Listen to the band! When the Monkees slayed Jacksonville’s Florida Theatre

“But today there is no day or night, today there is no dark or light, today there is no black or white, only shades of gray:” Peter Tork, Davy Jones, and Micky Dolenz join forces for an emotion-laced rendition of the Barry Mann / Cynthia Weil “Headquarters” linchpin on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre. Jacksonville was the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour” and marked Jones’ final shows with the Pre-Fab Four before a severe heart attack eight months later. Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts

The Monkees dropped a dose of good clean fun for over two and a half hours on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville. Comprising Broadway-endorsing heartthrob Davy Jones on vocals, percussion, and acoustic guitar, scintillating multi-instrumentalist Peter Tork on lead electric guitar, bass, banjo, keyboards, and French horn, balls to the wall tune belter Micky Dolenz on drums, acoustic guitar, and co-lead vocals, in addition to an eight-piece backing ensemble mostly pulled from Jones’ solo band, the North Florida show was the fourth stop on the USA leg of the 36-date “An Evening with the Monkees—The 45th Anniversary Tour.”

The entertainers were previously onstage at the theatre assigned to the National Register of Historic Places list in 2001. Mere days before disembarking in Jacksonville, the band completed a two-week, 10-city trial run in the United Kingdom at notable venues such as Liverpool’s Echo Arena and London’s Royal Albert Hall. Being their first tour in 10 years, reviews were ecstatic with solid box office.

All of the band’s greatest hits were on display in Florida. “Last Train To Clarksville,” “I’m A Believer” [revived by Smash Mouth in the animated blockbuster Shrek], “Daydream Believer,” “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” and “Valleri” are sixties sunshine pop masterpieces. Sequenced by Jones, album cuts and lowly charting A-sides were even part of the setlist. Deep fans rejoiced at the decision to tackle the complete Head soundtrack for the first time in concert. In spite of the 1968 cult film being co-written by future As Good As It Gets Oscar winner Jack Nicholson, debunking the Monkees’ cooker-cutter image, confusing teenyboppers, and doing dismally at the box office, it is now an authority-snubbing cult classic. At 40 songs and a 20-minute intermission, there was something for everybody as evidenced by joyful interpretations of “What Am I Doing Hangin’ ‘Round,” “Listen to the Band,” “Goin’ Down,” “For Pete’s Sake,” “Mary, Mary,” and “I Wanna Be Free.”

Monkees Peter Tork, Micky Dolenz, and Davy Jones prepare to stroll away arm in arm after the culmination of their May 20, 2011, 45th Anniversary Tour concert at Sheffield City Hall in Sheffield, England. By June 3 the Threekees were starting the American leg of their well-received shows in Atlanta. Image Credit: Photography by Keri Harrhy

Michael Nesmith, known affectionately as Nez, characteristically sat out the 45th anniversary. Fifteen years previously he did temporarily rejoin for Justus, which as the title implies, was a 12-song album written, performed, and produced by the quartet without any outside interference. The result? Tepid sales. A March 1997 30th anniversary tour of the UK ensued unaccompanied by supporting musicians, but after select dates and some stinging press, Nesmith decided to hang up his Monkee shoes for nearly two decades until Jones’ shocking demise played a pivotal role in his change of heart. Unfortunately, the Monkees chose not to commemorate their 40th anniversary over internal squabbling. That and troubling rumors of Jones’ brother-in-law and personal manager Joseph Pacheco extracting cash payments from promoters in advance of Monkee concerts led to 10 additional “45th Anniversary” dates being scuttled. On July 23, 2011, at the Marcus Amphitheater in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Jones entertained his last Monkee audience.

The group has always fought for respect ever since Nesmith proclaimed the band was frustrated that they were not permitted to play on their first two long players in a January 1967 interview with the Saturday Evening Post [in a couple of Nesmith-produced 1966 sessions, he finagled Tork on rhythm guitar]. That all changed with the arrival of Headquarters later that summer, as the band had wrestled control from bloviating record impresario Don Kirshner. They played and wrote the majority of the songs on Headquarters and continued to do so, albeit sporadically after the brilliant follow-up Pisces, Aquarius, Capricorn, and Jones Ltd., until they broke up in late 1970.

Yeah, that was me! In a white tuxedo and tails recreating the vaudeville sequence in the Monkees’ 1968 cult classic “Head,” Davy Jones awaits a rapturous crowd response during the finale of Harry Nilsson’s “Daddy’s Song” on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts

Critics used that revelation as further ammunition in their Monkee disdain, and the band is still not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Yet their influence is indisputable. They outsold both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in the same year that psychedelic game changers Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Their Satanic Majesties Request were unleashed.

The Monkees’ eponymous television show won two Emmys during its two-year NBC run. Their comedic, manic, non sequitur, improv humor was unheard of in the swingin’ sixties. They broke the fourth wall by speaking directly to the camera. And Nesmith planted the seeds for MTV’s formation when he dropped the “Rio” music video in 1977.

