The Riff From This Monkees Song Was Supposed to Be a Joke

The Monkees definitely had a sense of humor, however, most of their songs weren’t jokes. One of the Prefab Four’s songs had a memorable riff that started out as a joke but was worked into the final version of the song because people liked it. Here’s what the notable musician behind the riff had to say about the song and his legacy.

The Monkees with a ladder
The Monkees | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

There’s a flamenco-inspired joke in one of The Monkees’ songs

The Wrecking Crew was a group of session musicians who performed on records by Frank Sinatra, Nancy Sinatra, Sonny & Cher, The Byrds, The Beach Boys, and The Monkees. One of the members of The Wrecking Crew was Louis Shelton. Shelton didn’t play on songs by all the aforementioned musicians but he worked on The Monkees’ songs. For example, he played the famous opening riffs from “Last Train to Clarksville” and “Valleri.”

During an interview with the YouTube channel for the documentary The Wrecking Crew, Shelton revealed he became more in-demand after composing the riff for “Last Train to Clarksville.” He now had all the session work he could want. Later, he came up with the memorable riff from “Valleri.” He said he had many records in his collection, including flamenco records by Carlos Montoya. During the creation of “Valleri,” he decided to play Montoya-style music on an electric guitar as a joke. He was feeling very confident that day, so he had no issue joking around.


Other people working on the song thought Shelton’s riff was great. He didn’t think they were serious. Ultimately, his riff was included in the final version of the song.

Louis Shelton’s other explanation for the riff in The Monkees’ ‘Valleri’

This wasn’t the only time Shelton explained his reasons for playing the guitar a certain way on “Valleri.” During an interview with Vintage Guitar’s YouTube channel, Shelton said he created the opening riff of “Valleri” because he had a lot of coffee that day.

Louis Shelton discussing “Valleri”

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Louis Shelton’s impact on other songs

Subsequently, Shelton had a notable career. He performed on albums by artists like Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, Sonny & Cher, Marvin Gaye, and Art Garfunkel. During an interview with Vintage Guitar, Shelton said he had an impact on other musicians. “I was a different kind of player than the older Wrecking Crew guys,” he recalls. “They were readers – they could nail anything you put in front of them. I only read chord charts.

“And my influences were different. I’d played all the Steve Cropper, Curtis Mayfield, Scotty Moore stuff – I came from that. So I’d come up with intros and fills. If I heard a lick, I wasn’t afraid to play it. Other producers started working that way more, and the demand for that kind of player grew.” Shelton had an impact on both The Monkees’ songs and other producers.