The Monkees began as a fictional rock band created for a weekly sitcom that aired on NBC from 1966 to 1968, aimed at teens and tapped into exploding nationwide Beatlemania.
Americans Mickey Dolenz (b. March 8, 1945), Michael Nesmith (b. Dec. 30, 1942), Peter Tork (b. Feb. 13, 1942) and British-born Davy Jones (b. Dec. 30, 1945) were cast to sing, make jokes and have slapstick adventures, but the band enjoyed success far beyond the TV airwaves with four No. 1 albums and genuine hit tunes that remain popular today, including “Last Train to Clarksville,” “I'm a Believer” and “(I'm Not) Your Steppin' Stone.”
The four band members were largely cast for their acting and singing abilities, but together the Monkees also had ambitions to be a real musical force. In the beginning, series producers provided ready-made songs crafted by outside writers, including Neil Diamond and Boyce & Hart, but the band was soon fighting to write and produce their own records. The ultimate result was another chart-topping album, the entirely self-produced “Headquarters.”
The series was canceled after two seasons in 1968, and the Monkees soon made the film “Head,” co-scripted by Jack Nicholson. Its counterculture flavor obliterated the band's clean, cartoonish image. The quartet disbanded in 1970. After the breakup, Dolenz and Jones continued acting and singing. York kept recording (he'd already made an appearance on George Harrison's experimental “Wonderwall” album). Nesmith formed his First National Band, and became a music, TV and film producer (“Repo Man”).
In the 1980s, the band reformed (minus Nesmith) to record a new album (1987's “Pool It!”) and found a new generation of fans during successful tours. Even Nesmith finally rejoined his band mates for a few songs in 1986 at L.A.'s Greek Theatre. He also turned up at their 1989 concert at the Universal Amphitheatre (now the Gibson), the same year the Monkees got their star on the Walk of Fame.
Davy Jones died Feb. 29, 2012, of a heart attack in Martin County Fla. He was 66.