The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz Revealed How Elvis Presley Changed His Life as a Musician

TL;DR:

  • The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz drew inspiration from songs by Elvis Presley, Johnny Mathis, Chuck Berry, and others.
  • Dolenz was starstruck when he met Mathis.
  • The Monkees released a brief cover of one of Elvis’ songs.
The Monkees' Micky Dolenz with an apple on his head
Micky Dolenz of The Monkees | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The Monkees‘ Micky Dolenz drew a lot of inspiration from songs by other musicians. He revealed how Elvis Presley‘s songs inspired him. Notably, The Monkees released a cover of one of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll’s most famous tracks.

The Monkees’ Micky Dolenz revealed how early rockers impacted him

During a 2021 interview with Forbes, Dolenz discussed his musical upbringing. He revealed he first started listening to the radio when he was 12 or 13 years old. One of the first songs he heard was “Little Star” by The Elegants. He was impressed by the song. Dolenz said this was an era when top 40 radio mattered.

“I gravitated toward, and still to this day do, to good old rock ‘n’ roll,” Dolenz revealed. “My heroes. I was a fan of Little Richard, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino. Johnny Mathis — I’m a huge fan. In fact, I saw him for the first time in concert a couple of years ago and I was starstruck!”

Dolenz revealed what happened when he encountered Mathis. “I got to meet him after,” he said.” And he’s like, ‘It’s nice to meet you, kid.’ ‘Oh my god, it’s Johnny Mathis!’ Nat King Cole. Jerry Lee Lewis.”

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How Elvis Presley’s early songs inspired Micky Dolenz

Dolenz revealed some of Elvis’ songs changed his life and made him into the musician he is today. “But in terms of the rock ‘n’ roll, Elvis — but only the very early stuff when he was still a rock ‘n’ roller,” he recalled. “And that was the stuff that inspired me as a singer.”

Dolenz added he covered 1950s rock classics before joining The Monkees. “When I had cover bands before The Monkees, that’s the stuff I would sing,” he remembered. “‘Johnny B. Goode.’ ‘Money (That’s What I Want)’ by Barrett Strong. ‘Great Balls of Fire.’ That kind of stuff. That’s where I was going. That’s where I was heading vocally.”

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The Monkees covered Elvis Presley’s ‘Don’t Be Cruel’

Dolenz connection to Elvis didn’t end there. In 1967, The Monkees released the album Headquarters. It was the first album where they made major contributions to the songwriting. While creating the album, the Prefab Four recorded Elvis’ “Don’t Be Cruel.” The Monkees’ “Don’t Be Cruel” is a piano rendition of the song with no vocals.

The cover was excluded from the final tracklist of Headquarters. Headquarters became a hit in the United States. For one week, the album topped the Billboard 200. It spent 68 total weeks on the chart. Eventually, The Monkees’ “Don’t Be Cruel” was released on an album called The Headquarters Sessions that included previously unreleased material recorded for Headquarters.

In the United Kingdom, Headquarters was a hit too. According to The Official Charts Company, the album peaked at No. 2. It stayed on the chart for 19 weeks.

Elvis inspired one of The Monkees — and the group even covered one of his songs.

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