My friend Jeff Sherman is a Los Angeles writer and producer. He's also a fine documentarian, putting together with his cousin Greg a film about his father, Robert Sherman, and uncle, Richard Sherman. If their names aren't familiar, their music is. They wrote the music for Mary Poppins and many of the greatest Disney movies, among other things.
Jeff also has a fabulous story to tell about the late Davy Jones, and how an unlikely Monkees reunion came to be. With his permission, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Jeff Sherman:
Remembering Davy Jones
Jeffrey C. Sherman
With Davy Jones' sad and tragic passing on Wednesday, many thoughts have been going through my mind. I felt I should put them down here.
Back in the 1990s, I was a writer/producer on the popular ABC-Touchstone television series Boy Meets World for the first four seasons. During the third season, I wrote the episode, "Rave On!"
The way this episode evolved was that Micky Dolenz had been my best friend and a frequent collaborator. I thought it would be really cool to get the Monkees on the show and have them perform a couple of songs. Micky said, "Yeah, good luck!"
We'd already had both Micky and Peter separately on previous episodes, but only as individuals. I can't express how difficult it was to get all three to come on the show at the same time. It had been nearly ten years since the guys -- Davy, Peter and Micky -- had toured together and, though they were all on good terms, it was a major deal for them to appear together, let alone play together. Their previous 20-year reunion tour had been the top-grossing concert tour that year and the idea that they would appear together again on our TGIF show seemed, perhaps, somewhat less spectacular of an opportunity. After begging the guys and their management, I finally was able to get the three Monkees to agree.
I also had a lot of resistance from many of the folks on my own show. They felt the Monkees were, maybe, passé -- that no one would remember them. I explained, having hung out with Micky in public and seeing the sheer outpouring of love and adulation, the constant request for autographs, etc., that -- if I could somehow pull it off -- it would be huge for our show. Selfishly, I also wanted to see them perform together, too!
The networks and studio then (stupidly) told me the Monkees appearance was not be "an event" for them unless I could get all four. Did I mention networks can be stupid? They ordered me to enlist Mike Nesmith, too. Micky had warned me this would never happen, but I valiantly tried; called Mike Nesmith at home. He listened to my pitch and, after a rather long moment of silence, in his slow Texan drawl, he flatly told me, "I'd really rather not." Micky explained that, for years, Mike was not very anxious to appear as a Monkee -- he'd moved on.
I went back to the network and our staff and said I'd convinced the other three to appear, but only if they were not playing "the Monkees" and not singing Monkee songs. More resistance from the suits and the BMW folks, but I prevailed. I was actually fine with not having them as the Monkees, because two of the three had already been set up as existing characters -- Micky as Alan's friend "Gordy" and Peter as Topanga's dad, Jedidiah. They were not the Monkees -- and I came up with another role for Davy -- "Reg! Reginald Fairfield!" -- a moocher Alan and Amy knew from a trip they took after college.
I thought it would be fun -- as predictable as it was -- to have them individually arrive at the Matthews' rave/anniversary party, fill in for a band that didn't show, all go up as "strangers" and sort of jam on two songs.
Still a lot of reluctance from some in the BMW camp but I knew it would work great. As I suspected, during rehearsal week there was an ENORMOUS buzz in the industry about it. We were inundated with requests from all the major magazines, newspapers and entertainment shows for interviews. We were "pick of the week" in TV Guide. Media of all sorts was buzzing around the KTLA lot where we were shooting the third season, clamoring for interviews with the guys. "Boy Meets World" and Monkees fans were calling in for tickets to the taping! It was more press and attention than our popular, but somewhat under the radar little show had ever seen.
The Monkees were and are a HUGE phenomenon -- even bigger than I even imagined -- and the idea that these guys were amassing AND performing together after a decade was a very, very big deal.
One day during rehearsals I went to lunch with Peter, Micky and Davy. We walked from the studio, down Sunset together. People started to see them walking together and jumped out of cars, followed us, took pictures. It was a swarm! It was crazy! I got a small taste of what that "MonkeeMania" must have been like. I think people wondered, since I was the fourth guy there, if maybe I was Nesmith -- maybe I just looked more Jewish because I wasn't wearing the wool cap! It was so much fun!
The funniest part of the story is that, on the night of the taping, we had a crazy overflow of people who wanted to get into our studio. As popular as our show was, we'd never had that kind of turn out at all. And, because the guys are who they are, an entourage of famous folks came down to witness this reunion, as well. I recall specifically that Patti Boyd (George Harrison and Eric Clapton's ex -- aka "Layla") was there, as was Steve Winwood's wife and many others. It was just unbelievable.
Then something simply bizarre happened. Maybe a half-hour before our evening taping, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a tall, lanky fellow with dark glasses and big sideburns slip by me and into the dressing room area. Michael Nesmith had shown up! All four of the Monkees were here in the same place -- for the very first time in years and years. I could see them through the little window to the area, shaking hands, hugging, laughing. Unbelievable!
As a major Monkees nut from when the show originally aired on NBC, this was dreamlike. I couldn't figure it out. Mike told me there was no way he wanted any part of this. My friend, Harold Bronson, who co-founded and was running Rhino Records (and arguably the biggest Monkees fan in the world, next to me), explained to me that Rhino had recently re-released all the Monkees albums on CD and they had all gone multi platinum. Because the guys were all going to be gathered, he invited Mike down to take photos with Davy, Micky and Peter backstage on our set with their platinum records!
My boss, Michael Jacobs, found me gawking through the window, slapped my back and said, "Sherm? Go get him!" He said that Mike Nesmith was physically here in this building and, as a producer, it was my duty to go get him to appear with the other guys. I explained, again, that Nesmith had turned us down. He repeated, "Get! Him!" He literally pushed me through the door.
