“I was up for three others besides The Monkees that season,” Micky confides to Closer Weekly, on newsstands now. “There was one like a Beach Boys surfer band, one about a big family kind of a folk group and another one like Peter, Paul and Mary. It was in the air.”
Of course, The Monkees, which cast Micky as the curly haired drummer of a fledgling rock act, was the only one that got on the air. It became a hit both as a television series and on radio, where songs like “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Steppin’ Stone” and “I’m a Believer” put the Monkees at the top of the Billboard charts.
This September, Micky will reunite with Mike Nesmith, the other surviving member of the group, for the 2021 “Monkees Farewell Tour.” Micky, 76, also recently released his first solo album in nine years, Dolenz Sings Nesmith, composed of songs Mike wrote throughout his career, including some Monkees’ deep cuts.
Is this really the final Monkees tour?
The short answer is yes. I think this is the last time Mike and I will get together as the Monkees. We questioned whether we should have even called it the Monkees. It’s a different show because the other two main guys, David [Jones] and Peter [Tork] aren’t with us anymore. So, yes, I think this is probably the last hurrah.
You still must get recognized a lot. How do you deal with the attention?
Well, the last year has been a blessing because I’m wearing a mask all the time! [Laughs] I don’t want to say I’ve enjoyed it, because so many people suffered so terribly, but the anonymity and not living out of a suitcase have been nice.
Why do you think the Monkees continue to resonate with new generations?
The Monkees, as a group, never made it on the TV show. It was always about their struggle for success. Those struggles are the stories that tend to resonate with generations, regardless of the style, the music and the costumes of the time. It resonates and always will.
Did you grow up wanting to be an actor?
No, never. Not to this day! My parents were both in the business, so I was around it from childhood. I was studying to be an architect when I got The Monkees audition. If I couldn’t be an architect, I was going to fall back on show business.
Can you share one fond memory of filming the show?
No, to be honest, not one; the whole thing is one big, long memory. It was only a few years, but between filming the television show 10 to 12 hours a day, then recording at night and rehearsing on weekends, it was very intense. I remember people along the way much more than I remember moments. Costars like Rose Marie, who I got along with famously.
How did you become the primary singer with the Monkees?
We were all cast into this television show, not just as actors, but as singers, musicians and entertainers. I remember clearly going into the studio and singing lead vocals on some of the songs that Davy ended up singing. I also remember Davy doing lead vocals on some of the same songs I ended up singing. As it turned out, I ended up doing the majority of the lead vocals, including the theme song. But it was all out of our hands.
Your voice does have a distinctive sound.
Well, Mike had, and still does have, quite a country feel — and that was not as mainstream as it is today. Peter had a very folksy, Greenwich Village sensibility, and Davy was, of course, just off Broadway. I was the rock ’n’ roller. I think I ended up doing more of the vocals by default.
Was it ever a burden to be known as Micky from The Monkees?
Not for me ever, although I can’t speak for anyone else. After The Monkees, I went to England and produced and directed TV shows and commercials for 15 years. I’ve always looked at The Monkees as a blessing because it opened up so many doors for me. But you do get typecast. I’ll be honest, it was a bit frustrating when I’d hear that I was up for something as an actor or director and they’d say, “We really don’t need a drummer.”
But the whole experience was more positive than negative?
Oh, I’m very grateful. I’ve been blessed my whole life. I’m blessed with my children. I’m blessed with my marriages — I’m on my third marriage — but I’ve been blessed with the women that have been in my life, the mothers of my children. And, of course, with getting cast on The Monkees.
What makes you proud professionally?
The music, the performances, the audiences. I have to say thanks to them for being around so long.
How did your new album Dolenz Sings Nesmith come about?
It goes way back. My best friend was singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson, who recorded Nilsson Sings Newman, [an album] of the songs of Randy Newman. I thought it was a great idea. So I’ve had this idea in the back of my mind for years to do Dolenz Sings Nesmith.
Why do you think fans will like it?
I suppose my fans will like it because I’m doing it. And Nesmith fans are going to like it for his songs. And Monkees fans will like it for the obvious Monkee-related reasons, but in my opinion, the material and the end product are just really, really good.
How do you like being a grandfather?
My children were very concerned about me [during COVID-19]. I’m 76 years old with high blood pressure. They didn’t want me traveling or going anywhere until it felt relatively safe. So this is it. I’m seeing my grandkids for the first time in a long time. And I’m loving it!
Do you think you will ever retire?
I tried it once, and I got bored, so it’s not in my plans right now.
— Louise A. Barile, reporting by Katie Bruno
For more on this story, pick up the latest issue of Closer magazine, on newsstands now.