The First Fake Band

In 1966, the Monkees were the best-selling rock band in the United States and they were the first music act to win an Emmy, of which the band and show earned two, as well as being the only act to have its first four albums go to number one on the Billboard charts, something even the Beatles failed to accomplish.  The Monkees were a manufactured group a Hollywood creation whose only contributions to the records were their voices.  In 1958, two TV producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider formed Raybert Productions.  Bob Rafelson wrote and directed Five Easy Pieces starring Jack Nicholson, and Bert Schneider worked with Rafelson producing Easy Rider.  They wanted to try and create slapstick and absurd comedy something like what the Beatles did in their 1964 film A Hard Day’s NightThey began developing their series and at first, they wanted to hire an established band, such as Herman’s Hermits or the Lovin Spoonful, but they decided against that, because they didn’t want to deal with record company contracts.  They understood the magic of TV, and they knew that their band wouldn’t even have to be musicians, as the instruments would be unplugged and the songs could be re-recorded later in a music studio.  They only had to look convincing and acting experience wouldn’t be necessary, either.  In 1965, they ran an ad in Hollywood looking for Folk & Roll Musicians, Singers for acting roles in new TV series.  After a three-month search interviewing 437 applicants, they ended up with two professional actors and two professional musicians all of whom could sing and they were all funny.

21 year old Micky Dolenz was a former child star, who starred in the adventure series Circus Boy in 1956, where he played the title character, Corky, an orphaned water boy adopted by a traveling circus who worked under the big top, with the stage name Mickey Braddock.  When Micky was 18, he formed his own group called the ‘Missing Links’ where he was the lead singer and guitarist, but the group changed their name to ‘Micky and the One Nighters’ because, they were playing one night stands at bowling alleys.  He was hired to be the drummer, even though he couldn’t play the drums or even make it look like he could.  His singing, however, was top-notch, so he ended up singing on most of the Monkees’ hits.  Davy Jones also 21, from Manchester, England who at the age of 11, starred in the daytime soap opera ‘Coronation Street’, as well as other productions such as ‘June Evening’ and the BBC radio plays, ‘There Is a Happy Land’ & ‘The Morning Story’ and also toured with the musical Oliver! in 1962.  Davy was hired as the “official” lead singer and he also played tambourine capturing the hearts of millions of teen-aged girls with his long hair and charming English accent.

Stephen Stills tried out for the Monkees, but because of his thinning hair and bad teeth, they thought he looked too old, however he recommended an ex-bandmate named Peter Tork who he worked with in Greenwich Village on the East coast and they hooked up again out West in Huntington Beach CA, where they both played in Buffalo Fish which would later become Buffalo Springfield.  Before joining the Monkees, Peter Tork had experience playing bass, guitar, piano, electric keyboards, steel guitar, drums and the banjo.  Tork was 24 and he was working as a dishwasher when he got the audition. He was a guitarist, but in this band, he would play bass.

21 year old Mike Nesmith had worked as a session guitarist up and down the East Coast before moving to Los Angeles with his wife Phyllis Barbour in 1965.  He managed to get a record contract with Colpix Records and released several 45s as well as appearing on ‘Lloyd Thaxton’s’ syndicated teen dance show.  Mike was playing in a band called the Survivors along with Bill Chadwick and John London at the famous Ledbetter’s club in Los Angeles and the Troubadour in Hollywood.  Mike was already a successful songwriter he’d written Frankie Laine’s ‘Pretty Little Princess’ and he was on his way to a successful music career when he auditioned for the show.  Nesmith was the only one who actually saw the ad in Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.  He arrived on a motorcycle wearing his trademark wool cap and he became the lead guitarist.

Raybert having assembled their four musicians, still did not have a name for the band.  Some possibilities that were tossed around were the Creeps, the Turtles, and the Inevitables.  Then Schneider suggested taking a cue from how the Beatles how they had misspelled ‘beetles’, and they turned ‘monkeys’ into Monkees.  Screen Gems’ head of music, Don Kirshner, was hired to develop the band’s sound into something catchy and marketable.  Kirshner tapped top songwriters of the day, including Neil Diamond, Tommy Boyce, Bobby Hart, and Carole King, who contributed to the band’s hits, such as ‘Last Train to Clarksville’, ‘I’m a Believer’, and ‘Daydream Believer’.  As the show progressed, the Monkees began writing their own songs, which the television studio wouldn’t let them record.  By 1967, they’d managed to get enough creative control to play the music as well as sing.  By the band’s third album the musicians were actually playing and singing much of their own music (with the frequent aid of session musicians).  With six albums by the original line-up, a television show that lasted two seasons, a feature length movie and songs still played on the radio today, it’s hard to tell where the actors ended and the real band began.

