a rare cancer of the tongue. He was given all clear after surgery by 2010. He passed away in Mansfield, Conn at age 77.

Quotes: Mickey Dolenz- " There are no words right now, heartbroken over the loss of my Monkee brother Peter".

Mike Nesmith- “Peter Tork died this AM. I am told he slipped away peacefully. Yet, as I write this my tears are awash, and my heart is broken. Even though I am clinging to the idea that we all continue, the pain that attends these passings has no cure. It’s going to be a rough day. I share with all Monkees fans this change, this ‘loss,’ even so. PT will be a part of me forever. I have said this before — and now it seems even more apt — the reason we called it a band is because it was where we all went to play.” 


“A band no more — and yet the music plays on — an anthem to all who made the Monkees and the TV show our private — dare I say ‘secret’ — playground, I can only pray [Peter’s] songs reach the heights that can lift us and that our childhood lives forever — that special sparkle that was the Monkees. I will miss him — a brother in arms. Take flight my Brother.”

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