Past, Present & Future

By Darren Paltrowitz

Millions of music fans first learned about Micky Dolenz as the drummer (and sometimes lead vocalist) of The Monkees. But almost ten years before that, Dolenz was a working actor, notably starring as “Mickey Braddock” in the television show Circus Boy. In turn, Dolenz has been working steadily for over 60 years, which ought to say a lot about the guy’s multi-generational appeal.

“I was born in a showbiz family, a very down to earth showbiz family,” began Dolenz. “My father was an actor/singer off the boat from Italy, and my mom was from Austin, Texas, who left for Los Angeles to be an actress. They met while doing a play and got married. We lived out in the Valley on a ranch with horses and gardens—and so down to earth.”

So where did his ambition come from to pursue a career in the arts? “I was following in my father’s footsteps. My earliest memories were going with him and watching him be an actor. My first screen test, I was six years old. Even before Circus Boy,” he explained. How exactly did that screen test happen, you ask? “I think it was my father’s agent who suggested I test for a role in an upcoming movie. I said, yes. I don’t ever remember being pressured in any way, but that was my first screen test.”

As Micky Dolenz has regularly performed and worked in New York, I asked how often he gets back to Manhattan. “I lived in New York for the best part of the year or two when I was doing Aida, the Elton John musical, and then I was a morning DJ at CBS-FM,” recalled Dolenz, referring to his work as the last morning show host of the radio powerhouse before it became 101.1 Jack FM in 2005. “My wife is from Philly, and all of her family’s there. Today, my two children are in the D.C. area. And, yes, I have grandchildren. So you see, I do spend a lot of time in this area.”

I pointed out to Dolenz that his family is a rarity—like the Barrymores and the Nelsons—in having three generations of entertainers since two of his daughters have gone into the entertainment world. “That’s true,” he answered. “Ami has done very well. Then my youngest daughter from another marriage, Georgia, is an actress, producer and director. She has a short film that just got accepted into Vail Film Festival that she wrote, produced, and starred in.”

Reflecting further on his musical upbringing, Dolenz discussed studying classical guitar. “My first instrument of choice was Spanish classical guitar, and I was okay for a 10- or 12-year-old kid.” It was early rock and roll that helped him land his role in The Monkees. “My audition piece was ‘Johnny B. Goode’ by Chuck Berry. I didn’t do any vocal training at the time—I just naturally sang.” Added Dolenz: “It wasn’t until I started doing Broadway when my manager said, ‘You really should start taking some vocal lessons and learn to breathe. I’m glad I took her advice because it helped, mostly when you’re not feeling great and under the weather.”

Dolenz, a multi-instrumentalist, is still notably singing in top form these days, 15 or so years following his Aida run. I asked him if this is due to genetics or taking care of the voice. “Your vocal cords are muscles. Little tiny muscles that look a little bit like guitar strings. So there is a physicality to it and you can be born with, say, a golfer’s physique or a seven-foot six basketball player’s physique,” he laughed. “You know that nature versus nurture argument. Of course, a few may have the natural gift, but then some have to nurture the talent. Think of it as a sport: You have to train. You have to take care of your body and muscles.”

Looking ahead to the coming months, Dolenz will be performing as part of the It Was Fifty Years Ago Today Tour where he and other legends will be performing The White Album by The Beatles in addition to some other hits. “I’m thrilled and flattered and quite honored to be asked to be part of this tour,” noted Dolenz. “Such incredible talent like Todd [Rundgren] and Christopher [Cross] and Jason [Scheff] and Joey [Molland]—I’m a huge fan of these people. I’m very flattered and honored to be singing with these people.”

Looking ahead, Dolenz is already booked well into 2020. “I already have solo dates in 2020. Whether or not [Monkees co-founder Mike] Nesmith and I are going to go out again as [The Monkees Present] The Mike & Micky Show, which we did very successfully, that remains to be seen. But I always have solo shows all year.”

So with Micky Dolenz’s past, present and future all looking bright, any last words for the kids, Micky? “My advice for anybody who wants to get into show business, my first bit of advice would be getting a good lawyer.” As gloomy as that sounded, Dolenz insisted that the bright days of entertainment are far from over. “The money follows art; art doesn’t follow the money. Surround yourself with people that are talented and have the same sensibilities. Then with any luck, you’ll get lucky.”