Introduction: Super Monkees fan Fred Velez has for years talked about his love of the group and his personal encounters with them. Now he's finally written then down in a recently published book, “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You: The Monkees From a Fan's Perspective,” available from Amazon.com, iTunes and Barnes and Noble. In addition to his book, he also has a Monkees blog on Monkees.net. And this weekend, he'll be at Monkees Convention 2014, where Peter Tork, Mike Nesmith and Micky Dolenz will all be appearing.
We asked Fred some questions about the book.
Q: When did you learn about the Monkees?
Fred Velez: “I first started hearing some of their songs like 'Last Train To Clarksville' and 'I'm A Believer' on the Top 40 Radio stations like WABC at the time and I really liked the music. I didn't really get into the TV show till Gilligan's Island was pre emptied one night and I changed the channel and discovered their show on NBC. In my book I recount how I won my first Monkees album at a fair at my local Boys' Club and I was hooked from that moment on.”
Q: When did you first see them live?
Fred Velez: “The first time I saw any of the Monkees in concert was in 1976 when Micky Dolenz and Davy Jones toured with Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart as Dolenz, Jones, Boyce & Hart and they played the Riverboat Club in NYC. I saw Micky and Davy a year later when they toured with Micky's sister Coco at the Riverboat and saw Peter Tork in concert in Greenwich Village in 1980. I didn't see the Monkees as a group in concert till 1986 at Great Adventure as part of their 20th Anniversary tour. I was fortunate to see all four Monkees in 1989 at the Universal Amphitheater and the next day participated in their Hollywood Walk of Fame Star ceremony.”
Q: When did you first meet them?
Fred Velez: “Micky was the first Monkee I met after the 1976 Riverboat concert. Peter Tork I first got to really know when he made a 1980 appearance on the Uncle Floyd TV show and he did some live shows in Greenwich Village. I first met Michael Nesmith in 1981 when he was in New York to promote 'Elephant Parts.' I got to know Davy and his second wife Anita when he made a visit to New York in 1984, and I helped arranged his appearance on the Uncle Floyd Show. I had the great opportunity of attending the taping of the 1986 MTV Christmas video with all four Monkees in attendance and their families including Micky's daughter actress Ami Dolenz. There's a funny story in my book on my encounter with Ami at the MTV taping.”
Q: How long did it take to put the book together?
Fred Velez: “Friends have been asking me for years when I was going to write a book about the Monkees because of all my experiences with them and I was either too busy or too lazy to do anything. After Davy Jones died in 2012, I realized the time had come for me to write the book and I started making notes and collecting background info soon after and began earnestly writing in June of 2013, so it roughly took two years to put the book together with six months of actual writing. I was in a crunch to have the book ready in time for the 2014 Monkees Convention and my dear friend Linda Walsh was a great help in the writing of the book.”
Q: Tell a story about Davy that reflects how you knew him?
Fred Velez: “From my experiences with Davy I always found him to be very kind and generous towards the fans, giving 200% of himself in his performances and in his time meeting and talking with them, which includes myself. He appreciated it when you treated him like a regular person. He trusted me to put a fans' spin on his 'Mutant Monkees' book when he invited me to his home in Beavertown, PA to help out. He was a complex man too, I feel there was a bit of suspicion in him that someone might befriend him just to get something from him. I sure some of that came out of the fact that he and the other Monkees had been ripped off, used and abandoned after the initial success of the Monkees was milked dry. I don't believe he and Peter Tork really forgave Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider after the movie 'Head' flopped and Rafelson, Schneider and Columbia Pictures left them to fend for themselves. Davy liked it when you were straight forward with him.”
Q: How many times have you seen the Monkees live?
Fred Velez: “I've lost count a long time ago. I think I saw them at least 11 times between 1986 and 1987 then attended concerts on every tour they've done in the New York City area since then. The best concert was when Michael Nesmith joined them at the Universal Amphitheater in 1989. Other outstanding concerts were the 2011 concert at the Beacon Theater in New York which was the last time I saw Davy then the 2012 Beacon concert with Nesmith which was amazing.”
Q: Outside of autographs, what's the rarest Monkees item you own?
Fred Velez: “In regards to memorabilia it would probably be my Mattel's talking Monkees hand puppet, also a Davy Jones Fan Club button from 1965 which is pre-Monkees. I also have two 'Circus Boy' story books from Micky Dolenz's first TV series from the late 1950's when he was a child actor. Of personal value are the photos taken with me and all four Monkees just before the 1989 Hollywood Walk of Fame ceremony and the 2011 Beacon concert with Peter, Micky and Davy which turned out to be my last photo with Davy Jones.”
Q: Your favorite Monkees song?
Fred Velez: “That's a tough one, it's like asking what's your favorite Beatles song. My personal favorite is Mike Nesmith's 'While I Cried' from the 1969 'Instant Replay' album, I love the guitar work in the song and the vocal harmonies are beautiful. I would love to hear Nesmith do it in concert.
“Of their hits I like 'Pleasant Valley Sunday' and 'Daydream Believer', album cut faves are 'She', 'Sometime In The Morning', 'Randy Scouse Git', 'Shorty Blackwell' and 'For Pete's Sake'. And since I've used it as the book title, 'A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You' is a big favorite too. My original title of the book was going to be another Monkees song 'You and I', but the final title fits the theme of my book better regarding my relationship and experiences with the Monkees and the other fans whose lives the Monkees have touched.
“While I also love the Beatles, they're sort of on another level, like on Mount Olympus and almost unreachable. But the Monkees sang "Here we come" and "We may be coming to your town." The Monkees were approachable and that approachability I think is one of the reasons the Monkees and their fans have such a unique relationship.”
Copyright Steve Marinucci. Please feel free to spread our links on Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Reddit, StumbleUpon and other social media sites. Connect with us on Facebook and Pinterest. And don't miss our weekly Beatles news podcast “Things We Said Today” available first on Fab4Radio.com on the weekends, then on iTunes and Podbean.com. We are also the author of the ebook “Meet a Monkee: Davy Jones.”