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As a member of the Monkees, Peter Tork achieved big pop music success in the 1960s, with such hits as "Daydream Believer" and "Last Train to Clarksville."
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Born in 1942, Peter Tork discovered a passion for music early on. He participated in the New York City folk scene in the early 1960s. Moving to California, he landed a part in The Monkees television series in 1965. The fictional band soon became a real hit, scoring several No. 1 songs. Tork left the group in the late 1960s, but he has reunited with the Monkees several times over the years.
Before landing the role on The Monkees, which made him famous, Peter Tork spent years as a serious musician. He had developed an interest in music at an early age and eventually learned to play several instruments. After failing out of Carleton College, Tork eventually made his way to New York City where he became involved in the Greenwich Village folk scene in the early 1960s.
Born Peter Halsten Thorkelson, he started going by the name Peter Tork around this time. He played as a solo act and in a variety of groups, including one with Stephen Stills. While the group didn't last, Tork remained friends with Stills, who later went on to fame as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. He also found work as a sideman, supporting such acts as Peter LaFarge and the Phoenix Singers.
In 1965, Tork decided to try his luck in California. There he auditioned for a new television show about a band modeled after the Beatles at the urging of his friend Stephen Stills. Along with Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith, Tork landed one of the roles for what would be a rock-pop sensation known as The Monkees.
The Monkees, a light-hearted sitcom that followed the band's exploits, debuted in 1966. The music featured on the show soon made the pop charts, with "I'm a Believer" and "Last Train to Clarksville" both making it all the way to No. 1. With help from their devoted teenage following, the group sold millions of records, and even toured with rock guitar legend Jimi Hendrix. Fans jeered Hendrix, wanting him to get off stage so that they could see the Monkees.
Internally, the group wrestled its management for more creative input. Wanting to show that they were more than the "Prefab Four," Tork and his bandmates wrote most of the tracks and played many of the instruments for 1967's Headquarters. It wasn't a huge commercial success, but it showed the critics that they had talent and musical know-how.
After a meteoric rise, the Monkees quickly fell out of favor. Their show was cancelled in 1968 and their feature film, Head, released that same year, proved to be a bust. Around this time, Tork left the group to pursue other projects. The Monkees later broke up.
Tork returned to the group that made him famous in 1986 for its 20th anniversary. The Monkees released a retrospective collection Then and Now that year, featuring a new song by Tork, Jones and Dolenz. "That Was Then, This Is Now" became the group's first hit in decades. They released a new studio album, Pool It!, in 1987. Nesmith returned to the group for its last original recording, 1996's Justus.
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In 1965, over 400 people responded to an ad seeking young men for a new television show about a rock group called The Monkees. The Monkees, starring Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and Peter Tork premiered on September 12, 1966, and audiences adored the humorous antics of the band. Though made for TV, The Monkees had real-life hits and struggled against their "Pre-Fab Four" image. Some of their best-loved and number one hits included Neil Diamond's "I'm a Believer" and "Last Train to Clarksville." More successful singles followed, including another Neil Diamond song, "Little Bit Me, Little Bit You," Gerry Goffin and Carole King's "Pleasant Valley Sunday", and "Daydream Believer" by John Stewart of the Kingston Trio.
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