Sort of awestruck and scared at the same time, I paced up to the four guys. Micky saw me and said, "Hey Jeff, come meet Mike!" I came over, shook his hand and introduced myself as the fellow who'd called him a couple of weeks ago. He stared at me a beat, then half nodded. Mike went back to talking to Micky and the guys. It was very warm between all of them. It was truly beautiful. I heard them talking about maybe going into a rehearsal hall together, "See what we sound like," Mike said.
My mouth dropped open. This was rock 'n roll history and I was standing right there witnessing it. All the guys were really into it, started making plans of when and where. I didn't want to interrupt this, sort of backed away. Turning, I saw my boss staring at me through the window, insistently pointing at Mike. I took a deep breath, walked back up. Mike slowly turned to me. I said something like, "So, Mike, you know we're shooting the show in a couple of minutes. Since you're here and since it would be such an incredible --"
"I'd really rather not," he twanged. He stared me down, then returned to chatting with Davy, Micky and Peter about an out of the way rehearsal hall he knew about where no one would bother them. I backed out of the room, through the swinging door and Michael Jacobs said, "Well?!" I explained that Nesmith did not want to be on our show." Michael explained that no one ever wants to do these things, but it was my job as a producer to get back in there and convince him. Two network people walked up and seconded that.
Fearing my job was on the line, I took a deep breath and went back in. Covering my abject fear and loathing with a nervous grin, I slowly walked back up to the guys who were all excitedly talking about meeting up and jamming. Micky, then Davy, then Peter saw me nearing again. I never got a word out. The last one to turn, very slowly and deliberately, was Mike Nesmith. Laser beams were shooting from his eyes through my soul. He slapped his knees, slowly stood WAY up and said one last time, definitively, slowly and with a deeper tone -- "I'd... really... rather... not." I think I maybe whimpered "'K," gave a wimpy finger salute and somehow escaped from the room.
Emerging again, my boss, the network folks and now our entire staff moved back from watching me through the portal. "Well!?"
"He'd... really rather not," I sighed, and hurried off to look for something to drink and update my resume.
The rest of the night was dreamlike. The whole week was, in fact. It was electric rock 'n roll literally and emotionally in that t.v. studio. Great laughs, great energy. Everyone there knew this was a rare and special night. Even the moments with actor Dave Madden (Manager "Reuben Kincaid" from The Partridge Family) were huge laughs. Everything was perfect.
Nesmith never did appear on the episode, but it was incredibly thrilling to see Micky, Davy and Peter perform live together. They sang live to playback tracks they'd recorded together earlier in the week -- and YES -- they really played and sang and REALLY PLAYED AND SANG amazingly at the session. I was there. What great musicians and vocalists they were together. What classic interplay and rhythm in their acting, as well! The episode was incredible and got huge, huge ratings.
A few weeks later, Micky called me and said, "Come to Billboard Live (a club on the Sunset Strip) tonight at eight. In fact, better come early." I came down with a buddy and, inside, I saw the placed was packed with huge celebrities. Kevin Costner, Little Richard, Brandon Tartikoff, on and on. Suddenly, the light blared on onstage. Micky came out and sat behind the drums, Peter strapped on his bass, Davy grabbed a mike and a tambourine and... Mike Nesmith calmly lifted his guitar from a stand. The four original Monkees were playing their first public concert in ages!
The place went beyond crazy. And, I must tell you, they were absolutely fantastic! It was hands-down the best, most exciting rock show I have ever witnessed. I know everyone who was lucky enough to be there would tell you the same thing. The craft, the passion, the interplay was simply electrifying. They played maybe ten Monkees songs and -- poof -- they were gone. I walked around for hours afterward. How lucky was I to see that?!
Then, maybe a week or two later, Micky called me again and said, "Don't ask any questions, but whatever you're doing, forget it. Be at the Hard Rock Cafe on Beverly Boulevard at noon. Your name will be on the list. Be there!" He hung up. I went and the place was jammed with reporters and invited guests. People had crowded around, outside even, peering in the windows.
Sitting in a booth, Micky, Davy, Peter and Mike were signing the new Monkees box set and doing interviews. Micky saw me, smiled and winked. Something very big was about to happen. At one point, Harold Bronson went up to a podium and invited the four guys up. And, right then and there, they announced their 30-year reunion tour. Utter chaos exploded. I became a giddy kid again, jumping up and down. I wasn't alone. I wrangled a box set from Harold and had all the guys sign it. Even Mike, who saw me looming with a pen, stared a long beat, cracked a half-grin and signed it. I have the signed box set up in my office to this day -- one of my most cherished belongings.
I also have my photo from Boy Meets World with Peter, Davy and Micky up on my wall where I see it every day. Each time I look at it, all those memories come rushing back -- and I remember that, if I want something badly enough and I try hard enough, sometimes I can make it happen.
Davy Jones' sudden passing yesterday stunned me and certainly millions of others all over the world. He was a nice, gracious and talented man. Way too young to be gone.
The Monkees are my childhood. They are my adulthood.
I feel so deeply fortunate for Micky's close friendship all these many years and for his helping me to get to know the other guys through the experience above and so many other such warm occasions. It's hard to really wrap my head around the fact that we'll never see the four guys jump up on a stage together and sing those songs together again. It's the end of an era. Thankfully, though, we have all the shows and records and memories -- and will have them forever.
And I will always cherish my small, little piece of their history -- the night the Monkees got together backstage at KTLA and decided to rock 'n roll one more time.
I hope people will go back and watch the "Rave On!" episode -- and think -- Mike Nesmith was just maybe 50 feet away!
Rest in peace, Davy.