Peter Tork

Peter Tork in 1967
Peter Tork in 1967
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Peter Tork, who has died at 77, was the keyboard and bass player in The Monkees, the popular TV pop group which achieved widespread fame in the 1960s.

It had been conceived by the American ABC network as a family-friendly rejoinder to the swinging Sixties culture that was sweeping the world, on the back of The Beatles’ runaway success.

Even the name of the series – that of a misspelled creature – was a nod to that of the Liverpool originals.

The band did not grow organically but was manufactured by its producers, with Tork one of the four members selected in a standard actors’ casting call. The others were Micky Dolenz, Michael Nesmith, and the late English singer and sometime Coronation Street actor, Davy Jones.

Tork and Nesmith were already credible musicians, Tork having become part of the thriving folk scene in New York’s Greenwich village, and it was perhaps through their influence that the band sustained a career that far outlived the life of the series.

Peter Thorkelson was born in Washington DC, the son of an economics professor. He attended college in Minnesota, but left before graduating and moved to New York, performing in clubs with, amongst others, the future rock star Stephen Stills. They reportedly went to California together to audition for The Monkees.

The show, filmed in colour and embracing the psychedelic shades and camera movements of the times, was an instant success and Tork became an instant teen idol. A string of hits, written by others, followed. They included I’m A Believer, Daydream Believer and Last Train To Clarksville.

But it was a role that sat uncomfortably with him, and he left showbusiness shortly after the series – and a bizarre movie sequel called Head – ended, at one point becoming a high school teacher.

However, he was beset with financial problems, alcoholism and drug abuse, and served a short prison sentence in 1972 for possessing hashish.

There were various Monkees reunions and album releases over the years – this time using their own songs. The first was a 20th anniversary event and later revivals included world tours in 2011 and 2012, the latter shortly after Jones had died.

Tork also collaborated with over the years with George Harrison, for whom he played banjo.

He was diagnosed with cancer in 2009.

He is survived by his fourth wife, Pamela Grapes, whom he married in 2014, as well as two daughters and three grandchildren.