Peter Tork, a blues and folk musician who became a teeny-bopper sensation as a member of the Monkees, the wisecracking, made-for-TV pop group that imitated and briefly outsold the Beatles died yesterday . A versatile multi-instrumentalist, Mr. Tork mostly played bass and keyboard. “The Monkees” was designed to replicate the success of “A Hard Day’s Night” and “Help!” with the Beatles. T he other member were Michael Nesmith, a singer-songwriter who played guitar, and former child actors Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones, who played the drums and sang lead, respectively. “The Monkees” ran for only two seasons but won an Emmy Award for outstanding comedy and spawned a frenzy of merchandising, record sales and world tours that became known as Monkeemania. In 1967, according to The Washington Post, the Monkees sold 35 million albums — “twice as many as the Beatles and Rolling Stones combined” — on the strength of songs such as “Daydream Believer,” “I’m a Believer” and “Last Train to Clarksville,” which all rose to No. 1 on the Billboard record chart as the band scored a total of six Top 10 songs and five Top 10 albums. Born February 13th, 1942, he was 77. Almost all of their early material was penned by a stable of vaunted songwriters that include d Carole King, Gerry Goffin, Neil Diamond, David Gates, Neil Sedaka, Jeff Barry, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart. They engendered as much critical scorn as commercial success. In one typical review, music critic Richard Goldstein declared, “The Monkees are as unoriginal as anything yet thrust upon us in the name of popular music.”
While the Monkees appeared on the cover of their debut album and were shown performing on TV, the songs were mostly done by session musicians. After the release of the band’s second album, “More of the Monkees” (1967), Mr. Tork and his bandmates wrested control of the recording process.
He was born Peter Halsten Thorkelson in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 13, 1942. His mother was a homemaker, and his father — an Army officer who served in the military government in Berlin after World War II — was an economics professor who joined the University of Connecticut in 1950, leading the family to settle in the town of Mansfield. Mr. Tork played with guitarist Stephen Stills before moving to Long Beach, Calif., in 1965. Stills moved west as well and auditioned for “The Monkees” after the show’s producers placed an advertisement in Variety calling for “4 Insane Boys, Ages 17-21.”
(Source: Washington Post; Image: Connecticut-Public-Radio…. left to right, Micky Dolenz, Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith, Davey Jones)