Dolenz in 2007
|George Michael Dolenz Jr|
|Born||March 8, 1945|
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
George Michael Dolenz Jr. (born March 8, 1945) is an American actor, musician, television director, radio personality and theater director, best known as a vocalist and drummer of the 1960s pop/rock band the Monkees.
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. He has three younger sisters, Gemma Marie ("Coco"; born April 5, 1949), Deborah (born 1958), and Kathleen ("Gina"; born 1960). Gemma's nickname, Coco, is a shortened form of "Coco Sunshine", a nickname given to her as a child by Micky. Coco was a frequent guest on the set of The Monkees TV show and sometimes a guest performer on records by The Monkees, singing background vocals or duetting with Micky. She often performs as a member of Micky's backing band during his concerts.
Dolenz began his show-business career in 1956 when he starred in a children's TV show called Circus Boy under the name Mickey Braddock. He played Corky, 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.
Dolenz originally had his own rock group called "Micky and the One-Nighters" in the early- to mid-1960s with himself as lead singer. He had penned at least one or two tunes of his own at the time. According to Dolenz, his band's live stage act included rock songs, cover songs, and even some R&B, one of his favorite songs to sing being Chuck Berry's "Johnny B. Goode". "Johnny B. Goode" was the song Dolenz sang at his Monkees audition, resulting in his being hired. He cut two 45s in 1965 that went unreleased until the Monkees' 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)".
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 actually a drummer and needed lessons 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 weak. 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 make each other laugh. Because of this, the writers often brought in each singer individually. The antics escalated until Dolenz poured a cup of Coca-Cola on Don Kirshner's head. At the time, Dolenz did not know Kirshner on sight.
According to Mike Nesmith, Dolenz's voice made the Monkees' sound distinctive, and 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, most prominent being "Randy Scouse Git" from the album Headquarters. He provided the lead vocals for such hits as "Last Train to Clarksville", "Pleasant Valley Sunday", and "I'm a Believer". Dolenz also directed and co-wrote the show's final episode.
Dolenz purchased the third modular Moog synthesizer sold commercially. (The first two belonged to Wendy Carlos and Buck Owens.) His performance on the Monkees' song "Daily Nightly" (written by Nesmith), from the album 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.
He is one of two surviving members of the Monkees (after Jones' death in 2012 and Tork's in 2019). He is the only surviving member of the Monkees who has been part of every lineup since the band's inception, and the only member with contemporary recordings of his vocals on all studio albums.
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 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 his contributing a rock song he had 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 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 few of the songs being credited to Starship, an ersatz group, not the later Jefferson Starship). After the first year, Dolenz's friend Harry Nilsson contributed his song "Daybreak" and arranged and produced the recording, as well. It also included Keith Allison on guitar, former Monkees producer Chip Douglas on bass, and 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, the chief at MGM Records, Mike Curb, left the studio and joined Warner Bros. Records. Dolenz's association with MGM then ended (and those final four songs remained unreleased).
Due 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 Columbia Pictures), 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 Columbia Pictures.
Dolenz and Jones took advantage of this, joining ex-Monkees songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart to tour the United States. They could not use the Monkees name for legal reasons, but 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. They also released an album of new material, appropriately called "Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart", and 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[clarification needed] had not been asked, which agrees with the claim on one of their CD booklets that they simply didn't know where he was at that time. A Christmas single (credited to Dolenz, Davy Jones and 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, The 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.
In 1977, he performed with former bandmate Davy Jones in a stage production of the Harry Nilsson musical The Point! at London's 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. 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.
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. In 1972, Dolenz played Vance in the murder mystery film Night of the Strangler, he was in an episode of Adam 12 titled "Dirt Duel" S5/Ep01, and he was in an episode of Cannon titled "Bitter Legion" S2/Ep03. Dolenz provided the voice of Two-Face's twin henchmen Min and Max in the two-part episode "Two-Face" on Batman: The Animated Series. In a September 2006 radio interview, Dolenz reported that he was the current voice of Snuggle the Fabric Softener Bear at that time. In 2017, Dolenz returned to voice-over providing the voice of Wendell the Love Grub, as well as singing the featured song, in the Cartoon Network series, Mighty Magiswords half-hour episode, "The Saga of Robopiggeh!". Dolenz recorded the character remotely in New York weeks before his Good Times! tour.
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 preferred a shorter Fonzie in hopes that Fonzie would not overshadow the rest of the cast, a strategy that eventually proved to be unsuccessful, as the Fonz would be the show's breakout character. 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 multiple-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.
In 1994-95, Dolenz played in two episodes of the sitcom Boy Meets World; in the first one (entitled "Band On The Run") he played Norm, a bandmate of Alan Matthews. In 1995, he joined Davy Jones and Peter Tork in episode eight of the third season (titled "Rave On"), although they did not play the Monkees per se (Dolenz's character is "Gordy" while Davy Jones is "Reginald Fairfield" and Tork is "Jedidiah Lawrence"). However, at the climax of the program, the three are put on stage together and perform the classic Buddy Holly song "Not Fade Away", and the Temptations' "My Girl". As in inside joke, actor Dave Madden, who had played the manager on The Partridge Family, cameoed as a manager who suddenly appeared wanting to handle the "new" group, telling them that they "could be bigger than the Beatles".
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 2017, he appeared as himself on the sitcom Difficult People.
In 1980, Dolenz produced and directed the British television 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 adaptation of Bugsy Malone. He was producer of the TV show Luna in 1983-84.
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, and has toured extensively as a solo artist. He 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.
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.
In 2009, Dolenz signed 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.
After Jones' sudden death in February 2012, Dolenz and Tork reunited with Michael Nesmith for a 12-concert tour of the United States as a tribute in November and December 2012.
The Monkees toured as a trio again in 2013 and 2014, and Dolenz toured with Peter Tork as a duo in 2015 and 2016. Tork died in early 2019.
Dolenz toured with Nesmith as "The Mike and Micky Show" in 2018 and 2019, performing several unreleased or deep-cut Nesmith songs.
Dolenz toured in late 2019 with Todd Rundgren, Jason Scheff, Christopher Cross and Joey Molland of Badfinger in celebration of the Beatles' White Album on the "It Was Fifty Years Ago Today - A Tribute to the Beatles' White Album" tour. Dolenz performed the Monkees' songs I'm a Believer and Pleasant Valley Sunday.
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 their daughter Ami Dolenz was born on January 8, 1969; she became an actress who was particularly active in the 1980s and 1990s. Dolenz and Juste divorced in 1975, but 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 Dow Dolenz has become a couples therapist, still using her married name. Dolenz married his third wife, Donna Quinter, in 2002.