10 things you might not know about the Monkees

Who says the Monkees are not important? The foursome influenced Star Trek, David Bowie and Happy Days.

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Top image: AP Photo / RH

Hey, hey! Fifty years ago this day, on May 31, 1966, filming began on The Monkees. The musical television series, which would premiere later that year, offered cutting-edge comedy and brilliant pop music.

Labeled the "Prefab Four," the Monkees themselves remain deeply underrated as a pioneering rock & roll band. The transatlantic foursome of Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, Peter Tork and Davy Jones wrote and recorded a surprising range of music, from beat pop to country and psychedelic. 

Here are a handful of fun facts to celebrate half a century of the Monkees.

1. Only Peter Tork and Micky Dolenz appear in every episode of the TV show.

Don't worry, the other two had good excuses. Davy Jones had to be written out of an episode so he could attend his sister's wedding. Michael Nesmith missed three shoots due to a tonsillectomy, the birth of his son Jonathan and a family trip to Texas.

Image: AP Photo

2. Davy Jones was almost drafted by the Army.

In 1967, Jones was classified 1A by the draft board and up for service. Which seems odd, seeing how he was a native of England. However, as an article from a July 1967 issue of Teen Life magazine told it, "When Davy applied for an immigration visa to America, he had to sign a form stating that he knew that after six months here, he would be eligible for the draft." Jones, having just wrapped the first season of The Monkees, fasted so he would become frail and fail the physical.

Image: AP Photo

3. Paul Williams and Stephen Stills auditioned to be Monkees.

More than 400 young actors and musicians auditioned for the four roles. Stephen Stills and Paul Williams were among those who did not make the cut, as were Danny Hutton (of Three Dog Night) and Harry Nilsson. The original idea was to cast an existing act, specifically the Lovin' Spoonful. Both Stills and Spoonful frontman John Sebastian bristled at the idea of turning over their song publishing rights to the studio. Contrary to urban legend, Charles Manson did not audition.

Image: Atlantic Records / Discogs

4. Jack Nicholson wrote their bonkers 1968 psychedelic movie.

This madcap movie was a colossal flop at the time, pocketing a mere $16,000 at the box office. In the five decades since, Head's dark, surprisingly political tone has made it a cult classic, and one of the most emblematic films of the late 1960s. It's non-linear structure and surrealism would profoundly influence MTV videos. Jack Nicholson and director Bob Rafelson were the brains behind the postmodern high jinks. Nicholson purportedly hammered out the screenplay on acid.

Image: Columbia Pictures / NPR

5. MICKY DOLENZ and MICHAEL NESMITH both auditioned to play the Fonz on 'Happy Days.'

Hey, hey, we're the Fonzies / People say we Fonzie around… There is no bigger "What If?" surrounding Happy Days than the potential casting of Arthur Fonzarelli. The creators were keen on Dolenz, and even Henry Winkler thought his chances were slim when he spotted this adorable pop star at an audition. But it came down to inches. Six of them. Dolenz was deemed to be too tall, towering over his costars. Nesmith also auditioned and was considered too tall. The 5' 6" Winkler fit the frame perfectly. Aaaaaayyyyy!

Image: monkees.net

6. 'Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.' is one of the first albums to feature a Moog synthesizer.

Who says the Monkees were not cutting edge musicians? The quartet hardly gets enough credit as an actual band. Dolenz owned one of the first 20 Moogs ever sold (along with the Universities of Wisconsin and North Carolina). The synthesizer can be heard on their 1967 album Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd.

Image: Rhino Records

7. Michael Nesmith's mom invented correction fluid.

Bette Nesmith Graham whipped up the first batch of "Liquid Paper" in her kitchen in 1951, originally calling the stuff Mistake Out. Her correction fluid would be a godsend for typists. The rival Wite-Out would come along in 1966 — just like the Monkees.

8. David Bowie named himself after a knife because of Davy Jones.

Bowie was born David Robert Jones, and went by Davy Jones in his early, formative rock & roll days. He changed his name to avoid confusion with the Monkees star, and picked Bowie based on frontiersman Jim Bowie and his eponymous knife.

Image: eil

9. Gene Roddenberry based Pavel Chekov on Davy Jones.

After the first season of the greatest sci-fi show of all time, Roddenberry realized he needed a young, mop-top character to lure more teenagers. Walter Koenig has said his iconic character was modeled after Davy Jones.

10. The new Monkees album is currently the bestselling CD on Amazon.

Good Times! is the first Monkees recording in decades, and sees a Dolenz, Nesmith and Tork collaborating with musicians like Noel Gallagher of Oasis and Rivers Cuomo of Weezer. The great throwback album also included a posthumous contribution from Jones on a Neil Diamond written tune, "Love To Love," which was cut in 1967 and originally intended for the Headquarters album.

Image: Amazon

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