The songwriting team of Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart wrote ‘Valleri’ in 1966.  The pair met in 1959 and moved to New York to write songs.  Boyce had previously written a song called ‘Be My Guest’ for rock and roll star Fats Domino, which hit #8 in the US and #11 in the UK, becoming Domino’s biggest hit there in several years, and sold over a million copies.  Hart was involved in the songwriting for Little Anthony & the Imperials’ ‘Hurt So Bad’.  Boyce & Hart were a West Coast equivalent to the kind of craftsmanship and methodology espoused by Brill Building songwriting teams.  In 1964, they had their first nibble on the charts with a minor hit for Chubby Checker called ‘Lazy Elsie Molly’.  They went on to write hits for Jay & the Americans ‘Come a Little Bit Closer’, Paul Revere and the Raiders ‘(I’m Not Your) Steppin’ Stone’ and The Leaves ‘Words’.  They had their greatest success as the musical masterminds of The Monkees.  They wrote the theme song for the TV show and became the group’s producers after attempts with Mickie Most, Snuff Garrett and Carole King didn’t work out.  ‘Valleri’ was a #3 on Billboard Hot 100 hit, and it also spent two weeks at #1 on Cash Box in early 1968.  The song also rose to #1 in Canada, and #12 in the UK.

‘Valleri’ was created at Monkees mastermind Don Kirshner’s request who was looking for a song that had a girl’s-name for the band’s television series.  Valleri was the name of a girl Hart pined for in high school, and it became the title of the song when they were shouting girls’ names back and forth for Kirshner.  Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart delivered one of the group’s best psychedelic rockers, complete with a busy flamenco guitar solo and a rumbling beat.  The original recording was instrumentally backed by the Candy Store Prophets, plus session musician Louie Shelton who added a flamencoesque guitar solo.  The Candy Store Prophets’ rhythm section comprised drummer Billy Lewis, bassist Larry Taylor, a future Canned Heat member and longtime Tom Waits sideman, and guitarist Gerry McGee.

This song was featured in the show’s first season in 1967, but the first version of ‘Valleri’ went unreleased, it received radio airplay because two DJs taped the audio directly from the video, one in Chicago, one in Florida, and as demand for anything Monkees began to spread, they played this taped TV version on their radio shows.  Listeners called the stations airing the rough mix of ‘Valleri’ asking where they could buy a copy of the record that they had just heard.

Nesmith led the fight to have the Monkees play their own instruments and write songs for their albums.  The band’s record label Colgems eventually did acquiesce on their third album Headquarters released in 1967, where the Monkees played their own instruments, wrote eight of the 14 selections, and produced the album (with a little help from their friend Chip Douglas). Kirshner had a falling out with The Monkees (especially Mike Nesmith) and he was fired in early 1967 after releasing ‘A Little Bit Me, a Little Bit You’ without first informing the group, so the song never made it to that second album, which was released in April.  After the Monkees parted ways with Don Kirshner they wanted to write their own material, which meant the end for Boyce and Hart.  Lester Sill head of Colgems Records thought that ‘Valleri’ could be released as a single, but since the track was produced by Boyce and Hart, the original recording couldn’t be released.  Sill approached Boyce and Hart, who agreed to produce a re-recorded unaccredited session track for ‘Valleri’.  The remade ‘Valleri’ made it to Number Three in the US, and was to be the band’s last top ten hit.  It was also their last single to receive a push from their television series and it became the last single to be certified gold.

During the summer of 1967, Hendrix was popular in the United Kingdom, but he was still basically unknown in the United States.  Hendrix ended up as the opening act for The Monkees, who were in the middle of their successful 1966-1968 TV series run and this unexpected pairing seems like serendipity.  In 2012, Davy Jones age 66 passed away in Stuart, Florida from a severe heart attack resulting from arteriosclerosis.  In July of 2018, Mike Nesmith underwent quadruple bypass heart surgery after having trouble catching his breath and having two brief trips to the emergency room.  Hank Cicalo is an American recording engineer who worked with The Monkees, Carole King, Barbra Streisand, and George Harrison.  The original rear album cover for Headquarters featured a mislabeled photo that identified Hank Cicalo as sitting next to Chip Douglas.  This was corrected by substituting a different photo rather than revising the caption.

Valleri I love my Valleri
There’s a girl I know who makes me feel so good
And I wouldn’t live without her, even if I could
They call her Valleri
I love my Valleri

Oh yeah, come on

She’s the same little girl who used to hang around my door
But she sure looks different than the way she looked before
I call her Valleri
I love my Valleri

Valleri I love my Valleri
I love my Valleri
I need ya, Valleri

Written for Daily Addictions prompt – Caption, for Sheryl’s A New Daily Post Word Prompt – Acquiesce, for Ragtag Community – Serendipity and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Emergency.

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