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Peter Tork (b. February 13, 1942) is an Americanmarker musician and actor, best known as a member of The Monkees. Although born in 1942, many news articles report him as born in 1944 as this was the date given on early Monkees press releases.

The Monkees

Tork was born Peter Halsten Thorkelson in Washington, D.C.marker and began studying piano at the age of nine, showing an aptitude for music by learning to play several different instruments, including the banjo and acoustic and bass guitars. Tork attended Windham High School in Willimantic, Connecticutmarker, then was a member of the first graduating class at E.O. Smith High School in Storrs, Connecticutmarker. He attended Carleton Collegemarker before he moved to New York Citymarker, where he became part of the folk music scene in Greenwich Villagemarker during the first half of the 1960s. While there, he befriended other up-and-coming musicians such as Stephen Stills, and after both moved to the Los Angelesmarker area, Stills suggested Tork audition for a new television series about four pop-rock musicians. Tork got the job and became one of the four members of The Monkees, who ended up being both characters in a television sitcom and a band in their own right.

Tork was a proficient musician, and though the group generally did not play their own instruments on their first two albums, he was an exception, playing what he described as "third chair guitar" on "Papa Gene's Blues," a Mike Nesmith song, on the first album. After that point he played keyboards, bass guitar, banjo, harpsichord, and other instruments on their recordings. He also wrote along with Joey Richards the closing theme song of the second season of The Monkees, "For Pete's Sake." On the television show, he was relegated to playing the lovable dummy, even though he is actually a highly intelligent, literate person, as the other Monkees have always been keen to point out in subsequent interviews.

Tork was close to his grandmother, staying with her sometimes in his Greenwich Village days, and after he became a Monkee, "Grams" was one of his most strident supporters. She managed his fan club, often writing personal letters to members, and visited music stores to make sure they carried Monkees records.

Post-Monkees

After more than two years of the show, six albums, a movie (Head), a television special, and tours across America and abroad, Tork had had enough and quit the group, striking out on his own with a group called Release and contributing banjo to George Harrison's soundtrack to the film Wonderwall. He was also credited with co-arranging a Micky Dolenz solo single on MGM Records in 1971.

In 1976, Tork reunited with fellow Monkees Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz for the recording of a Christmas single, which saw limited release.

Sire Records

A chance meeting with Sire Records executive Pat Horgan at the Bottom Line in New York City led to Tork recording a six song demo, his first recording in many years. Recorded in summer 1980, it featured Tork, who sang, played rhythm guitar, keyboards, and banjo, backed by southern rock band Cottonmouth, led by guitarist/singer/songwriter Johnny Pontiff.

Horgan produced the six tracks (which included two Monkees covers, "Shades Of Gray" and "Pleasant Valley Sunday"), with George Dispigno as engineer. The four other tracks were "Good Looker," "Since You Went Away," "Higher & Higher" and "Hi Hi Babe." Also present at the sessions were Joan Jett, Chrissie Hynde of The Pretenders, and Tommy Ramone of The Ramones. The tracks were recorded at Blue Horizon House, 165 West 74th Street, home of Sire Records, but Seymour Stein, president of Sire, rejected the demo, stating "there's nothing there." Tork recorded a second set of demos in New York City, but little is known about these (other than the fact that one track was a yet another version of "Pleasant Valley Sunday" with an unknown rock band, and featured a violin solo).

During this time Tork appeared regularly on The Uncle Floyd Show broadcast on U-68 out of New Jersey. He performed comedy bits and lip-synced the Sire recordings. Floyd claimed Peter was the "first real star" to appear on the show. (Later, Davy Jones, The Ramones and others would follow in his footsteps.)

In 1981, he released a 45 rpm single, his first solo record, and did some club performances and live television appearances, including taking part in a "Win A Date With Peter Tork" bit on Late Night with David Letterman.

Monkees reunion

In 1986, Tork rejoined fellow Monkees Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz for a highly successful 20th anniversary reunion tour. Three new songs were recorded by Tork and Dolenz for a greatest hits release. In 1987, the three Monkees recorded Pool It!. A decade later, all four group members recorded Justus, the first recordings with all four members since 1968. The quartet performed live in the United Kingdom, but for the next several years only the trio of Tork, Dolenz and Jones toured together.

Since 1986, Tork has intermittently toured with his former bandmates and also played with his own bands The Peter Tork Project and Shoe Suede Blues. In 1991, Peter Tork formed a band called The Dashboard Saints and played at a pizza restaurant in Guernevillemarker, California. In 1994, he released his first album length solo project, Stranger Things Have Happened, which featured brief appearances by Micky Dolenz and Michael Nesmith. In 1996, Peter collaborated on an album called Two Man Band with James Lee Stanley. The duo followed up in 2001 with a second release, Once Again.

As of 2006, Tork is releasing albums and touring with his band Shoe Suede Blues. The band has been playing small venues and performs original blues music, Monkees covers (blues versions of some), and covers of classic blues hits by greats such as Muddy Waters.

Tork also had an occasional roles as Topanga Lawrence's father on the sitcom Boy Meets World, as well as a guest character on 7th Heaven. In 1995, Tork appeared as himself on the show Wings, bidding against Crystal Bernard's character for the Monkeemobille.

In early 2008, Tork added "advice columnist" to his extensive resume by authoring an online advice and info column called "Ask Peter Tork" at the webzine The Daily Panic, located at thedailypanic.com

Cancer

On March 3, 2009, Tork reported on his website that he had been diagnosed with adenoid cystic carcinoma, a rare, slow-growing form of head and neck cancer. Tork underwent extensive surgery March 4, 2009 in New York Citymarker. A preliminary biopsy discovered that the cancer had not spread beyond the initial site.

"It's a bad news, good news situation," explains Tork, "It's so rare a combination (on the tongue) that there isn't a lot of experience among the medical community about this particular combination. On the other hand, the type of cancer it is, never mind the location, is somewhat well known, and the prognosis, I'm told, is good." While his doctors don't believe he'll need chemotherapy, Tork will have to undergo radiation treatment to prevent the cancer from returning. He hopes to be able to perform a planned gig with the Shoe Suede Blues in Manchester, Connecticut.

On June 11, 2009, a spokesman for Tork reported that his cancer had returned. Tork was reportedly "shaken but not stirred" by the news, and the doctors have given him an 80% chance of containing and shrinking the new tumor.

Personal life

Tork currently resides in Storrs, Connecticutmarker. He has three children:
  • Hallie Luia (b. 25 January 1970) with Reine Stewart
  • Ivan Joseph Iannoli (b. 22 December 1975) with Barbara Iannoli
  • Erica Marie (b. 15 June 1997) with an unknown girlfriend.


On November 24, 2009, on the Craig Carton - Boomer Esiason sports radio show on WFANmarker in New Yorkmarker, Tork admitted to have slept with Janis Joplin on two occasions. He also claimed to have taken LSD with John Lennon.

Song list

All songs written by Peter Tork unless otherwise noted.

  • "For Pete's Sake" (Peter Tork, Joseph Richards)
  • "Do I Have To Do This All Over Again"
  • "Can You Dig It"
  • "Lady's Baby"
  • "Tear the Top Right Off My Head"
  • "Gettin' In"
  • "MGB-GT"
  • "Merry Go Round" (Peter Tork, Diane Hilderbrand)
  • "Get What You Pay For"
  • "Sea Change"
  • "I Believe You"
  • "Miracle"
  • "Tender Is"
  • "Easy Rider"
  • "Hi Babe"
  • "Little Girl"


References

External links




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