Neko Chohlis first met Micky Dolenz when the two attended college together in Los Angeles in the early 1960s. From that friendship with Micky, Neko became involved in the Monkees project, traveling with the group throughout 1967, and later providing artwork for Monkees albums and picture sleeves (seen below). Today, Neko is known for his work as an abstract artist.
Recently Neko was a guest on Plastic EP Live TV where he gave a fascinating interview that included his recollections of meeting Paul McCartney, John Lennon, and Jimi Hendrix while on tour with The Monkees, his dealings with Colgems Records, how Davy Jones befriended Jan Berry (of Jan and Dean fame) after Berry's auto accident, his previously unknown contributions to The Monkees' 1968 single, "D.W. Washburn," and much more!
Neko Chohlis designed the artwork for various Monkees albums and picture sleeves, and traveled with the group while on tour in 1967. During the August 20, 1967 performance in Denver, Colorado at the Denver Coliseum, Neko treated The Monkees to cotton candy. Note that Mike is shown playing a 12-string Fender acoustic guitar after difficulties experienced with his usual Gretsch.
David Pearl takes you behind the scenes of the second official Monkees concert (and New Year's Eve 1966)
The Monkees played their first full-length live concert on December 3, 1966 at the Honolulu International Centre Arena in Honolulu, Hawaii. Their next show occurred in Denver, Colorado on December 26. In this article (from the May 1967 issue of 16 Magazine) David Pearl examines that second date along with the group's other concerts in late 1966.
Pearl was a friend of Mike Nesmith's from Texas who eventually moved to California and immediately became involved in the Monkees project. Through Nez, he was selected as Peter's stand-in on the television show and was often seen as an extra on many episodes of The Monkees. He also became very good friends with Davy. Pearl traveled with the group while on tour, and in 1969 co-managed the trio of Micky, Davy and Mike.
The artwork of Neko Cholis, photographed in the article above, was featured on several different Monkees releases.
By the time The Monkees Present was released in October 1969, the group's commercial fortunes had dwindled. Their eighth LP, it peaked at a disappointing #100 on the Billboard charts. Original plans were more substantial than the product that was finally delivered. "It's going to be a double album," Micky said during an appearance on The Hy Lit Show in late 1968, "where we'll each have a side where we produce our own particular sounds, whatever." Peter Tork's subsequent departure, combined with The Monkees' steady drop in popularity, nixed those ideas.
When The Monkees Present hit record stores, the original double album concept had been pared down to a single disc. Even the cover art fell victim to the group's plummeting fame. Michael Nesmith recalled the change years later in a conversation with Andrew Sandoval. "The one that had the black and white cover done with Marks-A-Lot," said Nez when referring to Neko Chohlis' sleeve design, "that was supposed to be in color. Apparently it was in color and they wouldn't do a color separation, because by that time we were, you know, as cold as yesterday's soup. Nobody would spend any money."
In 1994, The Monkees Present made its compact disc debut courtesy of Rhino Records. It was finally issued with a color cover, redrawn and designed by Lisa Sutton:
Here's the unused original color gatefold art for The Monkees Present. Like the color cover design, the gatefold style was not utilized when the LP was ultimately pressed.
Neko takes you through The Monkees filming Head in a California desert, and reveals behind the scenes activities like Michael driving Davy and company around the desert, jamming between takes, and more. This article was originally published in the June 1968 issue of Tiger Beat.
This article, written by Neko Chohlis, appeared in the February 1968 issue of Fave magazine.
Thanks to Stephen Jones for submitting his latest piece of artwork, saying he was inspired by Neko Chohlis:
This article originally appeared in the March 1968 issue of Tiger Beat's Monkee Spectacular. For easier reading, click on each image and then click on it again.
Monkees fan, collector, and author Ed Reilly recently shared these images with the Live Almanac of a mock-up cover for the 1969 greatest hits album. Artist and Monkees associate Neko Chohlis designed this prototype for the project, with inspiration from Micky Dolenz. The concept was scrapped by The Monkees' label, Colgems, for budget reasons and for the fact that it would be too difficult to manufacture.
Thanks again, Ed, for sharing!
Here's the track listing on the mock-up cover:
The final released version of the album art appears below and was also designed by Neko Chohlis.
Neko's work can also be seen on the cover of The Monkees Present LP, as well as the picture sleeves for "Tear Drop City" and "Good Clean Fun."