Now I'm a believer


Davy Jones in his "Pre-Fab Four" glory days.
Davy Jones in his "Pre-Fab Four" glory days.

The passing today of Davy Jones, the diminutive lead singer of the "Pre-Fab Four," also known as The Monkees, gives me pause, as does the demise of anyone who crossed my path in the days of my youth.

I never met Davy Jones and he wasn't my favorite Monkee -- Mike Nesmith, aka "Wool Hat," was my fave because he seemed smart, allegedly knew how to play his guitar and his mother invented Liquid Paper.

I actually had a connection to another Monkee, Peter Tork (nee Thorkelson), who attended my alma mater, Carleton College, for a time several years before I arrived and shared some of my professors before he gave up education for the music biz. And I was familiar with Mickey Dolenz from his role in "Circus Boy," a short-lived TV show. 

But I have a direct link to the Monkees because I'm one of a relatively small (and dwindling) number of people who actually saw them perform "live." It was in the Summer of Love, 1967, at the now-departed Boston Garden, which was filled with screaming teenage girls and my cousin, Maynard McCorkle, and myself.

Here's how we got there: That summer, when I was 13 and gearing up for my freshman year at Brunswick High School in Brunswick, Maine, WBZ-AM was the sound of rock 'n' roll in northern New England. The best music of the period was right there at 1030 on your AM dial. And the 50,000-watt station was powerful and hip, or at least, trying to be. Its slogan that summer was "Love and Purity."

The Monkees were coming to town and WBZ had a contest to give away some tickets to lucky listeners who could complete the following phrase: "I love the Monkees and WBZ, 'cause..." Fill in the blank.

Yours truly got a postcard, filled it out with my entry and contact information and sent it off to Boston. Didn't think much more of it until one day I was sitting in a chair in King's Barbershop in Brunswick (long shuttered) and my father came in saying he'd heard my name on the radio and that I'd won two tickets to see the Monkees! 

My excitement was unbounded, but then there was the question of how to make the trip to see the show. I couldn't drive. My father had little interest. So after some negotiation we agreed to make the trip with my slightly younger cousin, Maynard, and his father, Henry McCorkle (also no longer with us.)

The four of us drove the three hours to Boston. Maynard and I went into the cavernous Garden and found our seats. My father and uncle repaired to the bar across the street. Maynard and I watched the short show during which the Monkees performed together and individually with much assistance from a group of backup musicians. The screaming was incredibly intense and non-stop.

After the show, we got back in the car and drove the three hours back up to Maine. It was a long and emotionally draining ride. But entirely worth it. We'd seen the Monkees and I'd won a contest, pretty much the only one I've won in close to 60 years of living.

So, how did I do it? Let me tell you. Here are the magic words I wrote down on the postcard during that summer that now seems like a sun-drenched, half-forgotten dream of long ago: "I love the Monkees and WBZ, 'cause 'I'm a Believer' in 'Love and Purity.' "

I still am, or at least I like to think I am. Rest in peace, Davy Jones.