Last Tour Bus to Clarksville

Here we come,

Once more down the street.

Still gettin' funny looks from

Ev'ry old fan we meet.

Hey, hey, we're the Monkees,

And people say we've done this before,

But we've got bills to pay

So we had them book us a tour!

The posters at the Celebrity Theatre say it's the "final" reunion tour for Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones as The Monkees. In 2001, they celebrate the 35th anniversary of their debut as three-quarters of the greatest made-for-TV band ever devised. (The missing Monkee, Michael Nesmith, sends his best wishes but once again won't be making the party.) However, if history is any guide, book those seats now for the gala 50th! After all, these guys have gotten together to hit the road for some excellent Monkee business on the occasion of their 20th, 25th and 30th. Not that anyone in their worldwide fan base is complaining.

The story of this band is one of those classic and oft-told show business tales. Untried television producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider were pitching the concept of a hip-and-happening series that would capture some of the excitement of a young band trying to make it big. No one at the networks was at all interested.

Then along came the Beatles, who promptly changed the face of popular culture forever. Suddenly, the producers were visionary geniuses, and Columbia Television Productions gave them the go-ahead to put together a weekly 30-minute comedy that gave more than a nod in the direction of "A Hard Day's Night."

The show was cast by way of ads in Variety and The Hollywood Reporter. The cattle call turned up former child star Micky Dolenz, Texas native and songwriter Michael Nesmith and folk singer-dishwasher Peter Tork. British-born Broadway veteran Davy Jones was already signed to an artist's contract with Columbia, and pretty much already had the gig.

These were the four guys hired to play the parts of a working band on a new TV show. Since it was a show about a band, they needed music, and lots of it. Songwriters including Carole King, Neil Diamond and dozens more were put to work, along with the cream of Los Angeles' session musicians, to create the songs. Originally, the Monkees themselves only sang lead on the recordings, but after the first few records were enormous successes, the guys won the right to take a more active role in the music.

After a few years, the show was canceled, and in 1970 the Monkees went their own ways. Then in 1986, the 20th anniversary reunion tour was an even bigger success than their first go-round. So every few years since that time has seen another bout of Monkeemania. Can this year's tour really be our last live-and-in-person chance to enjoy their Monkeeshines?

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David Gofstein