Why The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz ‘Opened for an Elephant’ For His 1st Gig


  • The Monkees‘ Micky Dolenz went on a press junket for another television show.
  • He “opened for an elephant.”
  • During the gig, Dolenz played a famous song from the 1950s.
The Monkees' Micky Dolenz with a guitar
The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz | Michael Putland / Contributor

The Monkees‘ Micky Dolenz was once famous for appearing in a completely different television series. He was once asked to promote the series by playing music. Subsequently, he played a famous comedy song from the 1950s.

The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz starred on a television show as a child

Before becoming one of The Monkees, Dolenz was most known for starring in the 1950s television series Circus Boy. He was a child when he appeared on the show. During a 2022 interview with Forbes, Dolenz revealed how he promoted the series.

“As far as my musical experience, my first performance, I was 10 years old promoting the series Circus Boy,” Dolenz recalled. “I had learned to play the guitar and was strumming along. So they sent us on this press junket.”

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The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz played a famous 1950s song while ‘opening for an elephant’

Dolenz played a famous novelty song as part of the press junket. “I went across the country in a train with my pet elephant for this press junket,” he recalled. “And we ended up at Kennywood Park in Pittsburgh, a famous amusement park, doing a publicity thing. They said, ‘Can you sing anything on that guitar?’ I said, ‘I know a couple of things. Like ‘Purple People Eater.'” 

Dolenz has a recording of the performance. “There was a little three-piece bandstand band and they knew the song and backed me up,” he remembered. “And actually I found a multi-track recording of this. But I sang two or three little songs with my guitar. And then the elephant came out and did all of those elephant circus tricks. So, basically, my first professional gig, I opened for an elephant.”

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How Sheb Wooley’s ‘The Purple People Eater’ performed on the charts in the United States and the United Kingdom

One of the songs Dolenz performed at his first gig, Sheb Wooley’s “The Purple People Eater,” became a hit in the United States. It reached No. 24 on the Billboard Hot 100, staying on the chart for four weeks. None of Wooley’s other singles charted as highly on the Billboard Hot 100.

“The Purple People Eater” became popular in the United Kingdom as well. According to The Official Charts Company, the song reached No. 12 in the U.K. and lasted eight weeks on the chart. None of Wooley’s other singles charted there. “The Purple People Eater” would have renewed relevance when it was adapted into the 1988 children’s film Purple People Eater.

Dolenz’s first gig wouldn’t have been the same without “The Purple People Eater” or an elephant’s tricks.

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