The Monkees as a music group officially disbanded in 1970, even though Peter Tork had left the band after the show was canceled in 1968.
After the success of the movie A Hard Day's Night, producers Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider were hired to develop a television series to mimic the Beatles. Their first thoughts were to hire the Dave Clark Five, but they were too famous and weren't interested. Next they considered the Lovin' Spoonful, whose band persona was perfect for the show. But they ended up using four unknowns, who would be easier to control and would be much cheaper.
Convicted mass murderer Charles Manson had been rumored to have been one of the musicians who had tried out for the Monkees, but this rumor was probably started by Manson himself, considering he was in jail while the auditions were going on.
Mike Nesmith had to pay nearly a half million dollars to get out of his contract as a Monkee in late 1969.
It was not widely known at the time of the show's run, that the Monkees did not play any of their instruments on their first two albums, except for Peter Tork who played guitar on Papa Gene's Blues. All instruments were played by recording studio session players, including Glen Campbell, Mike Deasy, Hal Blaine and Carole Kaye.
Other musicians who auditioned for The Monkees and later reached international fame include Danny Hutton (Three Dog Night) and Harry Nilsson, both of whom were rejected for the band.
Davy Jones had previous acting experience and was already under contract to Screen Gems studio, who were anxious to place him in a series and jumped to include him in the casting call.
All four actors chosen for the show were required to take part in a special six week improvisational acting course, which was conducted on set by director James Frawley.
Dolenz, Nesmith, Jones and Tork each were paid only $450.00 per episode during the first season of the show. With The Monkees being such a run away hit series, they got a second season raise to $750.00 per episode, a pittance compared to today's stars' salaries of $100,000.00 or more per episode on a hit show.
Out of the four musicians cast as the Monkees, only Mickey Dolenz had any serious television acting experience, in the lead role of the series Circus Boy, which ran from 1956 to 1958.
Singer/songwriter Stephen Stills was actually cast as a member of the Monkees, but dropped out of the band at the last moment when he discovered that the contract he was about to sign would grant Columbia Pictures the publishing rights to all of his songs, a mistake The Beatles had made in 1963 and he was not about to repeat. He went on to co-found the Buffalo Springfield.
Out of the 437 actors and musicians who responded to the casting call announced in Variety magazine, only Michael Nesmith was hired as a result of the advertisement.
During The Monkees original airing on NBC from September 12, 1966 to September 9, 1968, it dominated it's Monday night time slot at number 1.
While The T.V. series was on the air,the Monkees themselves were also making hit albums, by the time the group finally disbanded in 1970 (first time) the group had a total of 9 albums.
The Monkees were Peter Tork (Peter Halsten Thorkelson), Michael Nesmith (Robert Michael Nesmith), Micky Dolenz (George Michael Dolenz Jr.), and Davy Jones (David Thomas Jones).
Davy Jones: The Monkees episodes went out for $75,000 [each]. I mean that's all they cost. That was unheard of. And that was because of the co-operation and the excitement and because of the originality and the enthusiasm from all the different areas.
Davy Jones: People always expect you to be jumping out of a Rolls Royce and being in the papers for drunk and disorderly or sleeping around. I'm a family man with [four] kids. I own property in a quiet little town of Pennsylvania. I've got an apartment in Hollywood. I own a place in Australia. I've got a farm in England where I breed horses. It's very difficult over the years when people say. "Oh, you're making a comeback." When you say comeback, it sounds like you've been somewhere. I've been so active.
Peter Tork: My favorite Monkees' music is Riu Chiu, an a capella song, done live for the 1966 Christmas Special, which was never done before because filming time is twenty fives times more expensive than recording time. The vocal work is wonderful, the best thing the Monkees ever did. My favorite single is Pleasant Valley Sunday and my favorite album is Head.
Peter Tork: Stephen Stills and I were the kids who looked alike in Greenwich Village. We went to the West Coast together, and Stephen called me up one day and said that he had met a producer who was making a TV show based on A Hard Day's Night. Stephen suggested that I should try it out. I asked Stephen, why not you? Stephen told me that he had and the producers said that he wouldn't look good on TV. Stephen had been told that his hair was thin and his teeth were crooked. The TV producers wanted someone who looked liked him but with better teeth and hair, and I fitted the bill.
Micky Dolenz: Timothy Leary said that the Monkees brought long hair into the living room. I think that there might be something to that. The only times you saw kids with long hair on television was when they were being arrested. Then the Monkees came along and showed them four rather sanitized long haired hippies with bell bottoms. It was just being normal nice kids.
Micky Dolenz: We...helped put MTV on the map. You can't say that the Monkees were the first to mix film and music. Look at the Beatles with A Hard Day's Night and Help and before that were the Beach Bingo movies with Frankie Avalon.
Michael Nesmith: There is a journey that we're all on, and I'm on it. Where it rolls, it rolls. There is a certain logic to events that pushes you along a certain path. You go along the path that feels the most true, and most according to the principles that are guiding you, and that's the way decisions are made.
Michael Nesmith: Making decisions has never been a struggle for me. It's not always been happy, but the unhappiness or the uncomfortable times I do not count as substantial, so they fade away. And what is substantial, what's left is the good. That's where it all sort of settles in, I think.