The Monkees were Moog synthesizer innovators, courtesy of Dolenz on “Daily Nightly,” Nesmith’s oblique account of the Sunset Strip hippie riots. Along with Rick Nelson and the Byrds, the band embraced and subsequently gave country music crossover appeal. Punk bands covered “[I’m Not Your] Steppin’ Stone” and “She.” Jimi Hendrix was spotted by Dolenz at the Monterey Pop Festival and given an opening slot touring with the Monkees until teenyboppers booed him off the stage one time too many.

Jones’ heart gave out eight months after the Florida Theatre, while Tork emerged victorious over a rare form of tongue cancer for a decade until succumbing to the disease in February 2019. Only Dolenz and Nesmith are still standing. A seven-date continuation of the acclaimed “The Monkees Present: The Mike Nesmith & Micky Dolenz Show” will tour Australia in June. Having faced sobering quadruple bypass heart surgery in June 2018 while on the road with Dolenz, not taking into account his longstanding mercurial streak, it is uncertain how much longer Nesmith will deliver jewels from the Monkees’ treasure chest onstage. See them while you can.

[Author’s Note: Elvis Presley was threatened with an unsigned warrant for arrest in 1956. Learn all about the police’s efforts to derail his titillating stage movements via “The Deep Heritage of Jacksonville’s Florida Theatre…And That Time Elvis Presley Could Only Move His Little Finger on ‘Hound Dog’”].

Peter Tork, Davy Jones, and Micky Dolenz of the Monkees clown around and sip milkshakes on November 28, 1987, during a Nickelodeon fan contest with charming eight-year-old winner Adrianne Bommer of Lansing, Michigan, eagerly soaking up the party atmosphere. Image Credit: The Adrianne Bommer Collection / Davy Jones’ official Facebook
A red, white, and blue poster of the Monkees’ 45th Anniversary Tour sold at concerts throughout the United States between June 3 and July 23, 2011. The sketches of drummer-singer Micky Dolenz, singer Davy Jones, and bassist Peter Tork were based on their 1966-era looks. Image Credit: Rhino Entertainment / The Jeremy Roberts Collection
A banjo-wielding Peter Tork, a maraca-shaking Davy Jones, and vocalist Micky Dolenz, modeling a black fedora and vest, perform on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
Banjoist Peter Tork, guitarist Wayne Avers, and a maraca-brandishing Davy Jones perform on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
Picking a cherry red and white Fender Stratocaster, Peter Tork, Davy Jones on a Takamine EG560C acoustic guitar, and electric guitarist Wayne Avers perform on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
Picking a cherry red and white Fender Stratocaster, Peter Tork and a tambourine-shaking Davy Jones are seen on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
“Years ago, I knew a man, he was my mother’s biggest fan:” Davy Jones and an electric guitar-wielding Peter Tork perform Harry Nilsson’s “Daddy’s Song” on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
In a white tuxedo and tails paying homage to his vaudeville sequence in the Monkees’ 1968 cult film “Head,” Davy Jones and guitarist Wayne Avers unleash Harry Nilsson’s “Daddy’s Song” on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones tenderly embrace on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Dolenz later shared the photo on Facebook upon hearing the distressing news of the Manchester Cowboy’s sudden passing on February 29, 2012. Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
The Threekees, aka Peter Tork, Davy Jones, and Micky Dolenz, are harmonious on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
Sing it something fierce, fellas! Davy Jones, Micky Dolenz, and lead electric guitarist Wayne Avers perform on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
Davy Jones the rhythm guitar ace is seen on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Jones is strumming a Takamine EG560C acoustic guitar with a wine-red finish and mother of pearl inlays to the soundhole and fingerboard. Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
Peter Tork proves his musical prowess during a French horn solo on “Shades of Gray” while Micky Dolenz and a solemn Davy Jones, attired in a gray Monkees T-shirt that airbrushed out Michael Nesmith, listen intently on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
Excuse me, kind sir. Care for a spot of tea? Peter Tork and Davy Jones are caught midway through a French horn comedy bit on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
No, I don’t think you’re gonna seize my French horn! Peter Tork and Davy Jones demonstrate their winning shtick on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
Clutching a cherry red and white Fender Stratocaster, Peter Tork and fedora-sporting frontman Micky Dolenz perform on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Incidentally, Dolenz is attacking a Taylor acoustic guitar. Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
Wearing a gray Monkees T-shirt sold at the merchandise booth, Davy Jones is workin’ hard for the money as saxophonist Aviva Maloney beams in the background on June 6, 2011, at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork comically drag a defiant Davy Jones offstage during the finale of their June 6, 2011, gig at the Florida Theatre in Jacksonville, Florida, the Monkees’ fourth stop on the North American leg of their “An Evening with The Monkees: The 45th Anniversary Tour.” Image Credit: Photography by Jeremy Roberts
Click to hear the Monkees‘ smokin’ rocker “Steam Engine,” featuring Micky Dolenz on vocals, the string-bending of Byrds lead guitarist Clarence White, and pedal steel guitar wiz Red Rhodes. Criminally, the Chip Douglas-produced track was left in the vaults for over a decade, although it could be heard in various Saturday morning rerun episodes of the quartet’s Emmy-winning NBC sitcom. Music + Video Credit: Rhino Entertainment / YouTube

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