Wayne Avers speaks to The Monkees Live Almanac about "The Mike Nesmith & Micky Dolenz Show" and the touring band
On June 1, Michael Nesmith and Micky Dolenz will begin their first tour as a duo at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Chandler, Arizona. Entitled "The Monkees Present: The Mike Nesmith & Micky Dolenz Show," fans have already been promised a set list full of surprises and deep cuts, and the 17-date tour is likely to be one of the most unique in the live performance history of The Monkees.
Longtime Monkees guitarist and musical director Wayne Avers recently spoke with the Live Almanac about the upcoming concerts. "The Nez and Micky combination gives us a chance to play some songs that have never been played live by The Monkees before," Wayne said. "It's also the 50th anniversary of the movie Head, so we will highlight some of the songs from its soundtrack. And of course, besides all of the new selections added to the set list, we will play all of the classic Monkees hits everyone loves to hear."
Wayne also revealed the musicians that will constitute the backing band, and the lineup includes both familiar and fresh faces. "We have added steel guitarist Pete Finney (from Nez’s First National Band) and Paul Kramer from Nashville on fiddle/banjo/guitar so we can replicate the more country-influenced songs of The Monkees more accurately."
Wayne Avers / Guitars & Vocals
Wayne Avers is no stranger to Monkees fans. He has been a part of The Monkees' family since the group's 30th Anniversary Tour in 1996, acting as musical director and handling lead guitar duties. Wayne has performed onstage with all four Monkees at Wembley in 1997, appeared twice on The Tonight Show with the group, and took part in The Monkees' massive 50th Anniversary celebrations in 2016. Residing in Nashville, Wayne is an ardent collector of guitars. "I play the guitar because I saw The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964," he told the Live Almanac in April 2017.
Christian Nesmith / Guitars & Vocals
Christian is Michael's eldest son and first joined The Monkees' touring band upon his father's return to the group in 2012. His songs have been heard in both film and TV (Blades of Glory, The Hills Have Eyes, Lionheart) and he has composed commercials for companies ranging from AOL to ESPN to Starbucks. His theater credits include being the musical director for the first ever production of Hair in Moscow, Russia. Christian was also musical director for Hair in Los Angeles in 2007 (which also featured Circe Link), and that production was awarded Best Musical of the Year by LA Weekly. In 2016, Christian contributed greatly to the arrangement of "Birth of an Accidental Hipster," a key track from The Monkees' album Good Times!
John Billings / Bass
John Billings was introduced to the Monkees family by Wayne Avers. "Wayne had been in the Monkees circle for nearly 20 years and had, at that time, run Micky Dolenz's band. The bass chair opened and Wayne brought me into the fold," John told Epiphone.com. John resides in Nashville, where he owns a recording studio. When performing with The Monkees live in concert, John received some good advice from Avers on how to approach the songs. "Wayne gave us a fundamental direction," John said. "Go back to the records."
Rich Dart / Drums
Rich Dart began his association with The Monkees in 2010 when he started playing drums for Micky Dolenz during his solo performances. He joined The Monkees' backing band in 2012 when Micky, Michael, and Peter Tork delivered a series of concerts in honor of Davy Jones. Rich has had an eclectic career as a free-lance percussionist. He has played with various symphonies, jazz groups, theater troupes, rock bands, country bands, and percussion ensembles. Rich also played drums for Avenue Q on Broadway and for its first national tour, and traveled with a production of Pippin.
Pete Finney / Pedal Steel Guitar
Paul Kramer / Banjo, Fiddle, Guitar
Paul Kramer is a Nashville-based multi-instrumentalist, vocalist, and songwriter, and this Nesmith/Dolenz tour will mark his first association with The Monkees. Paul has toured with nationally known recording acts including Gary Allan, Travis Tritt, Pam Tillis, Suzy Bogguss, and the Special Consensus Bluegrass Band. His fiddle and mandolin stylings have graced the recordings of Lionel Cartwright, Suzy Bogguss, Leon Russell, Willie Nelson, Buddy Spicher & Vassar Clements, and Carolyn Martin. He has released three CDs: Swing Street, The Bloggrass Boys and Low Budget Christmas. He currently performs with several bands including Paul Kramer & Swing Street, 50 Shades of Hay, The Grassaholics, Nashville Fiddle Mafia, and on the General Jackson showboat. (Biography courtesy of 50shadesofhayband.com)
Alex Jules / Keyboards & Vocals
Alex Jules is new to the band (replacing longtime Monkees keyboardist Dave Alexander) and is a New York born and raised rock and roll singer/songwriter now based in Los Angeles. You can sample some of Alex's work on SoundCloud.
Coco Dolenz / Vocals
Micky's sister, Coco, has a long history with The Monkees. She provided harmony and background vocals on such Monkees tracks as "Shortly Blackwell," "Little Girl," "Midnight Train," and "Mommy and Daddy." She wrote for teen magazines in the 1960s at the height of her brother's fame, and in the late 1970s, she toured with Micky and Davy after the dissolution of Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart. In 1987, Coco released her own album, One Voice. She has been touring with The Monkees since 2012. You can also hear Coco at Micky's solo shows, where she often duets with her brother on "Bye Bye Blackbird" and "Crying in the Rain" while taking over on lead vocals for Michael Nesmith's own "Different Drum."
Circe Link / Vocals
Circe Link joined The Monkees' band for the first time in 2014, performing backing vocals with Coco Dolenz, and more recently performed with Michael Nesmith's First National Band Redux. A singer, songwriter, and musician in her own right, Circe has previously described her music as ranging from "Cowboy Jazz to Alternative to Americana." She has recorded several albums, including a live CD from a successful tour of Japan. Circe writes, records, and performs with her companion, Christian Nesmith.
Be sure to get your tickets to see Micky, Nez, and the band this June. And stay tuned to The Monkees Live Almanac for more updates soon!
UPDATE 3/9/2019: When "The Mike & Micky Show" returned to the road in March 2019, Paul Kramer was no longer featured in the lineup. Probyn Gregory is the newest member of the touring band and plays guitar, banjo, and trumpet. You can read more about Probyn in this March 2019 post from the Live Almanac's blog.