From “Huckabee” writer and our resident pop culture historian, Pat Reeder (http://www.facebook.com/hollywoodhifibook )
The sad duty of writing celebrity obituaries often falls to me, but this one is particularly hard. Thursday, the family of Peter Tork of the ‘60s TV-created band, The Monkees, announced that he had died at 77 of a rare form of cancer known as adenoid cystic carcinoma which he had been fighting since 2009. He is the second member of the band we’ve lost; Davy Jones died of a heart attack in 2012.
This link has a lot of information about Tork’s life and career and quotes from fellow Monkee, Mike Nesmith.
It usually falls to me to offer a few trivia tidbits you might not know. First of all, the knocks from snide rock critics that despite selling 75 million records, the group weren’t real musicians and didn’t play on their own records were particularly unfair to Nesmith and Tork. Aside from the fact that the same session players appeared on albums by bands the critics lionized, Nesmith had been a folk/country singer/songwriter and recording artist under the name Michael Blessing well before the show debuted in 1965. Tork was a talented multi-instrumentalist who played the Greenwich Village folk scene before moving to L.A., where he jammed all over town with musicians who would later become major stars.
Tork’s friend Steven Stills suggested he audition for the Monkees after they rejected Stills due to his bad teeth. Tork later joked that Stills told him they were looking for someone just like him, only with better teeth and hair and less talent, “so I immediately thought of you.”
Tork was the first to leave the Monkees, paying to buy out his contract. Nesmith gave him a gold watch inscribed on the back, “From the guys down at work.” Over the years, Tork replaced the watch several times, but always kept the back.
Since the Monkees keep getting rediscovered by new generations of fans every decade or so, there was always a big demand for reunions. Although he participated in several tours with various permutations of the Monkees, Tork also had his own projects, including a 1994 solo album called “Stranger Things Have Happened,” The Peter Tork Project band, and a blues group called Shoe Suede Blues that released four albums, the latest being “Relax Your Mind” in 2018. He also wrote an advice column called “Ask Peter Tork” for the webzine, The Daily Panic.
In 2010, Tork did a solo tour in which he proved his musical talents to skeptics by sharing his life in stories and songs, moving from one instrument to another and accompanying himself expertly on each. On a personal note, my wife and writing partner, Laura Ainsworth, and I were excited to be able to see this terrific show in Dallas. It was a lifelong dream come true for Laura since Peter was her childhood crush (I’m a Nesmith man, but I liked them all) and she got to meet him afterward. He was funny, kind, sweet and down-to-earth, just as she’d always imagined he’d be. I’m attaching a cherished photo from that night (you can tell from her face how happy she is to be there. I tried not to be jealous.)
Rest in peace, Peter. We hope you and Davy are singing “Daydream Believer” together again.