Today I want to introduce you to the most successful “non-drummer” in modern music history. In 1965 a beloved former child actor named Mickey Dolenz was cast as the drummer and co-lead singer in the television sitcom “The Monkees.” Based on the antics of The Beatle’s “A Hard Days Night” the show followed four hip musicians and their crazy adventures. Dolenz described The Monkees as initially being “…a TV show about an imaginary band that was never successful.”
Although he was not a drummer when he was first cast, Dolenz took lessons in order to be able to mime convincingly. He eventually became competent enough to actually perform live and periodically record. The vast majority of all Monkees music was performed by studio musicians to include the famous Wrecking Crew featuring Hal Blaine on drums. Since their inception The Monkees have sold more than 75 million records worldwide and had international hits, including “Last Train to Clarksville,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” “Daydream Believer,” and “I’m a Believer.” At their peak in 1967, the band outsold The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined.
Dolenz used several drum kits over the course of The Monkees including a standard five piece, four-piece, and a double bass kit that had the words “Drum” written on the front of each bass drum. One of the most noticeable aspects of Dolenz drumming was his unusual set-up. He learned to play right-handed and left-footed because of a leg disease called Perthes making his right leg weaker. This required the toms to be awkwardly mounted to the right with the hi-hat cymbal between them. Tambourines were often mounted on the bass drum in place of a left tom. The first kit used on the show was a Gretsch. On the road, Dolanz played a Rogers kit and also used a Slingerland kit. Since then he has been sponsored by DW and Yamaha.
Dolenz has been routinely ranked in various polls tallying the “Best Singing Drummers of All-Time.” For example, Listen To The Band ranked him #11 out of their Top 20. In 2011, Modern Drummer magazine interviewed Dolenz further solidifying his credibility as a real drummer. Over the years Dolenz has participated in various Monkees reunion tours with on-and-off again members of the original group. This led to a 1980’s hit video on MTV for their song “That Was Then, This Is Now.” Today Dolenz occasionally tours as the last active member of The Monkees.