Peter Tork (1942-2019)

The nice one

By Mark Voger | Author, “Groovy”

As people were learning of the death of Peter Tork at age 77 on Feb. 21, there was a common reaction.

“Awww …”

Tork — the perennially smiling rock ‘n’ roller in the 1966-68 sitcom “The Monkees” — was so sweet and funny, that people reacted as if a puppy had died.

Tork’s TV persona was that of a blissful, unassuming soul in a wispy bowl-cut and love beads. He was the peacemaker in the fictional TV band the Monkees (which became a real band), and the least likely to sing lead vocals (though “Your Auntie Grizelda” holds a special place in the hearts of the Monkees faithful).

To remember the singer and multi-instrumentalist, here are some excerpts from an interview I did with Tork in 1999.

From left: Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith in the Monkees’ ’60s heyday. Jones died in 2012 at age 66. Dolenz and Nesmith have been performing together as the Monkees.

To remember the singer and multi-instrumentalist, here are some excerpts from an interview I did with Tork in 1999.

On first learning about “The Monkees”: Steve Stills and I were kids in Greenwich Village who looked alike. I think Steve met (‘Monkees’ co-creator) Bob Rafelson. After a bit of chat, Bob Rafelson said to him, ‘You’d be great, except that your hair and teeth are wrong. Do you know anybody who looks like you, who has some talent, and whose hair and teeth are right?’ And Steve called me up and said, ‘Go try out for the “Monkee” thing.’”

On auditioning for “The Monkees”: “I thought I had a special ‘in,’ but no, I walked into the cattle call. But I remember I met (‘Monkees’ co-creator) Bert Schneider first. He had his feet up on his desk, so I put mine up on his desk. He offered me a cigarette. I said, ‘I don’t smoke … those.’ And he thought that I was casual enough and non-frantic enough.”

On seeing his likeness on comic books, lunchboxes, etc.: “You go, ‘Oh, that’s great. A comic book. I always wanted a comic book.’ I remember reading Roy Rogers comic books when I was a kid. That was such a big deal. Comic books with real people in their fake modes — Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis comic books. It was a lot of fun. ”

Here’s the Peter Tork spread from the Monkees section in “Groovy.”

On the social significance of “The Monkees”: “Nobody was paying any attention to the kids. Enter the Monkees, who brought Marx Brothers-style comedy to the small screen and hit songs ‘I’m a Believer,’ ‘(I’m Not Your) Stepping Stone,’ ‘Daydream Believer’ and ‘Pleasant Valley Sunday’ to the airwaves. Along come these freedom-looking kids (the Monkees) on this TV thing, whose idea was to project freedom and fascination and danger and adventure and fun and music. It was enough to make you just lose your little heart.”

Thanks for the music, Mr. Tork, and especially for the laughs.