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George Michael "Micky" Dolenz, Jr. (born March 8, 1945) is an American actor, musician, television director, radio personality and a theater director, best known as a vocalist and drummer of the 1960s pop/rock band the Monkees.
Life and entertainment career
Dolenz was born at the Cedars of Lebanon Hospital (now Cedars-Sinai Medical Center), in Los Angeles, California, the son of actors George Dolenz and Janelle Johnson.
Dolenz began his show business career in 1956 when he starred in a children's show called Circus Boy under the name Mickey Braddock. He played an orphaned water boy for the elephants in a one-ring circus at the start of the 20th century. The program ran for two seasons, after which Dolenz made sporadic appearances on network television shows and pursued his education. Dolenz went to Ulysses S. Grant High School in Valley Glen, Los Angeles, California, and graduated in 1962. In 1964, he was cast as Ed in the episode "Born of Kings and Angels" of the NBC education drama series, Mr. Novak, starring James Franciscus as an idealistic Los Angeles teacher. Dolenz was attending college in Los Angeles when he was hired for the "drummer" role in NBC's The Monkees.
Early musical career
Although it has been seldom written about, Micky Dolenz originally had his own rock group called "Micky And The One-Nighters" in the early-mid '60's with himself as lead singer. He even had penned at least one or two tunes of his own at the time. According to Dolenz his band's live stage act included a lot of Rock songs, cover songs and even some R&B, but that one of his favorites to sing was Chuck Berry's Johnny B. Good. It would indeed be "Johnny B. Good" that Dolenz sang at his Monkees audition and that got him hired for the show. What is equally interesting is that he had actually cut two 45s in 1965 but that they went unreleased until the Monkees' great success in 1967. Those two 45s came out on the Challenge label and the songs were "Don't Do It"/"Plastic Symphony III" and "Huff Puff"/"Fate (Big Ben)" (per Discogs site)
In 1965, Dolenz was cast in the television sitcom The Monkees and became the drummer and a lead vocalist in the band created for the show. He was not at that time a drummer. He needed lessons even to be able to mime credibly but eventually was taught how to play properly. By the time The Monkees went on tour in late 1966, Dolenz was competent enough to play the drums himself. (He learned to play right-handed and left-footed because of a leg disease called Perthes making his right leg weaker.)
Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, writers of many of The Monkees' songs, observed quickly that when brought into the studio together, the four actors would try to crack each other up. Because of this, they would often bring in each singer individually. The antics escalated until one time Micky poured a cup of coke on Don Kirshner's head; at the time, Dolenz did not know Kirshner on sight.
According to Mike Nesmith, it was Dolenz's voice that made the Monkees' sound distinctive, and even during tension-filled times Nesmith and Peter Tork voluntarily turned over lead vocal duties to Dolenz on their own compositions.
Dolenz wrote a few of the band's self-penned songs as well as providing the lead vocals for such hits as "Last Train to Clarksville", "Take a Giant Step" and "I'm a Believer". Towards the end of the series' hectic two-year run, Dolenz directed and co-wrote what turned out to be the show's final episode.
Micky purchased one of the first 25 Moog synthesizers, the third Moog Synthesizer ever commercially sold. (The first two belonged to Wendy Carlos and Buck Owens.) His performance on the Monkees song "Daily Nightly" (written by Michael Nesmith) from the LP Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn & Jones Ltd. was one of the first uses of the synthesizer on a rock recording. He eventually sold his instrument to Bobby Sherman.
Since Davy Jones's death in 2012, Dolenz has been the only member of The Monkees who has been with the band continuously since its inception.
Dolenz solo MGM recordings
The Moog Synthesizer that Dolenz had bought proved vital when he composed a song entitled Easy On You in 1971 and began recording it in his home studio, with him playing acoustic guitar, drums and for a keyboard, his early Moog. With that song finally completed he next invited former Monkee Peter Tork over to help with more recordings. Then a fortuitous street encounter led to former Monkee stand-in David Price joining as well, with him contributing a rock song he'd written called Oh Someone. With Dolenz on drums and vocals, Tork on bass and Price on rhythm guitar the song was completed in only two hours, subsequently guitarist B.J. Jones came in two days later and added a stinging lead guitar. With these two songs recorded Dolenz contacted Mike Curb then the head of MGM Records (and a former high school friend) and after playing the songs for Curb, was immediately signed to MGM.
Dolenz recorded and released songs for MGM for about three years (with a couple of the songs being credited to "Starship" an ersatz group, not the later Jefferson Starship). After the first year Dolenz's friend Harry Nilsson stepped in and contributed his Son of Dracula song "Daybreak" and arranged and produced the recording as well. It also included Keith Allison on guitar, former Monkee's producer Chip Douglas on bass, and Mike Nesmith's First National Band steel-guitarist Orville "Red" Rhodes.
