Peter Tork (b. February 13, 1942) is an American 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.
Tork was born Peter Halsten Thorkelson in Washington, D.C. 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, Connecticut, then was a member of the first graduating class at E.O. Smith High School in Storrs, Connecticut. He attended Carleton College before he moved to New York City, where he became part of the folk music scene in Greenwich Village during the first half of the 1960s. While there, he befriended other up-and-coming musicians such as Stephen Stills.
Stills suggested Tork audition for a new television series about four pop-rock musicians, when the producers asked if Stills 'had a better looking (musician) friend'. 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.
In commentary tracks included in the DVD release of the first season of the show, Nesmith stated that Tork was better at playing guitar than bass. In Tork's commentary, he stated that Jones was a good drummer and had the live performance lineups been based solely on playing ability, it should have been Tork on guitar, Nesmith on bass, and Jones on drums, with Dolenz taking the fronting role, rather than as it was done (with Nesmith on guitar, Tork on bass, and Dolenz on drums). Jones filled in briefly for Tork on bass when he played keyboards.
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