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CoastLine: Micky Dolenz, the last surviving member of The Monkees, on music and why he performs (oh - and quantum physics)

Micky Dolenz, lead singer and drummer from The Monkees, performs at UNCW on July 21, 2022.
Paul Undersinger
Micky Dolenz, lead singer and drummer from The Monkees, performs at UNCW on July 21, 2022.

Micky Dolenz, lead singer and drummer for The Monkees, agrees his most recognizable artistic achievement is his time on the TV show and with the band, but it hardly captures the breadth of his show-business career. Starting in the 1950s on the TV show Circus Boy, he played Corky, the waterboy for the elephants. He went on to perform in and direct musical theater in the West End, direct and produce TV shows for the BBC, and he continued touring as a musician. But his first loves remain architecture and science.

The Monkees exploded into American living rooms in the late 1960s through an eponymous network TV show. Four young men played members of a fictitious band struggling for success. Two of the actors were already musicians in their own right; two became proficient over the course of the show. The show won two Emmy Awards including Outstanding Comedy.

Micky Dolenz, the last surviving member of the group, played guitar but had to learn how to play drums during production. He sang lead vocals on many of the band’s bigger hits:  Last Train to Clarksville, Pleasant Valley Sunday, I’m a Believer, and he wrote songs for the group.

For years, music historians and pundits have called The Monkees the American answer to The Beatles, but Micky Dolenz insists that’s an oversimplified and inaccurate descriptor.  

While his time as a Monkee may be his most recognizable artistic achievement, it hardly captures the breadth of his show-business career. Starting in 1950s television, Micky Dolenz played the lead role in Circus Boy, a show about an orphan named Corky, who is a waterboy for circus elephants.

After The Monkees ended, Micky Dolenz went to London’s West End where he performed and directed musical theater. He directed and produced TV shows for the BBC and London Weekend Television, he acted in other American television shows, and he has continued to make music.

Two recent albums, one entitled Demoiselle, is a collection of solo tunes recorded by Dolenz in the 1980s and 90s – along with previously unreleased material. The other:  Dolenz, Jones, Boyce, and Hart:  The Guys Who Wrote ‘em and the Guys Who Sang ‘em is a remastered version of material that’s been unavailable for decades.

Micky Dolenz performs Thursday, July 21, 2022 at UNCW’s Kenan Auditorium.

Segment 1: Angie Zombek, Associate Professor of History at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, gives us an American music history lesson. She teaches a class called Rock-N-Roll and American Society.

Segment 2: Micky Dolenz, actor, musician, director, producer, science and architecture enthusiast

Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 2 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.