A pair of WRTC hosts will feature tributes for Peter Tork who died on Feb. 21 after a long battle with throat cancer. He was 77.
The Feb. 25 edition of The Devo Rock Show and the Feb. 27 edition of The Boris Rock Show, each airing 9 a.m.-noon, will remember Tork, from his days with The Monkees along with other bands/artists he worked with as well as solo projects.
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Born Peter Thorkelson in Washington, DC, in 1942, his parents moved to Connecticut in 1950 when his father became an economics professor at the University of Connecticut. He attended Windham High School in Willimantic before heading to Carleton College in Northfield, Minn., to study French horn. It turned out to be a short-lived sojourn as Tork flunked out and moved to New York City where he began performing in folk music venues as a guitarist and banjo player. It was around this time that he shortened his last name to Tork.
During his time in New York he befriended Stephen Stills and decided to move to Long Beach, Calif., in 1965. Stills, seeing an advertisement for a part in a television series, auditioned, but didn’t get the part, partially because of his bad teeth, thinning hair and due, allegedly, because he didn’t look young enough.
Stills suggested Tork tryout and the rest, as they say, is history. Tork was selected to be part of the new series called The Monkees – basically a parody of The Beatles.
The Monkees ran for two seasons. The music was written and recorded mostly by studio musicians namely the crack collection of players known as “The Wrecking Crew, but also including Carol King, Neil Diamond, Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, and Harry Nillson.
This frustrated Tork and his fellow cohorts — Davey Jones, Mickey Dolenz and Michael Nesmith — who wanted The Monkees to be a real band. Critics noted that many of the scenes showing The Monkees performing during the show didn’t have the instruments plugged in.
The four members were successful in wresting control of the group from the network and began writing and performing their own music. Starting with the album Headquarters and winding up with the Jack Nicholson produced film Head, the Monkees began to fall apart after Tork decided to leave the group.
During their time together they sold more than 35 million records.
The Monkees had several reunions and tours that Tork participated in, including the recording of their album Good Times in 2016 and a holiday-themed release, Christmas Party which came out in 2018.
In addition to solo albums, Tork also collaborated with James Lee Stanley and had a band called Shoe Suede Blues. WRTC has a personal connection to Tork as his final album with the latter group, released last year, Relax Your Mind, was mixed by the station’s chief engineer, John Schwenk. Schwenk and Tork worked closely together in the summer and fall of 2017 mixing, editing and recording overdubs for that tribute album to Lead Belly (aka Huddie Ledbetter).