Hey, hey, he’s a Monkee
By: Cindy Hodnett
Published: October 13, 2011
When Peter Tork and the Shoe Suede Blues take the stage at the Bucked Up Super Saloon in Kernersville on Friday, fans hoping to hear a few Monkees tunes will not be disappointed.
Tork, a former member of The Monkees, and his new band plan to play some songs made famous by American television’s answer to The Beatles. But they’ll also offer a smoldering selection of gritty blues numbers.
“I went to a Paul McCartney concert one time, and he didn’t play any Beatles songs,” Tork said during a recent interview from his home in Connecticut. “It was kind of disappointing.
“And while I’m not doing a Monkees act with Shoe Suede Blues, we still include Monkees songs. We like to shift things into a bluesier version, like our revamped version of ‘Last Train to Clarksville.’ Davy (Jones) and Mickey (Dolenz) do probably three-fourths Monkees songs when they perform, but we’re doing something different with our band.”
Tork plays a variety of instruments, including the five-string banjo, piano/keyboard, drums, guitar and bass. With Shoe Suede Blues, he plays guitar, banjo and keyboard and sings lead vocals. One of the songs the band will perform is “Ain’t Your Fault,” one of Tork’s favorites from the “Cambria Hotel” album.
“I wrote that song, and I’m very proud of it,” he said. “It has a kind of unusual chord change and is very bluesy…. All songwriters, no matter how hard they work at it, know that the words come through them. So when I say that I’m really proud of a song, what I’m really saying in a sense is, ‘Wow! Look what came through me!’ It was the same when I wrote songs for The Monkees.”
The Monkees just wrapped a successful 45th anniversary tour this summer, and the Triad performance is the first stop on Shoe Suede Blues’ fall tour. Tork last appeared in the Triad in 2006, and he said that he is looking forward to coming back.
“I love North Carolina — it’s very genial. When I was growing up, the South was not that hospitable to long-haired weirdoes, and now no one cares that I’m still a long-haired hippie.”
The long love affair between the public and Monkees shows no signs of abating, and new generations of viewers are discovering the antics of Davy, Mike (Nesmith), Mickey and Peter. Tork believes that the ongoing fascination with The Monkees is attributable to one of the television show’s underlying messages.
“Up to that point, all of the situation comedies — which is what The Monkees was — that featured young adults also featured at least one senior adult who held things together and left people thinking, ‘Thank God there’s a parent there!’ ” Tork said. “With The Monkees, there was no senior adult, and that reflected a very important shift. We came along at a time when the old guard, the ‘daddies of the country,’ was winding down, and we showed how four young adults were making it on their own. People saw a sense of community, camaraderie and common cause on the show, and they continue to respond to that.”
Tork’s trademark sense of humor is still evident more than 40 years after he joined the cast of The Monkees. He jokes about the “hard edge” of life in the north and does a wickedly funny southern accent. But when it comes to music, Tork is surprisingly introspective.
“The thing I hear most often when Shoe Suede Blues performs is from people who come to hear Monkees songs,” he says. “They’ll say something like, ‘I’m very pleased to hear how well you do the blues,’ and that means a lot. I think the blues are therapeutic, healing and powerful, and we share that with the audience. We feel like we’ve found something really special with this show.”