The Untold Truth Of Micky Dolenz

Actors are whoever we want them to be. That's part of the magic of show business (and it really is a business): the audience welcomes the illusion being presented. Whether that's heroics that defy biology, superheroics that defy physics, or romcoms that throw probability out the window: We want to believe. (Unless we're crabby. Then maybe we should believe anyway and find a better mood.)

The process that leads to that magical entertainment experience is fraught with illusion as well. Most actors don't make a living as actors, most actors are hoping for, striving for, that one break that will let them pay their rent and eventually thrive. Some study the art and craft; some get lucky and are plucked out of ordinary life and thrust into a production. And it's not at all uncommon for an actor to try for a part for which they are utterly unqualified.

That was only partly true when someone got the bright idea of capitalizing on the popularity of the Fab Four, The Beatles. They did cute, they sang, they cracked wise. They were also English and well beyond garden-variety American TV. So why not build from scratch?

The Monkees had more to do with comedy than music

As Biography reports, the result was The Monkees, almost immediately reviled as The Prefab Four. The casting call went out for young men who did cute, could sing, and could crack wise. (A pattern? You bet there was a pattern.)

Stephen Stills, later of Crosby, Stills, and Nash, tried out, but was rejected, mostly because of his teeth. He advised his fellow musician, Peter Tork, to audition, and Tork, a working musician and multi-instrumentalist (but no actor), got a part. He was the spacey one. Mike Nesmith, another working musician and a Texan, was cast, too, as the sort-of Lennon-esque figure. An actual Brit, Davy Jones, was diminutive — he'd planned at one point to be a jockey — and ultra-cute. He had an adorable English accent, too — McCartney, with neither the height nor the bass. He'd been a child actor in musical theater, so he checked a couple of boxes for them.

Just one more. Lo: Micky Dolenz was musical (check) — he'd been playing guitar for a while, he told Forbes in an August 2020 interview, starting with classical and morphing into folk and then rock.

Dolenz had TV experience

He could read music (check), and like Jones, he was a child actor, with actual TV experience (check) — he'd been the title character in a TV western series, Circus Boy, for a couple of years in the mid-1950s. He cleaned up well and had a sense of comic timing (check-check). So of course they made him the drummer. Dolenz was 20 years old, and the show, which debuted in 1966, was a hit — for two seasons, anyway. The studio provided the musicians, the background singers, and the songs.

Dolenz and the other three had to push to play their own instruments, do their own singing, and perform songs they'd written, particularly Nesmith. Dolenz pointed out to Forbes that when he was cast in Circus Boy, he didn't know how to ride an elephant, either. But he learned, and he learned to play the drums as well. "I learned what I had to learn to play onstage. I like to think I did okay," he told Forbes. Dolenz provided lead vocals for several of the group's more popular tracks, including "I'm a Believer," written by Neil Diamond (per Britannica).

Dolenz and Nesmith still perform together

After the show was canceled, the four tried to keep going with concerts and a generally ill-remembered feature film, Head, co-scripted by Jack Nicholson. They went their separate ways, would reunite for a tour or two, fragment, reunite, record, tour, fragment. Boomer nostalgia helped pay the bills for decades. Dolenz recorded by himself, but also continued his acting career, both in television and voice-over work. With the deaths of Jones and Tork, Dolenz and Nesmith took to the road together in 2018. That tour took a hit when Nesmith had to drop out for heart surgery.

Dolenz, now 75 years old, has been married three times, and has four children — all daughters. The oldest, Ami Bluebell Dolenz, is also an actor.

According to Riff Magazine, Dolenz and Nesmith (who's now 77) were set to tour together once again when the pandemic hit, forcing them to postpone the series of dates. "You just have to accept it and move on knowing that down the line the shows will be performed, and the fans' tickets will be honored. ... Like the old joke: They pay us to travel; we sing for free."