May 29, 2014 at 8:10 am

Susan Whitall

Monkees back on tour with Mike Nesmith

At first they played a pop group, then they became the real thing

Micky Dolenz, left, Peter Tork and Mike Nesmith were three of the original Monkees. The fourth, Davy Jones, died in 2012. (Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

Like so many groups of a certain age, the Monkees no longer can field their entire original lineup — not since singer Davy Jones’ death in 2012, anyway.

But having one member refuse to tour with them for decades has its advantages. Because Mike Nesmith never joined Jones, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork on their American reunion tours, he hasn’t been seen on a stage with them in many U.S. cities since the group toured in 1967. And the songs Nesmith wrote and sang lead on fill the gaps in the show caused by Jones’ loss.

The Monkees — Dolenz, Tork and Nesmith — perform at the Fox Theatre on Friday. Their last go-round at the Fox was in 2011, when Dolenz, Tork and Jones toured to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the group invented by producers to portray a zany, Beatles-like pop group for an NBC TV series.

They played a pop group, then over time, became one. In today’s producer-dominated pop landscape, their origins would appear to be the norm, but not in 1967.

“It’s wonderful; it’s great to be back singing with Mike,” says Dolenz, 69. “(Back in the day), we did a lot of songs where Mike would write and sing a song, and I would sing the high Everly Brothers harmony to it.

“When Peter, David and I would tour, I tended to sing the lead vocal or David would,” Dolenz adds. “Now, having Mike singing those original leads, it’s really great fun, and I love doing it. He brings a wonderful sensibility to the show, and it’s really, really good. I don’t want to say that it’s better or worse (than the tours with Jones), it’s just different.”

It appears Nesmith is enjoying himself. “I think he is very pleasantly surprised with the audience reaction,” Dolenz says. “We weren’t that surprised, Peter and I, because we’ve been living with it for 45 years.”

There weren’t hard feelings on Nesmith’s part when the group broke up after just two years of the hit NBC series (in 1968), two movies and innumerable hits. He did chafe at the restrictions the show’s producers put on their music. The group was only allowed to control its music from the time of their 1967 album “Headquarters” on. And Nesmith longed to do his own kind of music, the country-rock blend that was exploding out of L.A. in the early 1970s.

Because Nesmith was independently wealthy thanks to his late mother’s invention of Liquid Paper, he didn’t need to go out and play Monkees reunions for the money. He did tour with the group in England, in 1997, in support of “Justus,” an album of new material the group had recorded the year before.

Today, Nesmith sounds much as he did on the original records. And Dolenz, the group’s primary vocalist, hasn’t had to change any of the keys on the songs he sings that high tenor lead on, including “I’m a Believer,” “Last Train to Clarksville,” and “Pleasant Valley Sunday” and so many more.

A professional singer/actor since childhood, when he was an actor on the TV series “Circus Boy,” Dolenz knows how to take care of his pipes.

“When I started doing Broadway, I started formal vocal training, and that helps a lot,” Dolenz says. “I didn’t get into smoking and that helped. Your vocal cords are a muscle; you’re born with a certain physique that makes you a golfer or tennis player. My parents were both singers, so maybe there was a bit of genetics involved.”

His voice had a long rest in the 1970s, too. “After the Monkees, I moved to England and did producing, directing and writing, so I missed all those years in the ’70s playing smoky nightclubs, screaming over bad monitors.”

In 1986, Dolenz returned to performing when an MTV run of “The Monkees” series led to demand for their first reunion tour.

Their music is presented chronologically, starting with the early hits and ending with material from their 1968 movie “Head.” Dolenz plays some drums in his unique style -- playing the kick drum with his left foot and the snare with his left hand — notably on the “Headquarters” numbers. They don’t try to take Jones’ place on his signature song,“Daydream Believer,” but call on an audience member to sing lead.

When he isn’t on tour, Dolenz makes hand-crafted furniture with his three daughters, which they sell via dolenzanddaughters.com. He’d been doing it all his life, then his daughter Georgia studied theater in England, which included a lot of set-building. “When she moved to L.A., I jokingly said, ‘Wow, we should start a company called Dolenz and Daughters Fine Furniture.’ She ran with it! Suddenly we had a website and a Paypal, and we immediately got 20 orders.

“About a year or two ago she had to post on Facebook and on the website, ‘We can’t take any more orders. Daddy’s going on tour.’ ”

The Monkees

7:30 p.m. Friday

Fox Theatre

Tickets $49.15-$111.60

ticketmaster.com

swhitall@detroitnews.com

Michael Nesmith, left, Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork perform a chronological ... (Larry Marano / Getty Images)