The four Monkees were Michael Nesmith (born 30th December 1942 in Houston, Texas), Peter Tork (born Peter Halsten Thorkelson on 13th February 1942 in Washington DC), Micky Dolenz (born George Michael Dolenz on 8th March 1945 in Los Angeles) and Davy Jones (born 30th December 1945 in Manchester, England). Michael and Peter were already musicians and Micky and Davy had experiences with fame as child stars. Michael had released records under the name of Michael Blessing and Peter was a folk musician. Micky, using the name Braddock, had stared in the 1950's television series Circus Boy, and Davy had been Ena Sharples' grandson in Coronation Street and starred in stage musicals such as Pickwick and Oliver!
The pilot episode, filmed in October and broadcast the following month, proved a success with teenagers. The show was a half-hour situation comedy concerned with the life of an up and coming rock band. The Beatles were the main influence, as the show was inspired by The Beatles Debut film A Hard Days Night. The TV network NBC had found a winner. In almost three years the group had filmed 58 episodes of the series, made a feature film and sold more than 16 million albums and 7.5 million singles.
Originally the idea was that the show focused on the struggles of the band with a song or two per episode. Musicians were hired to play the music and The Monkees only sang. Songwriters such as Goffin and King, Neil Sedaka, Neil Diamond, and Harry Nilsson were hired to write the songs while the boys were busy filming the series.
The first episode premiered on the NBC network on 12 September 1966, at the same time as Star Trek. Initial ratings were low as viewers became used to the humor, but the response from teenage America was enough to ensure the series lasted for one season. Soon enough, the show clocked approximately ten million viewers per week.
Most of The Monkees' fans refused to believe that they were a pre-fabricated band. So when the first single 'Last Train to Clarksville' was released in 1966 it reached number one in the charts and earned The Monkees their first of many Gold Discs. In November their self titled album was released and was also a success, staying at the top of the LP charts for 13 weeks.
Both Michael Nesmith and Peter Tork protested to the fact that they were not allowed to play their own music and soon Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones joined them. By the end of '67 the popularity of the show was enough that the group were able to negotiate their artistic freedom. The Monkees entered the recording studios as a band for the first time and came up with their third album Headquarters. This album proved their musical abilities. Inspired by their efforts, the Monkees became a live act and toured the world. Their live appearances in concerts in Hawaii and Britain caused riots and 'Monkeemania' was born.
The last episode was aired in the US on 25 March 1968, and the end of the show saw the end of The Monkees as a band. The group featured in the film Head co-produced by Jack Nicholson and Bob Rafelson however the film failed to win critical acclaim. Peter Tork was the first member to leave the band to pursue a solo career. The remaining members continued as a trio, but by 1970 The Monkees disbanded. Mike Nesmith started a successful solo career and Mickey and Davy joined up with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart for a little while during the seventies.
The TV series still enjoys many reruns and is almost as popular as it was in the sixties. The Monkees briefly reunited in the mid 1980's and again in 1996, when they embarked on a world tour to mark their thirtieth anniversary. Many of the Monkees' hits have been covered by artists such as The Sex Pistols, EMF (With Reeves and Mortimer) and Ant & Dec.