R.I.P. Peter Tork of The Monkees

On February 21, Peter Tork passed away at the age of 77.

Image: AP Photo / Ray Howard

Casting The Monkees was a difficult task, Eddie Foy III told Archive of American Television. "It was a carnival of freaks," he said, describing the types of actors and musicians turning out for the auditions. Then Michael Nesmith caught the eye of someone while standing on his head in his signature wool cap, and later a cute guy named Micky Dolenz lied to Foy that he could play drums, but when it came to Peter Tork, he was the only Monkee other than Davy Jones that the studio sought out to hire, on recommendation of a musician that Tork had worked with while coming up in the folk scene in New York City.

That musician was Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame, and when his own audition for The Monkees didn't go so well, Foy said that Stills was the one who pointed producers to a little nightclub in Long Beach, California, called The Golden Bear. That's where they found Peter Tork, Foy said, in the same restaurant that hosted Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Jerry Garcia. And though The Monkees weren't allowed to play their own music, once the band evolved beyond the show, the multi-instrumentalist Peter Tork would eventually come to be known at live shows as one of the least predictable parts of the act, wearing outrageous outfits and being a general ray of sunshine to see live, likely instincts all stemming from his long history as a musician and performer.

In the band and on TV, Tork played keyboards and also bass (despite being much more proficient at guitar), lending a distinct charm with each offbeat bassline. You can thank him, though, for other key musical contributions, including that piano intro on "Daydream Believer" and the picking banjo on "You Told Me" (a charging song clearly penned by Michael Nesmith). His songwriting credits include "For Pete's Sake" off Headquarters and the goofy "Peter Percival Patterson's Pet Pig Porky" off Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd

On The Monkees TV show, Peter was dubbed the naive one, and they'd give his character great gimmicks like finger guns that actually worked. As an actor, he'd appear in a handful of bit parts in the 1990s on shows like Boy Meets World (he played Topanga's hippie dad), California Dreams and 7th Heaven, but for the most part after the show ended, Tork would focus on music, collaborating with George Harrison in the 1960s and forming his own bands and projects that occasionally featured other Monkees like Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith. Then, to the delight of fans, came the Monkees reunion tours and albums, including last year's Christmas album.

On February 21, Peter Tork passed away at the age of 77.

Tune in to MeTV on Sunday, February 24, at 5PM | 4C, as we pay tribute to Peter Tork with two special episodes of 'The Monkees.'

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BuckRogers 29 days ago
I have total admiration for the survivng Monkees to keep on after Davey Jones died. Remember, last year the Monkees put out a new album that had multiple music industry legends helping out, and on top of that, a Christmas album! Peter Tork was working and busy up to the end of his life, and that is to be admired. Thank you, Mr. Tork, and say hello to Davey, too. All four of you influenced TV and music history more than you realize (David Haywood Jones changed his name to “Bowie” because of Monkee Davey Jones, for starters). You will never be forgotten, Peter!
Brownthunder 29 days ago
Can't read the stories because of ads shifting all over the place....UGH!!!!
DebDoll 29 days ago
Rest in Peace Peter, you will always be in our hearts, God be with you always. We love you.
harlow1313 1 month ago
But the porpoise is laughing
Goodbye, goodbye
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye...
cperrynaples harlow1313 1 month ago
That's from the Head soundtrack,isn't it? Svengoolie has to find that movie, it's a classic!
harlow1313 cperrynaples 1 month ago
Yes, "The Porpoise Song." I think it is gorgeous and has a built in melancholy.
BubbaPacha77511 1 month ago
Rip peter....one of my best memories as a kid was watching the monkees on mtv....theyd just started showing it. Yhat summer my dad got us tickets for their reunion concert with gary puckett and the union gap and hermans hermits
cperrynaples 1 month ago
Heard the sad news! We all knew that Pete had tongue cancer 10 years ago, but I don't think that killed him! in any case, I'll always remember the first season opening where he kept missing his credit! RIP!!!
Update: His family confirmed that the tongue cancer killed him! Again,RIP!
Barry22 1 month ago
RIP Peter. Love The Monkees, was listening to them before I even listened to The Beatles. ( I was only 8). Had a bunch of their LPs, and still have several CDs of them. Lucky enough to have seen them (sans Nesmith) in 1986.
R.I.P. Peter. Like you, I was lucky enough to see the Monkees as well, but NOT sans Nesmith. I was one of the lucky fans who got to see them perform at the GREEK THEATRE, back in 1989. {Does anyone else remember Peter's appearance on TNN [The Nashville Network]?} I will never forget: The night before we {my parents and I} were due to leave for Ca. I checked out a talk show on THE NASHVILLE NETWORK that Peter was going to be appearing on. The rumors were already flying about the possibility that Mike would be appearing with Micky Davy and Peter at the GT. Peter would be appearing on the talk show with a "surprise announcement" {we fans knew what that announcement was going to be; he was only going to substantiate the rumors.} So like all of us fans, we were glued to our tv's listening intently to what Peter had to say. I was shocked and ecstatic when I heard him say that Mike would be performing with them! I thought something like this is what happens to other people, not to me! But it was true: The tickets my sister and brother in law {who took me to the concert} were for that very evening, with Mike! Then the next day or the day after that, I went and saw them get their Hollywood Walk of Fame Star, and went and sat through their "press conference" afterwards! Those were the best two days of my life!
That is a great story, so cool.
cperrynaples Barry22 1 month ago
Sadly, I only got to see Davy and Mickey when they were touring amusement parks in the '70's! You were certainly lucky indeed!
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