By early 1974 with no chart successes to date, Dolenz headed to England, and there with Tony Scotti cut four songs for MGM, two rock classics Splish Splash and Purple People Eater, as well as I Hate Rock And Roll and a new song Wing Walker. Meanwhile his mainstay at MGM Records chief Mike Curb left the studio and joined Warner Bros. Records. With that the Dolenz association with MGM ended (and those final four songs would remain unreleased). (source CD booklet - Micky Dolenz The MGM Singles Collection).
Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart
Thanks in part to reruns of The Monkees on Saturday mornings and in syndication, The Monkees Greatest Hits charted in 1976. The LP, issued by Arista (a subsidiary of Screen Gems), was actually a repackaging of a 1972 compilation LP called Refocus that had been issued by Arista's previous label imprint, Bell Records, also owned by Screen Gems.
Dolenz and Jones took advantage of this, joining ex-Monkees songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart to tour the United States. From 1975 to 1977, as the "Golden Hits of The Monkees" show ("The Guys who Wrote 'Em and the Guys who Sang 'Em!"), they successfully performed in smaller venues such as state fairs and amusement parks as well as making stops in Japan, Thailand, and Singapore, (though they couldn't use the Monkees name for legal reasons). They also released an album of new material appropriately as Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart, additionally a live album Concert in Japan was released by Capitol in 1976).
Nesmith had not been interested in a reunion. Tork claimed later that he had not been asked, which agreed with what one of the CD booklets stated that they simply didn't know where he was at that time. Although a Christmas single (credited to Micky Dolenz, Davy Jones and Peter Tork) was produced by Chip Douglas and released on his own label in 1976. The single featured Douglas's and Howard Kaylan's "Christmas Is My Time of Year" (originally recorded by a 1960s supergroup, Christmas Spirit), with a B-side of Irving Berlin's "White Christmas" (Douglas released a remixed version of the single, with additional overdubbed instruments, in 1986). Tork also joined Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart on stage at Disneyland on July 4, 1976, and also joined Dolenz and Jones on stage at the Starwood in Hollywood, California in 1977.
Notable stage work
1977 saw him performing with former band-mate Davy Jones in a stage production of the Harry Nilsson musical The Point! in London at the Mermaid Theatre, playing and singing the part of the "Count's Kid" and the Leafman to Jones' starring role as Oblio, (according to the CD booklet). An original cast recording was made and released. The comedic chemistry of Dolenz and Jones proved so strong that the show was revived in 1978 with Nilsson inserting additional comedy for the two, plus two more songs, with one of them (Gotta Get Up) being sung by Dolenz and Jones together. The show was considered so good that it was planned to be revived again in 1979 but it proved cost prohibitive (source CD booklet "Harry Nilsson's The Point"). After the show's run, Dolenz remained in England and began directing for stage and television, as well as producing several of the shows he directed.
In June 2006, Dolenz played Charlemagne at the Goodspeed Opera House for the revival of the musical Pippin in East Haddam, Connecticut. He also toured in that role. Also in the mid-2000s Dolenz played the role of Zoser in the Broadway production of Elton John and Tim Rice's Aida.
Post-Monkees television and film career
After The Monkees television show ended, Dolenz continued performing providing voice-overs for a number of Saturday-morning cartoon series including The Funky Phantom, Partridge Family 2200 A.D., The Scooby-Doo Show, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kids, These Are the Days, Devlin and Wonder Wheels (from The Skatebirds). Dolenz provided the voice of Arthur in the first season of the animated series The Tick. Dolenz also played one of Alan Matthews' bandmates in the sitcom Boy Meets World, and later joined Davy Jones and Peter Tork in episode eight of the 3rd season (titled "Rave On"), although they did not play themselves. In 1972, Dolenz played Vance in the murder mystery film Night of the Strangler and was in an episode of Adam 12 titled "Dirt Duel" S5/Ep01. Dolenz provided the voice of Two-Face's twin henchmen in the two-part episode "Two-Face" on Batman: The Animated Series. In a September 2006 radio interview, Dolenz reported that he is the current voice of Snuggle the Fabric Softener Bear.
Both Dolenz and Michael Nesmith auditioned for the role of Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli on Happy Days, but neither was selected due to both being taller (6 ft., 1 in.) than main character Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham), who is 5 ft., 9 in. tall, and co-stars Anson Williams (Potsie) and Don Most (Ralph), both under 6 ft. The producers didn't want the Fonzie character emphasized over the others. A search for a shorter actor eventually resulted in Henry Winkler's hiring.
Dolenz played a near-sighted bus driver in the March 1, 1975 multi-rated versions (X, R, and PG) US comedy film Linda Lovelace for President. This was Linda Lovelace's last film and a failed attempt by her friend, producer David Winters, to capitalize on her popularity to cross over to mainstream films. Other recognizable actors making guest appearances in this film included Scatman Crothers, Joe E. Ross, Vaughn Meader, and Chuck McCann.
