Not long before getting cast on the television sitcom The Monkees in 1965, Micky Dolenz's first adventure as a rock-and-roll singer in a cover band was in a small Denver club. A music agent had seen Dolenz sing at open-mic nights in Los Angeles and connected Dolenz with a band that included actor Eddie Hodges, and they dubbed themselves Micky and the One-Nighters.
Dolenz guesses it was either 1963 or ’64 when he spent a few weeks in Denver as a late teen, playing covers like Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” which Dolenz would later perform for his audition for the Monkees, Rufus Thomas’s “Walking the Dog,” and the Beatles' “Money (That’s What I Want).”
Nearly six decades later, Dolenz is returning to Denver to play more Beatles songs in It Was Fifty Years Ago Today: A Tribute to the Beatles' White Album, a performance that also includes Christopher Cross; Todd Rundgren, who has toured with Ringo Starr’s All Starr Band for three decades; Chicago’s Jason Scheff; and Joey Molland of Badfinger, the first band signed to the Beatles’ Apple imprint. Dolenz says that over the course of a few hours, they’ll play about 90 percent of the "White Album," while also playing a couple of their own hits.
“I don’t read reviews, but my wife does,” Dolenz says, “and she hasn’t left me yet. I gather we’re getting pretty good reviews. I mean, the album itself is pretty phenomenal. It’s a very, very eclectic album, which makes for a good stage show, because the songs are so different.”
Dolenz says he was a huge Beatles fan and immersed himself in everything the band ever did.
“But there are a couple of moments in this particular album that mean even more to me,” he says. “One of them is that I do ‘Rocky Racoon.'” I used to sing that to my children as a lullaby. And the other night in Washington D.C., where a couple of them live. I sang it. It was all I could do to not just burst into tears knowing they were in the audience, and I’m singing this song that I sang to them 25 years ago.”
While he was not the only fan of the Beatles, Dolenz, on a press junket in London for the Monkees, also befriended Paul McCartney around the time the Beatles were making Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.
“We had dinner and hung out and talked,” Dolenz says. “He invited me down to Abbey Road Studios. I was there when they were tracking “Good Morning Good Morning.” Then I was back for a couple of other things and for the big ‘Sgt. Pepper’s’ finale.”
Dolenz says the Beatles got what the Monkees were all about. “I think it was John Lennon who was the first to say ‘The Monkees are like the Marx Brothers’ — and he was absolutely right,” Dolenz says. “We were much more like the Marx Brothers than we were Beatles.
“And the show was about our struggle for success,” Dolenz says. “We never made it on the TV show. It was about the struggle. And that’s, I think, one of the reasons that endeared it to so many kids around the States and the world. It was that struggle. All these kids sitting in their bedrooms and their garages and their basements playing and learning how to play and singing. And they wanted to be famous like the Beatles.”
Now on tour playing most of the "White Album," Dolenz says they’ve been really leaving the audiences wanting more.
“Every show we’ve done, we’ve left them standing and screaming and running for the exits,” Dolenz says with a laugh. “I think if you’re a fan of the Beatles, you’ll certainly be well entertained — or Chicago or the Monkees or Todd Rundgren or Christopher Cross or Badfinger. You will certainly be well entertained.”
A Tribute to the Beatles’ White Album (with Todd Rundgren, Christopher Cross, Micky Dolenz, Jason Scheff and Joey Molland) takes place at 8 p.m., Thursday, December 5, at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place. Tickets are $49.50-$79.50 and available at Altitude Tickets.