The Monkees would soon come under fire from music critics, however, when it was learned that session musicians — and not the group's members — had played the instruments on their recordings. They were derided as the "Prefab Four," an insulting comparison to the Beatles' nickname, the "Fab Four."
In reality, Jones could play the drums and guitar. Although Dolenz, the group's drummer on the show, only learned to play that instrument after he joined the Monkees, he also could play guitar.
Nesmith played guitar and wrote numerous songs, both for the Monkees and others. Tork, who played bass and keyboards on the TV show, was a multi-instrumentalist.
The group eventually prevailed over the show's producers, including Kirshner, and began to play their own instruments. Regardless, they were supported by enviable talent.
Carole King and Gerry Goffin wrote "Pleasant Valley Sunday," and Neil Diamond penned "I'm a Believer." Musicians who played on their records included Billy Preston, who later played with the Beatles, Glen Campbell, Leon Russell and Ry Cooder.
If the critics didn't initially like them, the group's members had admirers among their fellow musicians.
"The Monkees were such a sensation that it was a thrill for me to have them record some of my early songs," Neil Young tweeted Wednesday.
Frank Zappa even appeared on an episode of the show, disguised as Nesmith for a bit in which he pretended to interview Nesmith, who was disguised as Zappa.
Jimi Hendrix opened for the group during part of its 1967 concert tour. He left early, however, in part because fans kept chanting Jones' name during his sets.
Eventually, even the critics would come around, with Rolling Stone's rock encyclopedia acknowledging that the Monkees made "some exceptionally good pop records."
After the TV show ended, Jones continued to tour with the group for a time, sometimes playing the drums at concerts when Dolenz came up front to sing.
"He was one of the funniest men and most talented I have ever known," Tork said in an interview Wednesday night.
Although the group would eventually break up over creative differences, it would reunite periodically over the years for brief tours, usually without Nesmith.
In 1987, Jones, Tork, and Dolenz reformed to record the album, "Pool It," and in 1996 all four of the Monkees got back together for the album "Justus" and a TV movie "Hey, Hey, It's The Monkees!" The film, directed by Nesmith, featured them once again tooling around in the Monkeemobile.
"David's spirit and soul live well in my heart, among all the lovely people," Nesmith said in a statement Wednesday.
For "Justus," the quartet's last recording, the four made a point of playing every instrument themselves, in part to prove that they could.
Although the Monkees received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1989, one honor that has eluded the group was induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. For years, supporters have circulated petitions demanding that the group be included.
Jones, meanwhile, continued to perform, both with and without the Monkees. In recent years, he appeared from time to time on television and stage, as well as in concert with a band of his own.
It was on the stage, he said, that he truly felt comfortable.
"Even today, I have an inferiority complex," he told the Daily Mail in an interview last year. "I always feel I'm there at the window, looking in. Except when I'm on stage, and then I really come alive."
He is survived by his wife, Jessica Pacheco, and four daughters from previous marriages.
Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Matt Sedensky, Nekesa Mumbi Moody, Frazier Moore and Hillel Italie.
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