Early in the development of Batman Forever, Dolenz was a contender for the role of The Riddler, which ultimately went to Jim Carrey. In 2007, he appeared in Rob Zombie's remake of Halloween as Derek Allan, the owner of the gun shop where Dr. Loomis (played by Malcolm McDowell) buys a gun in his search for Michael Myers. On April 25, 2007, Dolenz was featured on American Idol on the "Idol Gives Back" episode when the show filmed celebrities singing and dancing to "Stayin' Alive" by the Bee Gees. Dolenz participated in the 2008–09 season of CMT's "Gone Country," competing against fellow celebrities Sheila E (who eventually won), Taylor Dayne, George Clinton, and Richard Grieco.
On January 29, 2011, Dolenz appeared in the Syfy Channel movie Mega Python vs. Gatoroid alongside Debbie Gibson and Tiffany. On February 21, 2015, he had a cameo as himself in the Adult Swim TV special Bagboy.
In 1980, Dolenz produced and directed the sitcom Metal Mickey, featuring a large metallic robot with the catch-phrase "boogie boogie." In 1981 he directed a short film based on the sketch Balham, Gateway to the South with Robbie Coltrane playing multiple roles. In the early 1980s, Dolenz directed a stage version of Bugsy Malone, the cast of which included a then-unknown 14-year-old Welsh actress named Catherine Zeta-Jones. From 1983 to 1984 he was responsible for creating and producing the British children's television show Luna.
MTV re-ignites Monkee Mania
In 1986, a screening of the entire Monkees television series by MTV led to renewed interest in the group, followed by a single ("That Was Then, This Is Now" reached number 20 on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S.), a 20th Anniversary Tour, a greatest hits album and a brand new LP, Pool It! in 1987. The group's original albums were reissued and all hit the record charts at the same time.
Since 1986, Dolenz has joined the other ex-Monkees for several reunion tours, most recently in 2011 and 2012 with a series of concerts in England and two tours of the United States, and has toured extensively as a solo artist. He has continued to direct for television both in the United Kingdom and the United States, and had occasional acting gigs, including roles in the TV series The Equalizer and as the Mayor on the cable TV series Pacific Blue.
In 2009, Dolenz inked a deal to record an album of the classic songs of Carole King, titled "King for a Day". The album (released on Gigitone Records) was produced by Jeffrey Foskett, who has worked extensively with Brian Wilson and played on Wilson's 2004 Grammy-winning Brian Wilson Presents Smile. King's songs "Pleasant Valley Sunday", "Sometime in the Morning", and "The Porpoise Song (Theme From Head)" have emerged as signature songs from The Monkees. As of February 2010, he was appearing on stage in London in 'Hairspray with Michael Ball.' The show also went on tour and had a successful run in Dublin, Ireland during November 2010. In 2011, he rejoined Tork and Jones for An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour. Jones' sudden death in February 2012 led to Dolenz and Tork reuniting with Michael Nesmith for a 12 concert tour of the United States in November and December, 2012. The trio would tour again both in 2013 and 2014.
On January 10, 2005, Dolenz replaced Dan Taylor as the morning disc jockey at oldies radio station WCBS-FM in New York. On June 3, 2005, Dolenz celebrated his 100th show with a special morning show at B.B. King's. In an ironic and controversial twist, that was also his last regular show at the station; at 5:00 PM, WCBS-FM announced that the station would replace its oldies format with a "Jack" format, and fired all of the station's on-air disc jockeys. (Not all of the station's on-air disc jockeys were fired. Some were laid off, some were fired, and one retired.)
However, WCBS-FM had since returned to its oldies format on July 12, 2007, with Taylor reassuming his role again as the morning disc jockey the following day. Several months later, Dolenz was invited back to do his long postponed 101st show, and his final in-studio appearance there at the station, by guest hosting on a three-hour broadcast stint during its Sunday evening New York Radio Greats program on February 3, 2008.
Dolenz has been married three times and is the father of four daughters. In 1967, while in the UK on tour, Dolenz met future wife Samantha Juste, a co-presenter on BBC TV's pop music show, Top of the Pops. They married in 1968 and had a daughter, Ami Dolenz (b. January 8, 1969), an actress particularly active in the 1980s and 1990s. Dolenz and Juste divorced in 1975. They remained close friends until her death following a stroke on February 5, 2014.
He married Trina Dow in 1977. The couple had three daughters: Charlotte Janelle (born August 8, 1981), Emily Claire (born July 25, 1983), and Georgia Rose (born September 3, 1984). They divorced in 1991. Trina Dolenz has become a couples therapist (still using her married name). Dolenz married his third wife, Donna Quinter, in 2002.
In 2001 Dolenz bought a house in Bell Canyon, California.