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After The Monkees‘ official breakup in 1970, bassist Peter Tork reportedly struggled to find a new life path. Tork left the iconic singing group in 1968 using an opt-out clause in the band’s original contract. After finding it challenging to shed his Monkees persona, Tork took this surprising job to make ends meet.

Peter Tork and the cast of The Monkees including Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones.
Peter Tork and the cast of The Monkees including Mike Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Davy Jones | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Peter Tork was a folk musician prior to the Monkees tenure

Tork was a musician working and living in New York City in the late 1960s. He once played in a band with guitarist Stephen Stills (later of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young). Both tried to make it in the music and entertainment industry.

However, it was Stills who tried out for The Monkees television show. According to Villages News, when Stills was turned down because he had “bad teeth and inappropriate hair,” he encouraged Tork to try out.

Tork was subsequently hired alongside Micky Dolenz, Mike Nesmith, and Davy Jones. Together, they would become The Monkees on and off-camera.

Tork’s post-Monkees life was anything but idyllic

Peter Tork on the set of The Monkees.
Peter Tork on the set of The Monkees | King Collection/Avalon/Getty Images

According to Rolling Stone, Tork played in a band called Release after The Monkees.

However, this was the beginning of a rough chapter of Tork’s life where he faced significant personal difficulties.

He served four months in federal prison after being caught with hashish.

According to the website Chalkboard Champions, Tork became a teacher at Pacific Hills High School in Santa Monica, California, in 1975.

Tork was subsequently hired to work at the high school by Dr. Penrod Moss, the school’s director. Moss was reportedly impressed by Tork’s interview for the position. The musician would teach English, math, drama, history, and music for three years.

At 37, the former Monkees bassist also worked as a singing waiter at Great American Food and Beverage Company. He played music in between bussing tables.

Tork reunited with The Monkees in the late 1980s

The Monkees reunion tour 1986.
The Monkees’ Peter Tork, Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz in 1986 | Jim Steinfeldt/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Mike Nesmith Admitted This Monkees Bandmate Was the Group’s Unofficial Leader: ‘We Were His Sidemen’

Rolling Stone reported Tork reunited with his former Monkees bandmates in 1986. This opportunity occurred after reruns of the series fueled enough nostalgia to warrant a full-fledged reunion tour of the legendary music group.

The Monkees, minus Mike Nesmith, toured on and off through 2001.

“I have to say I kind of lost it and bolted toward the end,” Tork told Rolling Stone in 2011. “I ticked off the other guys good and proper. It was a serious mistake on my part. I was not in charge of myself to the best of my ability, and I apologized to them.”

Tork was diagnosed with the rare tongue cancer adenoid cystic carcinoma in 2009 but recovered. His cancer subsequently returned in 2018. Tork died at his home in Mansfield, Connecticut, on Feb. 21, 2019.