Former Monkee comfortable in Shoe Suede Blues

Peter Tork is playing the blues. If you think the former Monkee is stepping out on new ground with his group Shoe Suede Blues, just turn back to April, 3, 1966, when Tork opened for blues legend Muddy Waters at the Troubadour in Los Angeles.

Tork, who will be in concert Sunday in Toledo at DeSimone's Clubhouse, remembers the 1966 nightclub show well.

"I learned a valuable lesson there, " he said in an interview from his home in Connecticut. "Folks came to hear Muddy Waters sing the blues. The opening act should play the blues."

Tork, 64, said he played pop music until the last song, when he played a blues number. Afterward, Waters' famous harmonica player, James Cotton, came up to him and said, "Why didn't you tell me you did the blues? I would have come up and played the harp with you!"

Tork realized he missed the opportunity of a lifetime to play with Cotton, as well as to give the audience members what they came for.

He recalled another "legendary mismatch": when the psychedelic blues rock band the Jimi Hendrix Experience opened for the Monkees in 1967.

Hendrix quit the tour after two frustrating weeks, unable to find a way to play his futuristic electric blues rock for the masses of young, starry-eyed pop-music Monkees maniacs.

Tork joked about how a record label executive might have come up with the tour package.

"Someone must have said to Jimi, 'Oh, here's a great career move: We'll get you booted off some white pop group's tour and it will boost your credibility among the rebels and the blues aficionados, '" Tork said.

One of the original Monkees, Tork was signed in 1965 to play the role of a rock star in a TV show about a pop band, also featuring Davy Jones, Mike Nesmith, and Mickey Dolenz.

Although he was an accomplished musician who could play guitar, keyboards, and bass guitar, Tork - like the other stars of the show - was not allowed to play on the Monkees recordings at first.

It was only until they stood their ground and insisted, after their first two multimillion-selling albums, that they got approval from the corporate bosses to play on their third album, "Headquarters."

Asked if it was "pandemonium" during the Monkees' heyday, Tork paused.

"'Pandemonium.' Milton coined that term. It means 'all demons, " he said. "It is also the root for the word 'demented.' Yes, there were all kinds of devils running around. But when we say pandemonium, what we mean is chaos. And this was not chaos. This kind of project does not get off the ground with chaos. It was very well organized."

Tork said he considers the Monkees' songbook, which includes such hits as "Last Train to Clarksville, " "I'm a Believer, " "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" (the latter two written by Neil Diamond), and "Pleasant Valley Sunday" to be among "the top five in the history of rock."

Tork said he, Dolenz, and Jones keep in touch and remain close friends, but "Mike is persona non grata." He said the three Monkees had a falling out with Nesmith after he backed out of a scheduled tour at the last minute.

In addition to playing the blues, Tork now writes an advice column for the Web site "The Daily Panic."

"It's like a lot of things, and it's like the blues, " he said. "A huge measure of my life experience has sort of coalesced into a structure that makes a lot of sense to me and I blessedly have not lost my sense of humor. At least I still laugh about the absurdities of life and the contradictions. So I have kind of a sense of the order of things and when people tell you their problems, you can see them as violations of the order of things."

Peter Tork and Shoe Suede Blues will be in concert at 7:30 p.m. Sunday at DeSimone's Clubhouse, 1633 West Laskey Rd. Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. Information: 419-478-2539.

Contact David Yonke at: or 419-724-6154.

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